This is the Kyrie, or opening movement, from Louis Vierne's "Messe Solennelle" (Solemn Mass) Op. 16 for two organs and choir performed at the world famous Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris where Vierne was organist of the Grand Organ from 1900 until
his epic death at the console of this instrument in 1937.
In this work "Kyrie eleison" (Lat., "Lord have mercy") is repeated throughout by the choir alternating with solo passages for the organ. In the largest parish churches and cathedrals in
France there were typically two organs, a smaller one (Orgue de choeur) located down front in the east end which routinely accompanied the singers and a much larger one (Grand Orgue) situated high in the west end tribune just beneath the rose window.
Both organ parts in this score also may be performed on the Grand Organ, either with choir or as an organ solo.
Vierne's Mass is a masterpiece, it doesn't get any better than this, and this Kyrie is one of the most beautiful pieces for organ and choir
ever written. Such a recording as this, with its excellent camera video, leaves a priceless record of the sound of this precious, historic organ accompanying the Notre-Dame choir within the orginal frame, amidst the same artwork, and under the original
roof, of this wonder of a building, a monument to everything man can do.
After the tragic fire of 15 Apr 2019 which destroyed the spire, roof, and frame of the Cathedral the great organ miraculously survived, though it has suffered the effects of smoke,
ash, and heat. The fire destroyed the roof, the timbers in the attic, and the spire, melted all the lead in the roof, and further weakened the remaining stone structure. This cataclysmic furnace left the great organ filled with a thick layer of
brown, ashen dust which, fortunately, is non-adhesive and easily removed, unlike the typical soot left behind by so many other fires. But unless the parts of the building weakened by the fire can be shored up in time, and unless the roof can be covered
with tarps and protected against thunderstorms, the possibility is always there that the great organ may sustain additional damage from the rain or further crumbling of portions of the building.
It is estimated to take another two years to settle on
a plan for restoration of the building and up to ten years, perhaps longer, before the Cathedral will reopen. Its restoration is expected to be very time-consuming, labor-intensive, and costly. The extremely fragile 1868 case of Cavaille-Coll is
not expected to survive any attempt to dismantle the great organ and remove it for cleaning, and such a move would be very hard on all the other parts of the instrument. At some point when reconstruction of the building gets close to the great organ
the instrument probably will have to be enclosed in a water-tight, dust-proof case and cleaned and restored that way, in situ, to keep if from being dismantled. Its glorious voice will not be heard again for many years but, most thankfully,
it escaped total destruction and is expected to sing again one day. The great organ may be silent for now, but it's still alive.