Louis Vierne

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Synopsis[edit]

French organist and composer

  • 1870 born in Poitiers, France
  • 1892-1900 served as assistant to Charles-Marie Widor at Sainte-Sulpice in Paris
  • 1900-1937 served as organist at Notre-Dame de Paris
  • 1937 died in Paris

Louis Vierne, the great French organist, began his musical career under the direction of César Franck and Charles-­Marie Widor at the Paris Conservatory, where he won first prize for organ playing. Franck helped him develop his abilities in writing counterpoint, and to develop the habit of writing "without the aid of a keyboard."[1]. After Vierne left the Paris Conservatory, Widor gave Vierne private lessons. Until 1907, Vierne showed every page that he wrote to Widor. Vierne read almost all the pedagogical treatises on writing music.

Vierne was also an accomplished performer and pedagogue. He toured extensively throughout Europe and in 1927 he visited the United States. He taught at the Schola Cantorum from 1912, and instructed such musicians as Marcel Dupré and Nadia Boulanger at the Paris Conservatory.

Vierne's works are technically demanding, becoming increasingly difficult in his later symphonies. His registrations explore the entire language of the immense symphonic organs of Cavaillé-Coll. His six organ symphonies represent the culmination of the French symphonic style.

Works

  • 6 organ symphonies (his most important contribution)
  • Piéces de Fantasie
  • 24 pieces

Points of Interest

  • Among Vierne's American organ students was Alexander Schreiner, famed organist at the Mormon Tabernacle.
  • Vierne passed away at the keyboard while performing a concert in Notre Dame.

For details, see the Wikipedia article on Louis Vierne.

List of Pieces[edit]

Click to sort by opus number, title, or year of composition or publication
Opus Title Year
Op. Verset fugue' sur "In exitu Israёl" 1894
Op. 1 Allegretto 1894
Op. 4 Prélude funѐbre 1896
Op. 8 Communion 1896-1897
Op. 14 Premiѐre Symphonie in D Major 1895
Op. 20 Deuxiѐme Symphonie in E Minor 1901-1903
Op. 28 Troisiѐme Symphonie in F-Sharp Minor 1911
Op. 30 Messe basse 1912
Op. 31 Vingt-quatre Pièces en style libre 1913-14
Op. Prélude in F-Sharp Minor 1914
Op. 32 Quatriѐme Symphonie in G Minor 1914
Op. 46 Marche Triomphale du Centenaire de Napoléon I 1921
Op. 47 Cinquiѐme Symphonie in A Minor 1922-1924
Op. Piѐce Symphonique 1926
Op. 51 Piѐces de Fantaisie, Premiѐre Suite 1926
Op. 53 Piѐces de Fantaisie, Deuxiѐme Suite 1926
Op. 54 Piѐces de Fantaisie, Troisiѐme Suite 1927
Op. 55 Piѐces de Fantaisie, Quatriѐme Suite 1927
Op. Trio Improvisations 1928
Op. 58 Triptyque, I. Matines, II. Communion, III. Stѐle pour un enfant défunt 1929-1931
Op. 59 Sixiѐme Symphonie in B Major 1930
Op. 62 Messe Basse pour les Défunts 1934


Transcriptions for Organ

Click to sort by opus number, title, or year of composition or publication
Opus Title Year
Op. Sicilienne 1894
Op. Cinq Piѐces pour Harmonium 1901
Op. Prélude in C-sharp Minor, Opus 3, No.2 1932

Background and General Perspectives on Performing Vierne Organ Works[edit]

Interpretation

Vierne believed that rhythm was key to interpretation. He didn't believe that the performer had to expose his heart in every measure and suggested that the "true artist" will "keep a midcourse."[2] (For comments on a specific piece or genre, use the list of pieces above to navigate to that page.) Peters 2014

Registration and Organs[edit]

Climaxes

Crescendos should be gradual, so that the audience is not startled with a sudden full organ. Climaxes should be "subtly prepared."[3]

Tonal build-up on a French organ was easy, "with manuals coupled, one moved from Récit to Positif to Grand-Orgue and successfully adds the anches in the same order." This is harder to do on non-French organs because toe studs have to be used at inconvenient places, which makes some chromatic phrases difficult to execute. "American organs are richer in mixtures than in ensemble reeds at 16', 8', and 4', which "further complicates a polished crescendo from mezzo-forte to full organ."[4]


Registration

Vierne understood that organs are different and performers may have to make adjustments to the printed registration. "In his introduction to the Piѐces de fantaisie he wrote that 'The registration is by no means inflexible. It is rather an indication for the general coloring. It can be modified according to the possibilities offered by the instruments on which they are to be performed.'"[5] Sometimes Vierne altered the registrations that he used for his pieces.[6]

When mutation stops are lacking, replace them with 4' or 2' stops.[7]

He liked considerable 16' in the manuals, but did not like 32' in the manuals. "In tutti passages, he preferred prepared 16' stops or sub-octave couplers, but not both." He seldom used gap registration.[8]

Vierne was partial to the 8' 4' and 2 2/3' combination.[9]

For scherzos he preferred the following combination: "Récit 8' 4' 2 2/3' and 2', the unisons being all open harmonic flutes, generally coupled to the Positif 8' Bourdon and Flute.[10]

Fingering and Pedaling[edit]

Vierne did not indicate fingering in his compositions, nor did he include it in his own scores. "Inner voices are frequently distributed between the hands, regardless of their layout on the page."[11]

Articulation and Phrasing[edit]

Touch

"Legato playing is best suited to the organ for, by the very nature of the instrument, the evenness of all notes in the same register quite naturally calls for precisely connecting these notes one after the other."[12]

Vierne stressed to make certain that the inner voices are legato and that the pedal be played legato as well. He advised "playing the black keys 'on the very edge to facilitate, when practical, sliding onto the naturals.'"[13]


Repeated Notes

According to Henri Doyen, Vierne's student, Vierne taught the practice of Widor and Guilmant of "repeated notes losing one half of their value in moderate tempi and one fourth or one eighth in slower tempos. In ternary rhythms, cut by one one third, one sixth, or any fraction divisible by three."[14]

As for the treatment of chords, they should be "struck and released absolutely together. 'The great conductor brings in and cuts off his instrumentalists sharply; the great organist should do the same.'"[15]


Common Notes

Any common notes must be held, except when clarity dictates otherwise. [16]


Ritards

In Vierne's recordings the pieces generally end in "long, drawn-out ritards."[17]


Rubato

Vierne taught that "real music is never mechanical. It is...rubber!"[18]


Fermata Over A Rest

Movements are often separated with pauses which not only indicate a new section, but also allow for the room reverberation to subside.[19]

The rests should be counted metronomically, but in drier accoustics, the amount of silence may need to be reduced.[20]


Expression Pedal

Vierne used the expression for shading even when playing the works of Bach. He taught that when using the expression pedal there should be no jerky movements or wheezes like the accordion.[21]


Phrasing

Vierne changed the phrasing in his compositions for different students. He considered slurs to be more for eye appeal and didn't necessarily intend for the line to end at the end of every slur.[22]

Ornamentation[edit]

Trills


Generally, use upper note trills. However, if the previous note is an upper neighbor, then the trill should begin on the main note.[23]

"When the trill is over a dotted note, it should be stopped exactly on the dot."[24]

"When a trill is over a note without a dot, it should end exactly on the beginning of the second half of that value."[25]

Tempo and Meter[edit]

Tempo

'In choosing a tempo, Vierne placed extreme clarity above all other considerations. The test of clarity was that the listener always should be sure of the exact rhythm."[26]

Tempo should be adjusted to the acoustics.[27]

"Nothing is more deceiving than a metronome indication: it rarely hits the mark; when it is written at the top of a piece, one has, in spite of oneself, a tendency to be easily influenced by the ticking of that machine and, if that tempo falls a little short of our ideal, we decide on the number closest to what we think to be the truth. But the metronome is often so far from the truth that, if the majority of works were played in metronomic time, they would be deplorably travestied by a ridiculous speed or a fastidious slowness. Not once, but a hundred, a thousand times, have I personally had this experience."[28]

It should be noted that Vierne's manuscripts do not have metronome markings in his own hand, yet, according to Vierne, publishers added tempo markings.[29]

Scores and Editions[edit]

Replace this text with information on scores and editions that might be applicable to the whole set of pieces

Recordings[edit]

Replace this text with information on recordings

Free Online[edit]

  • 3rd Organ Symphony
  *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ThCfI3cl5s
  • 1st Symphony Final
  *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD2XJeRQOaw
  • 6th Organ Symphony Adagio
  * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar6FyQRcmfI
  • Meditation from his 24 Pieces en Style Libre
  * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7HeZIaHCn0

Pay to Listen[edit]

Replace this text with information on online recordings that are available for a fee

Other Resources[edit]

Replace this text with information on other resources that might be pertinent to performing these pieces

Notes[edit]

  1. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 25
  2. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 590-91. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  3. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 580. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  4. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 580. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  5. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 580. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  6. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 581. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  7. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 581. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  8. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 581-82. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  9. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 582. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  10. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 582. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  11. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 578. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  12. Louis Vierne,"Renseignements Généraux pour l'Interpretation de l'CEuvre d'Orgue de J.S. Bach," CEuvres pour Orgue de Bach (Paris: Éditions Maurice Senart, 1924) v.
  13. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 571. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  14. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 571-72. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  15. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 572. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  16. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 572-73. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  17. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 574. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  18. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 574. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  19. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 578. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  20. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 578. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  21. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 579. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  22. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 584-87. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  23. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 576. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  24. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 577. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  25. Vierne, "Renseignements Généraux," p. xx.
  26. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 588. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  27. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 588. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.
  28. Vierne, "Renseignements Généraux," p. iii.
  29. Rollin Smith, Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, 589-90. The Complete Organ No. 3. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press, 1999.

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