Henry LeRolle, The Organ Rehearsal, first exhibited at the Salon of 1885. The scene takes place in the church of Saint Francois Xavier in Paris. The organist is Ernest Chausson. The singer is one of LeRolle's two sisters. The other sister was married to Chausson. His wife sits with her back to us holding a music score in her lap. LeRolle himself looks out at us on the left. The shadowy figure behind LeRolle is the young Claude Debussy. This is my picture from the Metropolitan Museum.
Another weakness of mine is French Romantic organ spectaculars. These will be familiar to many from church, from concerts, and from ceremonies in colleges and universities. Yes, these are shameless crowd pleasers, but I'm pleased, and just love these things. A century later, these pieces still wow the crowds.
Let's begin with the most famous of all, the Toccata from Symphony #5 by Charles Maria Vidor, probably written and first performed on the organ above in the church of Saint Sulpice in Paris.
And of course there are other spectacular works by Widor.
Widor's most famous student was that other composer of organ spectaculars, Louis Vierne, who served as resident organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
He created such exhilarating showpieces for organ despite a hard luck life; he was nearly blind from congenital cataracts, his marriage ended in separation and divorce, he lost 2 brothers in World War I, and he nearly lost his leg in an auto accident.
Here's an encore of a favorite YouTube of my organist friends, a performance of Vierne's most famous and popular work.
And finally, here's something for all the organists out there who read this blog, in the organ loft watching a performance of Vidor's Toccata on the organ at Saint Sulpice in Paris with Phillip Roth, Widor's current successor as resident organist at Saint Sulpice, sitting off to the side giving a running commentary.
For Paul A.