This is the Kyrie, or opening movement, from Louis Vierne's "Messe Solennelle" (Solemn Mass) Op. 16 for two organs and choir performed on the world famous Cavaille-Coll Barker-assisted mechanical (tracker) action organ of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame,
Paris. Vierne was titular organist of the Grand Organ of Notre-Dame de Paris from 1900 until his epic death in 1937 at the 1868 console of this instrument.
In this work "Kyrie eleison" (Lat., "Lord have mercy") is repeated throughout by the choir
alternating with solo passages for organ. The very largest parish churches and cathedrals in France typically are supplied with two organs, a smaller one (Orgue de choeur) located behind and above the altar in the east end which accompanied the singers
and a larger one (Grand Orgue) situated high in the west end tribune close to and beneath the great rose window. In the case of Notre-Dame de Paris, a third smaller portable organ also has been made available).
This Kyrie thus thus written with
two organ parts, one for the smaller Choir Organ and one for the larger Grand Organ. Both organ parts also are performable on the Grand Organ, as was done in this recording by titular organist Philippe Lefebvre (Mssr. Lefebvre shares this prestigious
office with Olivier Latry and Vincent Dubois, the latter having been appointed most recently in 2015 upon the retirement of organist emeritus Jean-Pierre Leguay). The complete choir and organ parts of this Kyrie also have been arranged for organ solo
by the late Dr. Alexander Schreiner, a former pupil of the composer.
Vierne's Mass is a masterpiece, it doesn't get any better than this, and this part of the Mass 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 this precious, historic organ as we have it today as it alternates with the Notre-Dame choir of singers sounding against the very same walls within the very same architecture and under
the very same vaulted roof which so completely shaped the composer's aesthetic and which he undoubtedly had in mind when he conceived this work. We offer Mssr. Lefebvre and the combined choirs and choir director of Notre-Dame de Paris our compliments
and sincerest thanks for posting this extraordinarily fine recording of this masterwork for public viewing on YouTube.
After the tragic fire of 15 Apr 2019 which destroyed the spire, roof, and frame of this wonder of a building, a monument to everything
man can do, the Grand 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 Grand 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. The possibility is always
there however that it may sustain additional damage from rain or further crumbling of portions of the building. The Choir Organ which sustained some water damage to its mechanism is also expected to survive.
The Cathedral is expected to reopen
in five to six years, although the French government is working hard to speed up the restoration process and is expected to be very time-consuming, labor-intensive, and costly. Over one billion dollars has been raised for this renovation work, but the
extremely fragile 1868 case of Cavaille-Coll is not expected to survive any attempt to dismantle the Grand Organ and remove it for cleaning. It also would be very hard on all the other parts of the instrument. At some point when reconstruction
of the building gets close to the Grand Organ the instrument may have to be enclosed in a water-tight, dust-proof case and cleaned and restored that way, i.e. in situ, to keep if from being dismantled. Most thankfully, it managed to escape
total destruction and to survive somehow.