Musical contribution - April 2020

Communion (opus 8)                                                                           Louis Vierne (1870-1937)

(LiVE Sampleset: Paris, Cavaillé-Coll)

 

Vierne is one of the composers we’ll be focusing on this year. Born 150 years ago, he came into this world almost blind. At the age of seven he underwent surgery that partially restored his sight. Vierne encountered many setbacks in his life – illness, accidents, the loss of two of his three children, and depression.

During his studies he became assistant organist at the Église Saint-Sulpice in Paris, alongside his teacher Charles-Marie Widor. In 1900 he was chosen from among 50 candidates to be the titular organist at Notre-Dame. He was renowned for his improvisations during the many services there. He died of a heart attack on 2 June 1937, during his 1750th recital at Notre-Dame.

This month, we’re taking a look at his Communion (opus 8). The opus number seems to indicate that this was one of his earlier works, but scholars do not entirely agree that this is the case. The earliest sources mention the year 1894, but that is a version for harmonium. This version comes from the year 1900. Vierne is believed to have played it himself for the first time in 1897, at St. Jean-de-Malte in Aix en Provence.

I read somewhere that: “The compositions build on the work by his teacher Widor, but are more complex in terms of harmony. The frequent use of chromatic harmony gives the music a more modern, sophisticated sound.”

In any case, this piece is clearly a richly nuanced delight. The registration requirements are noted in the score, so I won’t write anything further about them here. Enjoy this one without delay!

 

Warm regards,

André van Vliet

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