Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Spectacular French Organ

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.


Paul (A.) said...

But the greatest Widor of all (IMNSHO) is the Tenth, based on the plainsong Haec dies for Easter Sunday. The first movement opens the theme, and it is developed in later movements along with Victimae paschali.

Listen to the whole thing.

Truly glorious!

June Butler said...

Thanks, Counterlight. I listed to all of the organ pieces yesterday, in part while in said Morning Prayer (in the afternoon).

Unknown said...

I love the pipe organ! Vidor's Toccata is so beautiful.

Paul (A.) said...

Thank you for the addition, Doug. As to finales, there is also the Vierne Sixth, a sample of which is here, which is almost slow enough. I have a vinyl of it by Peirre Labric that is to die for.

ginny s. said...

Thanks for all the glorious music, art, & commentaries. I don't comment much, but do love your blog entries.

I heard the fabulous Widor Toccata (from the 5th) on Sunday--as a postlude to Morning Prayer in a little country church. The organist was from the cathedral in the Niagara Diocese and the choir was the Elora Festival singers with Noel Edison. A great start to a full day of the Elora Music Festival, which ended with the Trinity College Choir. I'm still floating on a cloud.