Poulenc Organ Concerto - Gramophone

On this new disc from Linn, recorded in the unobtrusively churchy acoustic of Tonbridge School chapel with its pride and joy, a wonderous 1995 Marcussen organ, Gillian Weir again finds herself in partnership with a conductor with a strong organist's background.

There is more to this disc than the Poulenc Concerto. For a quarter of a century, until his death in July 2000, Pierre Petit served French music as a critic on Le Figaro, but before that he studied with Nadia Boulanger, won the Prix du Rome and composed several operettas which have occasionally appeared in whole or part on record. The Concertino was written in 1958 for the Pierre Cochereau to perform on a tour of Australia. The second and third movements somewhat fail to live up to the promise of the compelling first (with its strong reminders of another work for organ and orchestra by one of Boulanger's pupils, Aaron Copland), but this is nevertheless a work which deserves the very best representation in the catalogue, which it certainly get here. Under Leppard the ECO are like a different orchestra, producing playing of great vitality and assurance supported by a much more vivid and sensible recording.

But more so even than the Petit, this disc is distinguished by a stunning account of another work by one of Boulanger's erstwhile pupils: Samuel Barber's magnificent Toccata Festiva, a work of rather more substance and emotional depth than the title would suggest. Of course there is great scope for virtuosity too, and under Leppard's firm but generous direction both Gillian Weir and the ECO turn up trumps with a gloriously detailed and at times spellbinding performance.

03 December 2001