LOUIS VIERNE:
Symphonies for Organ

Louis Vierne: Symphonies for Organ
Hans-Dieter Meyer-Moortgat, organ

3 CDs in a Multibox
recorded on the
romantic Mühleisen Organ (constructed in 2000)
at the Cathedral of Bad Gandersheim, Germany

From the Booklet of this album:

One may regard Louis Vierne as one of the most important representatives of the “école sym­phonique” – the symphonic school – in France. But in fact, the musical position of this most prominent organist in the series of “organistes titulaires” of Notre-Dame de Paris, the titulary organists, has long been underestimated. In his extensive oeuvre for the organ (six Symphonies, Pièces de Fantaisie, Pièces en style libre, two organ masses as well as various individual works for the organ), Vierne shows a clear tendency of progression from tonality towards atonality, never completed compositionally in his works but always integrated into the musical dramaturgy of the work in question.

Vierne was born on 8 October 1870 in Poitiers, almost blind, and developed his overly sensitive yet kindly character not least due to this physical limitation. Vierne received initial instruction from Louis Lebel and Henri Adam, then later from César Franck in the subjects of fugue and counterpoint. In the year 1900 he was appointed titulary organist at the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris, selected from many applicants. In 1937, Vierne died as the result of a stroke during a concert, at the console of his organ at Notre-Dame. His large circle of pupils included the important organists and composers Marcel Dupré, Maurice Duruflé and Gaston Litaize.

On the Symphonies for Organ Louis Vierne composed altogether six “Symphonies for Organ” between the years 1899 and 1930:

Symphony No. 1, in D Minor, Op. 14
This Symphony was first published in 1899 and was composed on the occasion of Vierne's application for the post of titulary organist at Notre-Dame de Paris. Vierne dedicated it to the organist and composer Alexandre Guilmant (1837&xnbsp;– 1911), who took over the organ class of Charles-Marie Widor at the Paris Conservatory in 1896, in which class Vierne continued to act as teaching assistant. As regards its structure, it is the only one of Vierne's symphonies which consists of six movements [...]

Symphony No. 2, in E Minor, Op. 20
The Second Symphony was composed in 1902, thus only three years after the First, and it is cyclically composed, i. e. the themes used are not limited to individual movements but appear in several of the movements of the work. This work is dedicated to the renowned organ builder Charles Mutin, who took over the directorship of the famous Aristide Cavaillé-Coll organ building factory in 1898.
This Symphony received its world premiere at Notre-Dame de Paris on 23 February 1903, performed by the composer himself. Claude Debussy, not only a composer but also a sharp-tongued critic, heard this premiere and wrote the following on 23 February 1903 in his column in “Gil Blas”: “[…] the richest musicality is united with meaningful invention in the specific sound of the organ. Old J. S. Bach, the father of us all, would have been satisfied with Mr. Vierne.” [...]

Symphony No. 3, F-sharp Minor, op. 28
Vierne spent the summer months of 1911 at the holiday residence of the Dupré family in Saint-Valéry-en-Caux in Normandy. He wrote his Third Symphony there, dedicated to his pupil Marcel Dupré. [...]

Symphony No. 4, G Minor, Op. 32
The last three symphonies of Vierne are all composed according to the cyclic principle first applied by the composer in his Second Symphony. In addition, a rather gloomy and depressive tone comes to the fore starting with the Fourth Symphony, which can be related to Vierne's various professional and private defeats. The Fourth Symphony was composed in 1914 in La Rochelle and is dedicated to his friend, the American organist William C. Carl (“to my friend, William C. Carl”), the founder of the Guilmant Organ School in New York City. [...]

Symphony No. 5, A Minor, Op. 47
Vierne's penultimate symphony was composed in 1923 and 1924, part of it during a concert tour through Switzerland and Italy. It is dedicated to Vierne's pupil and friend Joseph Bonnet (“to my pupil and dear friend Joseph Bonnet”). [...]

Symphony No. 6, H Minor, op. 59
This last Symphony of Louis Vierne was composed in 1930 in Menton on the Côte d’Azur “within view of the sea” and is dedicated to the memory of the American organist Lynwood Farnam, of whose tragic death Vierne was informed shortly beforehand (“to the memory of my greatly lamented friend”). In the published edition, Vierne added the following:
“In testimony of my profound admiration for this great musician and unique virtuoso, prematurely departed from us in full glory.”.
The world premiere of this Symphony took place on 3 June 1934 in Notre-Dame de Paris, performed by the composer's pupil, Maurice Duruflé. [...]

Jörg Abbing


Louis Vierne (1870 – 1937)
Symphonies for Organ
CD 1
Symphony No. 1   D minor   op. 14

[1]

Prélude

7'01

[2]

Fugue

4'20

[3]

Pastorale

7'34

[4]

Allegro Vivace

4'28

[5]

Andante

6'24

[6]

Final

6'28


Symphony No. 2   E minor   op. 20

[7]

Allegro

7'01

[8]

Choral

8'14

[9]

Scherzo

4'08

[10]

Cantabile

8'25

[11]

Final

7'45


CD 2
Symphony No. 3   F-sharp minor   op. 28

[1]

Allegro Maëstoso

6'10

[2]

Cantilène

4'20

[3]

Intermezzo

3'44

[4]

Adagio

7'19

[5]

Final

6'08


Symphony No. 4   G minor   op. 32

[6]

Prélude

6'15

[7]

Allegro

5'23

[8]

Menuet

7'30

[9]

Romance

7'37

[10]

Final

5'40


CD 3
Symphony No. 5   A minor   op. 47

[1]

Grave

7'53

[2]

Allegro

7'18

[3]

Tempo di Scherzo ma non troppo

4'19

[4]

Allegro Vivace

9'36

[5]

Final

9'52


Symphony No. 6   B minor   op. 59

[6]

Introduction et Allegro

9'07

[7]

Aria

7'06

[8]

Scherzo

4'29

[9]

Adagio

9'10

[10]

Final

7'48


  ”I came into the world almost completely blind; my parents surrounded me with particular warmth, which caused me, very early on, to develop an almost unhealthy oversensitivity […]. This condition pursued me during my entire life and was the cause of times of great joy, but also of times of unspeakable suffering.”  
Completely in the sense of this autobiographical utterance, his six “Symphonies for Organ” are in minor keys. At the same time, in chronological order of the composition of these symphonies, their tonic notes form the first six notes of a major scale, namely D major. Was this positive nuance intentional on the composer's part, and could it perhaps be interpreted as a nearly blind musician's “hope for light?”
sonox musikproduktion

Hans-Dieter Meyer-Moortgat ............. organ

Recorded: 14th/15th Oktober 2007, Mühleisen Organ, Collegiate Church (Cathedral) Bad Gandersheim, Germany · Recording, Cut: Marcel Babazadeh · Engineering, Layout: sonox musikproduktion · Mastering: Thomas Sandmann, master orange music · DDD · Total playing time:

CD1: 71’45   ·   CD2: 60’04   ·   CD3: 76’32

SICUSKlassik   sic 010-2


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