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Voices of French Organists’ Experience brings to light in vivid detail the dazzling era in which the renowned French organ school was conceived and established. In their own words, 19 luminaries of French organ music describe their personal experiences in 40 captivating articles on the organ and in biographical essays on each other.
Among Charles-Marie Widor’s 16 articles, spanning more than half a century, are fascinating accounts of Cavaillé-Coll, the organ and electricity, the Saint-Sulpice organ, the 1894 restoration of the organ in Notre-Dame Cathedral, the French organ school, the conservatory organ class, and eulogies of his friends Camille Saint-Saëns and Théodore Dubois. Gabriel Fauré writes a homage to Eugène Gigout; Charles Tournemire extols César Franck as an improviser; André Marchal reminisces about Louis Vierne; Saint-Saëns describes the performance of early music; Marcel Dupré and Joseph Bonnet each evoke warm personal memories of their maître Alexandre Guilmant; Dupré relates his heartfelt relationship with Widor; Nadia Boulanger speaks about the “moderns” in music; Maurice Duruflé gives a first-person account of his premiere of Poulenc’s organ concerto; Olivier Messiaen is interviewed on his 60th anniversary as organist of La Trinité; Jean Langlais offers an amusing review of his career as a church organist; and musicologist Norbert Dufourcq presents illuminating 1936 radio interviews with Dupré, Bonnet, Tournemire, and Vierne.
Most of these writings have not appeared since originally published and almost none has been translated into English. In addition to its literary and historical importance, Voices of French Organists’ Experience is profusely illustrated with more than 100 photographs and engravings and includes stoplists of many important organs. Readers will step back in time as the voices of these celebrated French musicians echo their experiences.
OHS Press, 375 pages.
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