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 1868 Cavaille-Coll organ of the metropolitan
Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris. Vierne was titular organist at this church from 1900 until his epic death in 1937 at the console of this instrument while he was performed a concert.
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 which was used on special occasions. In the case of Notre-Dame de Paris, a third smaller portable organ also had been made available for choir
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 titular organist Philippe Lefebvre who shares this prestigious
office with Olivier Latry and Vincent Dubois, the latter having been appointed most recently in 2015 upon the retirement of titular organist emeritus Jean-Pierre Leguay. Under the title "Maestoso in c# minor" the complete choir and organ parts of this Kyrie 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 helped shape Vierne's sonic aesthetic.
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 Apr 15-16, 2019 which destroyed the spire, roof, and attic frame of this wonder of a building, a monument to everything man can do, the Grand Organ in the west tribune used for this recording miraculously survived, though it has suffered
the effects of smoke, ash, and heat. The fire which destroyed the roof, the timbers in the attic, and the spire also 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 Grand Organ, a type of dust which, fortunately, is non-adhesive and easily removed unlike the typical soot left behind by so many other building fires. The smaller
Merklin choir organ sustained some water damage to its mechanism but is also expected to survive, although its console and certain mechanical portions probably will 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 French nation has been rendered fragile by the fire and has only been given a 50:50 chance of surviving. In addition the extremely fragile 1868 organ 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 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. That this organ was spared from total destruction is miraculous, and it may once again become playable some day yet future, but the sound of the building
may be gone forever.