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 was 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 world class titular organist Philippe Lefebvre (Mssr. Lefebvre shares this prestigious
office with world class organists 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, who studied Organ with Vierne in Paris in 1925.
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.
This has become a precious and irreplaceable recording. 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 larger Cavaille-Coll organ in the west tribune used for this recording 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, created a lead biohazard in the entire surrounding area, and damaged some of the remaining stone structure and stained glass.
It left behind a thick layer of brown, ashen dust all over the organ, a type of 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 further crumbling of portions of the building or the dampness from rain water which puddles on the nave floor after every storm. The smaller Merklin organ in the choir which sustained some water damage to its mechanism is also
expected to survive, although its console may have to be rebuilt.
The French government which owns the building, presuming it can be saved, has been working hard on the restoration process which is expected to be very time-consuming, labor-intensive,
and costly. Over one billion Euros have been raised for this renovation work, but the chief architect of the reconstuction effort is concerned that some of the remaining portions of the vaulted ceiling may further collapse. Sadly this iconic
symbol of the nation of France has been rendered fragile by the fire and has only been given a 50:50 chance of surviving. In addition the extremely fragile 1868 case of Cavaille-Coll is not expected to survive any attempt to dismantle this historic 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 west tribune the Cavaille-Coll organ 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. That this organ was spared from destruction is miraculous, and it may once again become playable some day, but the sound of the building
may be gone forever.