Hayo Boerema’s Vierne Cycle

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Although Louis Vierne composed his six organ symphonies with the sound of the Romantic Cavaillé-Coll church organs and large cathedrals in mind, one can argue that smaller spaces better absorb the music’s rhythmic variety, harmonic richness, and many moments of dense chromatic counterpoint without compromising the composer’s colorful registration specifications. A case in point is Rotterdam’s Sint-Laurenskerk organ, built by the Danish firm Marcussen & Søn.

Hayo Boerema has been the Laurenskerk’s official organist since 2005, and listeners familiar with his excellent 2015 release devoted to Charles-Marie Widor’s Fifth and Ninth organ symphonies will not be surprised at his comfortable assimilation of Vierne’s idiom. He brings a welcome litheness and balletic grace to the First symphony’s almost-Tchaikovskian Allegro vivace, while rendering the usually clogged and congested Finale more incisively than usual. By contrast, he’s more rhetorical and rhapsodic at the outset of the Second symphony’s Finale and in the Sixth symphony first movement’s spiraling lines than Martin Jean’s rhythmically straighter renditions.

I do prefer Jean’s leaner, brisker, and frankly less fatiguing way with No. 5’s second-movement Allegro to Boerema’s emphatic gravitas. On the other hand, No. 4’s Menuet takes on a rustic charm via Boerema’s musty-sounding woodwind stops and deliberate pace, in contrast to Jean’s transparent registration choices and faster tempo. The clarity and warmth of the Woolsey Hall acoustics strongly factor into my overall first-choice nod toward Jean’s Vierne cycle, yet Boerema’s mastery deserves consideration, along with Brilliant Classics’ tempting budget price and the organist’s extensive booklet notes featuring notated musical examples.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Martin Jean (Loft Recordings)

  • Hayo Boerema (organ)

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