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Thread: BWV 542 by two French giants

  1. #1
    Commodore con Forza
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    Jan 2006

    BWV 542 by two French giants

    Two French giants (unintentionally) “share” Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in G minor.
    In my opinion, the similarities are quite striking: the two instruments still had very similar sound at that time (that was way before the big alterations at Notre-Dame), and the organists could not have denied (despite no longer being on speaking terms at that time) that they came from the same Lemmens-Widor-Guilmant school.

  2. #2
    Commodore con Forza
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    Nov 2008
    West Midlands, UK
    Thanks Acc, I found Vierne's performance in particular very powerful and moving. Do you think the photo is of the Notre Dame console at that time - or somewhere else altogether? And do we know why they fell out, and did they make up afterwards?

  3. #3
    Commodore con Forza
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    Actually, Vierne's picture was not taken at Notre-Dame at all, but at the organ of Wanamaker's in New York (during his 1927 America tour).

    Dupré's picture, however, was taken at Notre-Dame (most certainly during the years 1916–1920, when he deputized for Vierne).

  4. #4
    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    Moscow, Russia
    Most Honorable acc,

    Thank you for providing those vids. I truly learn something new from what you share. It is very saddening to read about the 'non-speaking terms' that two brilliant organists had for each other.


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    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

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  5. #5
    Commodore con Forza musicalis's Avatar
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    France (City of Bourges)
    Hi Corno
    I like both videos, but, unusual for me, I feel this time that Dupré is more expressive than Vierne.
    Friendly yours. Jean-Paul

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  6. #6
    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhnbrbr View Post
    And do we know why they fell out, and did they make up afterwards?
    Yes - between 1916 - 20, Vierne was absent from Nôtre-Dame; during this time, Marcel Dupré took over the playing of the Grandes Orgues. However, after four years, it was not unnatural that the French press would become confused as to which one (out of Vierne and Dupré) was actually titulaire. Dupré made matters worse by describing himself as titulaire on various forms of publicity.

    Thus it was that,within a short time after Vierne's return, a certain discord arose, regarding this situation.

    Vierne wrote later:
    "I should have considered the fact that his not being satisfied with the title of suppléant, as I, myself, had been when I replaced Widor at Saint-Sulpice, implied on his part a lack of modesty, regrettable at the least, and possibly hiding some duplicitous motive." *

    There were other events, too (the installation of the electric blower, for example) - in addition to the actions of some of Vierne's friends, which served to exacerbate the situation.

    There were even letters published in The Organ, including one from Aubrey Cust Delacour de Brisay (who also wrote to the editor of Musical Opinion about the matter), who drew attention to this "... legend... so seditiously fostered ..." - and to the subsequent deeply felt resentment on the part of Louis Vierne.

    Did Vierne and Dupré ever heal the rift? Simply, no. In a letter to one of Widor's American students (Albert Riemenschneider) on 11 August 1924, Dupré wrote "... It is a great grief to me that such a friendship as ours should have endeed in that way."+ However, since Dupré not only failed to disabuse the French, British and American papers (or the organ world in general) of the mis-apprehension, but actively encouraged it - styling himself Organiste Titulaire de Nôtre-Dame de Paris on publicity material and concert programmes, it is little wonder that Vierne, who had done so much to encourage Dupré, felt betrayed by this attitude.

    * p. 333 Louis Vierne: Organist of Nôtre-Dame Cathedral. Rollin Smith. Pendragon Press, Hillsdale, NY. (1999.)

    + ibidem, p. 341.
    Last edited by pcnd5584; Dec-20-2009 at 10:23.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

  7. #7
    Commodore con Forza
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    Many thanks to pcnd5584 for his detailed account.

    One may add that part of the misunderstanding might have come from the clergy of Notre-Dame: upon Vierne's return, they wished to thank Dupré for his four-year-long service by giving him a special title. Its choice was rather unfortunate: “Organiste au Grand Orgue”, to distinguish it from Vierne's official title “Organiste du Grand Orgue” (au=at the, du=of the).

    British and American concert organizers understandably failed to notice the subtle difference, and simply stated that Dupré was the Notre-Dame organist. It is not clear whether Dupré deliberately tried to usurpate Vierne's title in the first place, but he probably could have done more to resolve the misunderstanding.

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