January 19, 2022

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She Was an Organist for the Ages

She Was an Organist for the Ages

Demessieux appeared destined to take a high liturgical place, at Dupré’s St.-Sulpice and even at Notre-Dame. However shortly after her debut, Dupré, who appears to have been fed unfounded rumors that Demessieux had been disloyal, lower off contact together with his pupil and resolved to sabotage her profession.

As a substitute, Demessieux stayed along with her household’s parish church, the place she had been organist since she was 12, till she succeeded Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré as titulaire, or chief organist, on the church of the Madeleine in 1962. She prospered at a Cavaillé-Coll instrument with which she had a uncommon bond, having recorded a transcendent Franck cycle on it in 1959, the excessive level of a useful eight-disc set from Eloquence that got here out earlier this 12 months, amply documented with notes by the organist D’Arcy Trinkwon.

Though Demessieux was a star within the Forties and ’50s, when she saved up a punishing live performance schedule alongside her liturgical work and her educating in Liège, Belgium, her standing faltered after her dying from most cancers in 1968, at simply 47. The Eloquence set provides her Decca tapes their first launch on a significant label within the CD period.

A part of the explanation for Demessieux’s ebbing fortunes might be traced to the rise of neoclassical and interval efficiency practices, which made her impulsive, lyrical, heartfelt model — one which introduced a singular lightness of contact to a grand symphonic custom — appear outdated, particularly within the Bach and Handel with which she typically opened her concert events.

A part of the explanation, too, was the problem of her compositions, a few of which had been unpublished till just lately and had been promoted principally by college students like Pierre Labric. Though her whirling “Te Deum” from 1958, impressed by the Aeolian-Skinner organ on the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, has had sustained success, works like her études, her “Triptyque” and her late Prelude and Fugue pushed the frontiers of the potential, and so they stay “ferociously arduous” even now, Tharp mentioned — “issues she actually wrote for herself.”

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