Photos 2: Homage to Louis Vierne
Sunset at Notre-Dame, wide-angle view from the east across the Seine the way it was before the 2019 fire, as Vierne would have known it
First photo of Notre-Dame taken in 1843, only 4 years after Daguerre took the first photographs in the world in 1839
view of choir from south triforium showing smaller choir organ with case and pipes occupying second arcade with 2-manual choir organ console at floor level before the 2019 fire
Carillon de Westminster, from 24 Pieces de Fantaisie pour Grand Orgue, 3rd suite, Op. 54, No. 6, by Louis Vierne, published by Henry Lemoine, Paris, 1927
The standard nameplate affixed to all Cavaille-Coll organ consoles, as with Notre-Dame de Paris constructed in 1868
A pictorial image suggestive of how the architecture of Notre-Dame de Paris has inspired the production of music in general, and Vierne's in particular, over the course of many centuries.
A brand new fiery French Romantic Toccata written in crescendo style very reminiscent of Louis Vierne and paired with a related 4-voice Fugue written in triple counterpoint has been written. To preview, playback, or digital download this Toccata & Fugue in F Major Op. 19 score, please use this link:
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Homage to Mssr. Louis Vierne, organiste-titulaire 1900-1937 of the Cathedral de Notre-Dame de Paris ... inspired composer and performer, beloved teacher, improvisor of genius, dear friend and mentor to many, even to this day, in absentia. 🙂
International students came to Paris from all over the world to study Organ with him.
This French master's inspired and moving choral and organ writing my be sampled by using this link:
The entire Messe Solennelle for Two Organs and Choir Op. 16 from which this Kyrie is excerpted is a masterpiece.
Made on site at the 850 year-old Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, this recording of this Kyrie is a precious souvenir of what listeners would have heard when this music sounded against those great stone walls. Sadly, the tragic fire of April 15-16, 2019 completely destroyed the Cathedral's spire, three quarters of its roof, and all of the wooden frame in its attic. It took 400 firefighters 9 hours to put out the blaze. Its an alarming fact that most historic-building conflagrations strike during renovations, and this fire, while its cause may never be determined, appears to have started accidentally in or near roof work underway near the Cathedral spire, which was elaborately scaffolded. As flames raced through the historic wooden timbers in the attic the intense heat of this cataclysmic furnace melted all the lead in the roof, contaminated the entire work site with lead dust and debris, caused several of the six-partite ceiling vaults to collapse, and the heat and flaming debris followed by the drenching by fire hoses damaged some of the stonework and created innumerable microcracks in the rose windows and other stained glass which may require painstaking restoration. Stabilization of the structure and rebuilding true to a heritage that stretches back to the 12th century however will not be quick ... or easy.
The sheer numbers of the timbers in the attic's close quarters and the fact that after the first alarm on the evening of April 15 a marshall failed to locate the fire allowed it to spread much faster than anyone ever anticipated. There is no longer enough French old-growth oak and beechwood large enough to recreate the timbers of the attic "forest," but the flames consumed more than just wood from trees dating back to the 9th century. There were special joints, techniques, and carpenter's marks on the wood members, all of which was lost. Miraculously however, the world-famous 1868 Cavaille-Coll organ in the west tribune escaped destruction, though it became filled with a non-adhering type of ashen dust like very fine sand which can, with extreme care, be removed and not the type of corrosive, sticky soot common with many fires. The stone with its sloping roof that connects the two bell towers and covers the span of the Cavaille-Coll organ perfectly fulfilled its role as an umbrella and protected the instrument from being flooded. Initially only a small puddle on a bellows and a few drops on the G#9 pipe of the Principal 32', the only pipe that received any water, were discovered.
The instrument is not completely out of danger, however. While it suffered the effects of smoke, dust, and heat and managed to escape destruction, the fire left three gaping holes in the roof, one when the spire collapsed. The instrument's console and pipes, miraculously, were not heat damaged, windchests have been tested in operation and given the all clear, its electronic circuits, whether in the console or at the base of the buffet, somehow survived clean and unscathed, having been locked, and its other mechanical components are also intact. But the unique sound of the building may be gone forever.
To get a sense of the task which lies ahead, the building is currently undergoing massive repair work. The floor of the nave was cleared finally, but not before it began raining inside the church during which time the site remained closed to the public. One only has to look upward at the roof to understand just how much work has to be done. The fire left gaping holes in the vaults of the ceiling, twisted piles of burned metal and wood, and, at the summit, partially burned scaffolding towers overhead, still in danger of collapsing. Massive wooden braces have been erected and bolted together outside the building in an attempt to shore up the huge exterior flying buttresses. About 300 tons of structure had to be carefully stabilized before it could be taken down slowly, piece by piece.
In front of the Cathedral, tents sheltered much of the precious debris until a more permanent structure was erected for that purpose. Archeologists are in the process of restoring tens of thousand of pieces of stone and some metal, but the chief architect has a different priority: he's concerned about the vaults in the ceiling. According to him, when all the pieces of the chared wooden framing that burned and the metal elements that accumulated are removed, anything could happen. He therefore cannot absolutely say that Notre-Dame has been saved. The ceiling and walls near the summit are so fragile from the fire that architects are only giving this iconic symbol of the French nation a 50:50 chance of survival. The initial moisture and dampness in the building from rain puddles standing in the floor of the nave after every storm presented an initial threat to the wooden and perishable leather components of the Cavaille-Coll organ, and the fact that it did not damage the organ is extraordinary.
Although over a billion Euros have been raised to restore the Cathedral, the rebuilding efforts will be extremely costly, difficult, labor-intensive, and time-consuming. Presuming it can be saved, the building is not expected to reopen for many years. As reconstruction work near the Cavaille-Coll organ would commence at some point there is talk of completely sealing and enclosing the instrument in a pressurized, climate-controlled, waterproof case rather than trying to dismantle it. The cleaning within such a case could be done without technical difficulties, keeping the voicing and harmonization perfectly preserved, but a complete dismantling of the instrument, with its prolonged storage and relocation, would be a considerable undertaking, and the organ would suffer greatly. But additionally, and more importantly, the extremely fragile facade of Cavaille-Coll, which has never been removed from the Cathedral since the instrument's installation, would have very little chance of surviving.
As for the smaller Choir Organ built by Merklin, the firefighters soaked the choir stalls to prevent them from burning, and, inevitably, the water came back over the stalls and sank beneath the overhanging side of the buffet. This caused the instrument's blower plant in the upper part of the basement to fill with water which then spilled onto the mechanism in the basement. The elevated parts of the instrument seem to have been spared somewhat, but the console situated at floor level was flooded and will likely need rebuilding.
A new work for 2 hands entitled Prelude Internationale in Bb Major for Organ Op. 5 has been written and dedicated to Vierne's memory. To preview, playback, or digital download this score, please use these links: BLUE for Organ, GREEN for Piano.
This is a dreamy, unpretentious work constructed in the same 6-part form that he taught his pupils to employ for improvising on a single free theme. This music pays quiet homage to this great French master -- without bombast, fanfare, or virtuoso display -- merely by employing the same form and some of the methods he used when composing his 24 Pieces en style libre for Organ Op. 31 for 2 hands and what he taught during lessons on improvisation.
Ideally, if the dedicatee of a work was also a composer, the tribute should enlist some of the same compositional techniques and/or harmonic vocabulary as the dedicatee habitually employed in his/her own music so that, when performed, it brings that person to mind and sounds very much like a sketch the dedicatee could have written. It can be argued that the theme of the tribute should not be lifted from the dedicatee's music lest it suggest that more can be squeezed from the theme than the composer could find or wish to be found. It also can be argued that, when done with dignity and respect, anything is permissible.
Bottom line: a musical tribute entitled "Homage" does not have to make an ostentatious show as a sign of the intended reverential regard -- and it does not have to be a flashy torrent of notes many pages long ending in a crashing loud climax. On the contrary, it can be short, quiet, incorporate perhaps many more of the methods used by the dedicatee, and may succeed in serving the purpose even better. Above all, it should be beautiful music when people listen to it.
Four of the preludes from Five Preludes & Fugues for Organ Op. 24-28 by this author also have single free themes worked in the same 6-part improvisational form taught by Louis Vierne. To preview, playback, or digital download any of these scores, please use these links:
This great French master Louis Vierne is gone and anything but forgotten. His music is being performed by organists the world over, he brought the organ symphony to the highest level it ever reached, contributed greatly to the the standard organ repertoire, and left his indelible mark in the hearts of his many pupils and admirers, which continues to this day.
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