Gaston Litaize

gaston-litaize-aux-claviers-de-l-orgue-de-saint-françois-xavier-à-parisAssociation Gaston Litaize:
http://www.gastonlitaize.com/

Gaston Litaize (1909 – 1991) was a French organist and composer. An illness caused him to lose his sight just after birth. He entered the Institute for the Blind in Nancy, studying with Charles Magin. Magin encouraged him to continue studies in Paris at the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles. Litaize enrolled concurrently there and at the Paris Conservatory. His teachers in Paris included Adolphe Marty, Marcel Dupré, Henri Büsser, and Louis Vierne.

In 1939, Litaize became organist at Saint-Cloud, and in 1944 he became director of religious radio programs, overseeing five weekly broadcasts. In 1946, Litaize became organist titulaire at Saint‑François‑Xavier, a post he held until his death. When he retired from the radio in 1975, he became the organ teacher at the Conservatoire in St Maur-des-Fossés. His students there included Denis Comtet, Olivier Latry, Eric Lebrun, and Christophe Mantoux.

Litaize made numerous recordings, some of which have been reissued. He also was very active as a composer. A complete list of his compositions is available here. Olivier Latry has even transcribed and published one of Litaize’s improvisations.

Biography:

Gaston Litaize by Sébastien Durand
This book is in French.


Fantaisie et Fugue sur le nom de Gaston Litaize
Alain Litaize
This book is in French and includes an audio CD with unpublished works and improvisations of Gaston Litaize.

Recordings:

Gaston Litaize: Organ
Includes an improvisation on Victinmae paschali laudes.


Gaston Litaize: Récital de Son 80 Anniversaire
Includes Litaize playing some of his own compositions and an improvisation.


Gaston Litaize e Guy Bovet: All’organo di Carasso (Ticino)
Includes repertoire played by Gaston Litaize and Guy Bovet as well as an improvisation by each of the organists.

ohscatalog_2270_113982655
Litaize plays Litaize
Gaston Litaize plays his own works on the 1979 Winfried Albiez (Lindau / Lake Constance) organ located in the gallery of the Church of St. Mary in Kempen, Germany as well as three improvisations. Available through OHS.

La Marseillaise

LaMarseillaise

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

Aux armes citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons



La Marseillaise is the national anthem of France. The song was written and composed in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle during the French Revolutionary Wars, and was originally titled “Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin”. It acquired its nickname after being sung in Paris by volunteers from Marseille marching on the capital. The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic’s anthem in 1795. It later lost this status under Napoleon I, and the song was banned outright by Louis XVIII and Charles X. It returned briefly after the July Revolution of 1830, but was not restored as France’s national anthem until 1879.

See a list of other traditional song themes here.

Videos:

Xaver Varnus – La Marseillaise – Mathias Church, Budapest
Pierre Cochereau (Jeremy Filsell plays) – La Marseillaise – Liverpool

From ‘America’ to France (via Poland)

After celebrating Independence Day last week, today is France’s national holiday: Bastille Day! While I couldn’t find the recording of Pierre Cochereau’s improvisation on La Marseillaise for General de Gaulle’s funeral on line, I did find Jeremy Filsell’s transcription/recreation for your listening pleasure:

While the theme is normally in a major key, as this improvisation was originally created for a funeral, the minor mode beginning suits the occasion perfectly. When we began creating holiday variations last week, we started working with Charles Ives’ Variations on ‘America’. Ives also provides us with a variation in minor which is what we will focus on today. (Here’s a link to the video in case you want a refresher.)

Polonaise

The polonaise (which is the French word for ‘Polish’) is a traditional Polish dance in 3/4 time. Ives includes one of these dance movements as his fourth variation on America. You can see the traditional rhythm in the excerpt below:
IvesPolonaiseExample

As mentioned last week, rarely does Ives let a measure go by without any thematic material. Here we have two measures to practice our polonaise rhythm before beginning the theme. If we wish to improvise polonaises, we could spend much more than two measures practicing the rhythm. Choose some simple chord progressions and practice the rhythm in different keys. While Ives keeps the rhythmic figure confined to the left hand and pedal, we could also practice it with right hand and pedal or hands alone.

Once you have mastered the rhythm, then it’s time to add in the theme. For the first half of this variation, the theme is played by the right hand on a solo stop. If necessary, practice soloing out the theme with a simplified accompaniment first before adding the polonaise rhythm back in. For the second half, Ives requires the left hand to play both the theme and the rhythm. Just as you would probably want to practice the left hand alone if you were learning the Ives, so too, you probably want to practice the same idea with whatever theme you have chosen to turn into a polonaise. The first variation in the Ives set has the left hand playing the harmonized theme, so even Ives gives you a simplified version to practice first before increasing the difficulty level. The right hand then adds some sparkle with it’s commentary.

Fireworks

It is interesting to contrast the Polonaise with the first variation Ives offers. Having already practiced the harmonized theme played by the left hand and pedal in a simplified rhythm, rather than add difficulty to the left hand, Ives adds a running line for the right hand to play. He begins with sixteenth notes (basically four notes to each note of the theme), but then doubles the speed to 32nd notes (8 to 1)! The fast motion, large leaps upward and chromatic movement downward make me think of fireworks which seems a most fitting idea for variations on a patriotic song.
While these two variations appear to be very different, there are several common techniques that we can practice to advance our improvisation skills. Thanks to registration options at the organ, we could also practice the same ideas found in each of these variations but swapping hands. For example, use right hand and pedal to play the polonaise rhythm while the theme is played by the left hand in either the tenor or soprano register. Play the theme with right hand and pedal while the left hand adds fireworks on a 2′ stop! What if the polonaise was in a major key and the fireworks in minor? What other dance rhythms could you use instead of a polonaise?

While not looking to start a revolution today, I hope you are inspired to create your own fireworks while practicing your improvisations!

Viva la France!

Glenn


 
Recent additions to organimprovisation.com:

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Newsletter Issue 12 – 2014 07 14
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Louis Vierne

vierne[1]

Louis Vierne (1870 – 1937) is best known as a composer and organist at Notre Dame in Paris, France. He was born in Poitiers, nearly blind due to congenital cataracts, but was discoverd at an early age to have a gift for music: at age two, a pianist played him a Schubert lullaby and he promptly began to pick out the notes of the lullaby on the piano.
After completing school in the provinces, Louis Vierne entered the Paris Conservatory. From 1892, Vierne served as an assistant to the organist Charles-Marie Widor at the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. Vierne subsequently became principal organist at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, a post he held from 1900 until his death (while performing a concert) in 1937. Though he held one of the most prestigious organ posts in France, the Notre-Dame organ was in a state of disrepair throughout much of his tenure. To raise money for its restoration, he undertook a concert tour of North America including a performance on the famous Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia. Some of his students include Augustin Barié, Edward Shippen Barnes, Lili Boulanger, Nadia Boulanger, Marcel Dupré, André Fleury, Gaston Litaize, Édouard Mignan, Alexander Schreiner, and Georges-Émile Tanguay.
Vierne made phonograph recordings of six works of Bach, three of his own compositions and three improvisations. Originally recorded by Odéon, they were reissued most recently by EMI in 1981 with two of the improvisations appearing again in 1994. Maurice Duruflé transcribed the improvisations as he had done with the recordings of Charles Tournemire.

Biography:

Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral
by Rollin Smith, Pendragon Press, 2009.

Vidoes:
Recorded in 1929, there is some noise in the audio on these video, but I believe they are worth sharing because it is Vierne himself improvising.

Louis Vierne – Marche Episcopale – Notre Dame, Paris
Louis Vierne – Meditation – Notre Dame, Paris
Louis Vierne – Cortege – Notre Dame, Paris

and while it isn’t an improvisation, there is a short video of Louis Vierne playing at Notre Dame here.

Charles Tournemire

Tournemire2Charles Arnould Tournemire (1870 – 1939) was a French composer, organist, and accomplished improviser. His compositions include eight symphonies (one of them choral), four operas, twelve chamber works and eighteen piano solos. Today he is almost exclusively remembered for his organ music, especially L’Orgue Mystique, a set of 51 suites of pieces for the liturgical year based upon the chants of the day.

He studied organ with César Franck. From 1898 to 1939, Tournemire served as the organiste titulaire at Franck’s old church, the Basilique Ste-Clotilde in Paris. He was also professor of Chamber Music at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1931 he published a biography of Franck. A year before the biography appeared, Tournemire recorded five organ improvisations, which were later transcribed by Maurice Duruflé from the phonograph recordings. These recordings and most all of his improvisations were often rooted in the music of Gregorian chant.

Book:
TournemirePrecis

In 1936, Éditions Max Eschig published Précis d’éxecution de registration et d’improvisation à l’orgue by Charles Tournemire. Of the 117 pages, only the last 16 are devoted explicitly to the art of improvisation. Much of the text is devoted to philosophy, references to examples in repertoire, with some explanation of forms. Tournemire writes that the most profitable study that one could do is to read each day a sonata of Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven, and then to take the same elements and try to develop them oneself.

Recording:

Charles Tournemire: Complete Recordings

Videos:
*original audio recorded by Tournemire with slide show of pictures for videos

Charles Tournemire – Te Deum – Ste. Clotilde, Paris, France
Charles Tournemire – Fantasie on ‘Ave Maris Stella’ – Ste. Clotilde, Paris, France

I couldn’t find a video or audio online of Tournemire himself playing the other improvisations, but am including performances by other organists below because these have been such influential and well-known improvisations:
Charles Tournemire (Philippe Lefebvre plays) – Victimae paschali laudes – Chartres Cathedral, France

Kalevi Kiviniemi

kalevi_kiviniemi1Website:
http://www.kalevikiviniemi.com/

Kalevi Kiviniemi is a Finnish concert organist. He graduated in 1981 as a cantor and organist and continued his studies at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki for the concert diploma with Eero Väätäinen (literature) and Olli Linjama (improvisation). Kiviniemi’s discography includes more than 140 titles, including recordings made on historic organs in the USA, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany.

YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/kalevikiviniemi

Videos:
Kalevi Kiviniemi: Improvisation “Alarme” at St. Ouen, Rouen, France
Kalevi Kiviniemi – Improvisation Caprice héroïque – St. Ouen, Rouen, France
Kalevi Kiviniemi – Improvisation Theme and variations on La Follia – Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland

Ave Maris Stella

AveMarisStellaThis is the chant hymn for vespers for the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption.
The name Mary is said to mean “Star of the Sea” = stella maris.


See a list of other popular chant themes here.

Videos:
Charles Tournemire – Ave Maris Stella – Ste. Clotilde, Paris, France *original audio recorded by Tournemire with slide show of pictures for video

Lorenzo Bonoldi – 5 Versetti on Ave Maris Stella – Basilica di San Carlo, Milano

Victimae paschali laudes

VictimaePaschaliLaudesVictimae paschali laudes is the Sequence chant for Easter Day. Charles Tournemire recorded an improvisation on the chant which was later transcribed be Maurice Duruflé. This transcription has become a popular piece of organ literature.

See a list of other popular chant themes here.


Videos:
Charles Tournemire (Philippe Lefebvre plays) – Victimae paschali laudes – Chartres Cathedral, France
Lorenzo Bonoldi – Versetti on Victimae Paschali Laudes – Basilica di San Carlo, Milano
Sergio Militello – Victimae paschali laudes
Daniel Roth with Eric Lebrun – Victimae paschali laudes – St. Sulpice, Paris, France

Nigel Allcoat

NigelAllcoatWebsite:
http://www.nigelallcoat.org/
He has been a Visiting Tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music and for over 24 years has been teaching organists at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He also has been a Professor in Dresden, the St Petersburg Conservatory and the Royal Academy of Music in London. He also has founded the International Summer Organ Conservatoire in 1986 which is now held each year in France. Furthermore, he is the Organ Adviser to the Diocese of Coventry.


He has released several recordings of improvisations:

Allcoat Improvisations: Hommage à la France

Improvisations 2
Variations & Improvisations – CRCD 6091-92
Amazon.com lists a couple of improvisation masterclass CDs but they only seem to be available as used.

Organ Improvisation Masterclass 1

Organ Improvisation Masterclass 2

Audio:
He has a stream on SoundCloud here.

YouTube channels:
All the videos presently posted by Simon19DK are of Nigel Allcoat at the organ or piano.
He also has his own YouTube channel here.

Videos:
Organ Demonstration in Classical Style – Augustenborg Castle Chapel, Denmark
Symphonie Improvisée on ‘Salve Regina’ – St Nicolas du Chardonnet, Paris

Jean Langlais

Jean_Langlais

Website:
http://www.jeanlanglais.com

Jean Langlais (1907 – 1991) was sent to the Paris National Institute for the Young Blind in 1918 where he studied piano, violon, harmony and organ with great blind teachers including Albert Mahaut and Andre Marchal.
Later, he entered the Paris National Conservatory of Music in the organ class of Marcel Dupré, obtaining a First Prize in 1930. In 1931, he received the “Grand Prix d’Execution et Improvisation des Amis de l’Orgue”, after having studied improvisation with Charles Tournemire. He ended his studies with a Composition Prize in the class of Paul Dukas at the Paris Conservatory in 1934.
In 1945, he became the successor to Cesar Franck and Charles Tournemire at the prestigious organ tribune of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris. He left that position in 1987 at the age of 80, having been titular for 42 years. Professor for forty years at the National Institute for the Young Blind, he also taught at the Paris Schola Cantorum where, between 1961 and 1976, he influenced both French and foreign students, including Naji Hakim and Ann Labounsky amongst many others.

Biographies:

Jean Langlais – The Man and His Music
by Ann Labounsky, Amadeus Press, 2000.


Jean Langlais, 1907-1991: Ombre et lumiere
(in French) by Marie-Louise Jaquet-Langlais, Paris: Éditions Combre, 1995.

Recordings:

Jean Langlais Improvises at Great Organs


Jean Langlais, my memories

LanglaisImprovisationsFestivo6951842

The Legendary Jean Langlais
His last recorded improvisations at Ste. Clotilde.