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CharIcs-Maric Widor (dto||s tsetvs)

louis Vicrnc (dto||s tsetvs)


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Je ddie cet album la mmoire de mon amie
Hlne Bouvier, mezzo-soprano du Ttre National
de lOpra, inoubliable Dalila.
Pierre Labric
juin 2013
I dedicate this album to the memory of my friend
Hlne Bouvier, a mezzo-soprano at the Paris Opera,
an unforgettable Dalila.
Pierre Labric
June 2013
Pour Pierre Labric, si bon musicien et si gentil
ami. En toute amiti. Hlne Bouvier. juin 1957.
Note de lditeur
Les pices qui composent le programme de ce disque ont t interprtes dans le cadre des rcitals
dorgue qui, il y a de cela une quarantaine dannes, se donnaient Notre-Dame de Paris, le dimanche
avant la messe du soir. Chaque fois, leur enregistrement seffectuait dune traite la veille, lissue de
la seconde rptition linterprte sinterdisant alors tout remords et par consquent tout montage.
Il sagissait donc en quelque sorte dune prise en direct mais sans public. Aprs bien dautres, ce
document sonore tmoigne de la faon dont sonnait linstrument en ce temps-l.
Franois Carbou
Producers note
The pieces making up the programme of this disc were performed in the context of the organ recitals that,
some forty years ago, were given at Notre-Dame de Paris on Sunday before evening Mass. Every time,
their recording was done at one go the night before, following the second rehearsal, the musician then
refraining from any remorse and, consequently, any editing. So this was, in a way, a live recording but
without an audience. After many others, this sound document attests to the way the instrument sounded
in those days.
Franois Carbou
3
Les auditions dorgue du dimanche
Notre-Dame de Paris
Petites histoires dune grande aventure
C
omme il en va souvent ainsi, tout est
parti de rien ou presque.
Nouvellement promu archiprtre de Notre-
Dame, le chanoine Berrar (je ne dis pas son
prnom : il le dtestait) avait manifest ds
sa prise de fonction ce quon pourrait appeler
une sainte horreur du vide. Constatant par
exemple que, le dimanche aprs-midi entre
les vpres et la messe de 18h.30, pas moins
de deux heures scoulaient sans que rien ne
se passe dans sa cathdrale, cet intellectuel
de haute culture tout ensemble homme
daction et orateur hors pair dcida sans
plus tarder de meubler lintervalle vacant par
des sries de confrences o sillustrrent des
personnalits aussi diverses que Lanza del
Vasto, Hans-Urs von Balthazar, Dom Helder
Camara ou Olivier Messiaen puis de leur
donner un prolongement musical sous forme
dun rcital dorgue. Lorsquil souvrit de son
projet Pierre Cochereau, ce dernier bien sr
y souscrivit denthousiasme. Cela se passait
tout dbut 1968. Prs dun demi-sicle plus
tard, linstitution a survcu ses initiateurs
avec le succs que lon sait.
Lorsque fut venu le moment de mettre en
uvre lide de son archiprtre, Cochereau
pensa juste titre quau moins dans un
premier temps, il sen tiendrait faire jouer
quelques-uns de ses collgues et amis,
lesquels se dvoueraient (sic !) tour de
rle puisquaussi bien aucun budget ntait
prvu pour rmunrer leur prestation, encore
moins ddommager les provinciaux de leurs
frais de voyage et de sjour dans la capitale.
Ctait l sans compter sur la vox populi. Sitt
Ie ro|el connu, Ies demandes afurenl de
tous les coins de la plante au point quil
fallut bientt tablir une liste dattente qui,
au hI du lems, assa de queIques mois
deux annes ! Mesurant lampleur de la
tche et ne pouvant lassumer seul du fait
de ses multiples activits, lami Pierre me
hl I'honneur de me conher Ie bb. C'esl
ainsi que, dix-sept ans durant (cest--dire
jusqu larrive des nouveaux titulaires
auxquels je me devais de rendre mon
tablier), il mincomba de recevoir le courrier
des candidats (en massurant discrtement
du niveau des inconnus), de convenir dune
date avec les heureux lus, le cas chant
dharmoniser leurs programmes en sorte
dviter les doublons dun dimanche sur
lautre et naturellement, in fine, de les
accueillir avec les honneurs qui leur taient
ds (beaucoup, venus parfois des antipodes,
ayant eu la dlicatesse dapporter avec eux
des bouteilles dalcool de chez eux pour me
les offrir, ce qui me vaut de dtenir prsent
dans ma cave une collection de breuvages des
plus insolites auxquels jai jug prfrable de
ne jamais toucher !).
Les honneurs que je viens dvoquer consis-
taient tout dabord leur prsenter linstrument
ds le vendredi soir aprs la fermeture de la
cathdrale une bonne heure ntant pas de
trop pour ce faire puis les assister aussi bien
4
pour la tourne des pages que le maniement
des combinaisons. Une seconde rptition
tait prvue le lendemain, la faveur de
laquelle Jehan Revert, le matre de chapelle,
montait saluer notre hte charg quil tait, le
dimanche, de le prsenter au public en mme
temps que les pices quil allait jouer et de faire
prcder leur excution dun bref commentaire.
Certaines de ces pices ncessitaient quil
senquire au pralable de leur nature car, trs
souvenl el our Ie Ius grand bnhce des
amateurs, nos amis trangers avaient cur
denrichir leur prestation de compositions
peu connues, propres quelles taient leur
rpertoire national.
Trs vite, il mapparut que lon vivait l un
phnomne exceptionnel : des organistes de
toutes provenances, de toutes gnrations,
de tous bords, de tous penchants esthtiques
amens sexprimer aux claviers dun mme
instrument et lequel ! Jamais, que je sache,
semblable plateau navait t runi une
tribune dorgue.
Cest pourquoi, quips que nous tions
sur place dun magntophone et de micros
installs demeure, et bien videmment
avec laccord de mes patients (un seul sy
opposa), je dcidai de mettre en bote
ces rcitals en sorte de constituer un fonds
darchives sonores propre en perptuer
la mmoire et pas seulement le souvenir.
Lentreprise nanmoins nallait pas sans
risques, le caractre dauthenticit rsultant
de ces prises en direct se voyant contrebattu
par toutes sortes dinconvnients : niveau
dambiance trs lev (le silence tout relatif
de trois mille auditeurs en moyenne ponctu
par le couinement des poussettes denfants
dambulant dans les bas-cts et le gazouillis
de leurs occupants), impossibilit de rattraper
les accidents de registration (quand ce ntait
un cornement tenace) et, plus encore peut-
tre, surcrot de trac pour lexcutant qui,
tout son ouvrage, nen avait gure besoin
ce moment-l. Aussi, prenant acte de cet
tat de choses, jen vins uvrer lissue
de la deuxime rptition, celle du samedi
soir. L'organisle se dcIaranl hn rl, iI me
jouait alors lentier de son programme, ne
marquant une courte pause que pour passer
dun morceau lautre, exactement comme
il allait devoir procder le lendemain. Cela
lui permettait accessoirement de vrifier
quil tenait bien dans le temps imparti et, en
impliquant de sa part une excution dun
seul tenant, bannissait la hantise de la fausse
nole au rohl de Ia musicaIil ure comme
avaient accoutum de faire les grands
interprtes du pass le seul bruit extrieur
de nature traverser les murs et entacher
les prises tant le 32 pieds assourdi des
moteurs de bateaux-mouche !
Lorsquen 1985, un an aprs la mort de Pierre,
jai pass la main, le corpus ainsi constitu ne
comptait pas moins de 743 rcitals. Outre la
France, y taient reprsents 29 autres pays
la palme revenant aux tats-Unis, lUruguay
et le Venezuela fermant la marche. Sans quon
nait pu atteindre la parit (elle ntait pas
de mise lpoque !), la participation fminine
avoisinait quand mme les 18% (-Peut mieux
5
faire opina devant moi Franoise Xenakis
venue our le Gmeeoorh de son mari jou,
justement, par une de ses disciples). Pour ce
qui est du choix des uvres, il aura mis en
vidence la place non ngligeable occupe par
la musique de notre temps (Chaynes, Ligeti,
Philippot, Tisn) ainsi que maintes crations
mondiales ou plus simplement de premires
audilions franaises. A dresser enhn Ia Iisle des
compositeurs les plus jous, on ne stonnera
pas dapprendre que Bach ouvrait la marche,
suivi distance respectueuse et dans lordre
par Vierne, Dupr, Franck, Langlais, Messiaen,
Reger el Duru.
Certes, la liste de nos htes compte de grands
absents. Jy relve tout dabord ceux qui,
pour des raisons personnelles, choisirent de
dcliner loffre : Virgil Fox, par exemple, un
vieil ami de Cochereau cependant mais qui
sen serait voulu de droger ses principes : de
toute sa carrire, pas une seule fois il navait
accept de jouer sans cachet ! Ou encore,
et pour des motifs plus nobles, Marcel
Lanquetuit, le titulaire de la cathdrale de
Rouen qui, pour rien au monde, naurait
dsert son poste un dimanche. Il y a aussi
ceux que nous avons sottement oublis :
Germani, Tagliavini, Commette ou bien
dautres qui, malgr eux, nous auront fait
faux-bond et ce disant, je pense la pauvre
Demessieux partie trop tt
n se doil enhn de Ie signaIer : des grands
baroqueux (Chapuis, Isoir, Chapelet pour
ne citer queux), aucun ne se sentit dshonor
de participer aux agapes sonores quon
lui offrait de partager sur un instrument
pourtant si contraire ses vues (et tous se
hrenl d'aiIIeurs une |oie de rcidiver) Ie
second rideau jouant quant lui et comme
lhabitude les puristes intransigeants, lun
deux (qui en loccurrence tait une) allant
jusqu dcrter que, de toute faon, au del
de quarante jeux, un orgue ntait plus quune
machine faire du bruit : on apprciera.
Quajouter encore, cette fois dun point de
vue purement technique, sinon que, mis
rude preuve moins par la fume des
cierges (mais la longue, elle entra quand
mme en ligne de compte) que par lusage
intensif qui en tait fait (les rcitals ne faisant
jamais que venir se greffer sur les nombreux
ofhces qui se drouIaienl Ia calhdraIe),
I'inslrumenl connul au hI du lems une
lente mais inluctable dgradation qui au
hnaI enlrana on Ie sail son comIel
dmontage et une restauration qui, mon
sens (mais ce nest que le mien), ne fut pas
sans en altrer notablement lharmonie,
tout le moins lassagir. Par ailleurs, soumis
au cycle des saisons avec ce que cela
impliquait dhygromtries et de tempratures
fort contrastes, laccord des mixtures et
surtout celui des anches laissrent parfois
dsirer (confer le dbut de la plage 11)
sans pour autant atteindre linsupportable
sauf bien sr aux oreilles de ceux (jen sais
un de fameux Bruxelles) qui, fchs avec
lchelle des valeurs, ont accoutum de privi-
lgier un aspect (non ngligeable, certes) de
la forme au dtriment du fond. Car ici, par
bonheur, le fond demeure sauf.
Si le rcital lui-mme se droulait gnrale-
ment sans anicroches, on se doute bien quen
coulisses, survinrent parfois des incidents ou
des situations quelque peu insolites, certains
burlesques ou simplement attendrissants,
dautres empreints dune gravit certaine.
Plutt que de me perdre en considrations
oiseuses (et de toute faon subjectives) sur les
mrites de tel ou tel ou de me lancer dans une
nime analyse des uvres propres raser
une majorit de lecteurs, je ne rsiste donc
pas au plaisir de conter ci-aprs trois de mes
souvenirs les plus marquants.
Je fais rpter lami Andr Isoir quand,
soudain, le vent vient manquer les
rservoirs saffaissant bruyamment comme
c'esl Ie cas Ia hn d'un ofhce, Iorsque I'on
coupe le contact. Homme de ressource,
notre invit a tt fait de mettre la main sur la
grande chelle qui, via loculus situ en partie
haute du mur latral, nous permet daccder
direclemenl Ia saIIe de souferie. La raison
de la panne est dtecte au premier coup
dil : la goupille qui solidarise les arbres
primaire et secondaire de la turbine a tout
simplement lch. On la remplace par une
poigne de gros clous qui tranaient par terre
proximit en priant le ciel quils tiennent
ce quils ont lobligeance de faire. La
rptition ne sen trouve pas moins courte,
notre quipe nous ayant laisss semblables
des charbonniers, couverts de suie et
de poussire. Cela se passe un vendredi
(pourquoi est-ce toujours la veille des
week-ends que surviennent les ppins de ce
genre ?). Approch en urgence le lendemain
matin, un serrurier de Bondy habitant la
mme rue que les parents dYvette accepte
de se rendre sur place et a tt fait de rparer
le bobo, ce qui permet Isoir de donner
son rcital lesprit serein. Mais lhistoire
ne sarrte pas l et, dans le mme temps,
commencent les ennuis. Ds le lundi matin,
en effet, je signale par crit lincident et son
heureux pilogue larchitecte des Btiments
de France en charge de Notre-Dame, un petit
homme chafouin la voix de fausset que je
sais fort imbu des hautes fonctions dont la
investi la rue de Valois (et dont, par charit
forcment chrtienne en loccurrence , je
tairai le nom). A quelques semaines de l
(ractivit lgendaire de ladministration),
je reois sous pli recommand une lettre
incendiaire dans laquelle on me demande de
quel droit je me suis permis dintervenir sans
autorisation dans un local o nont accs que
les hommes de lart agrs. Or il se trouve
que, dans lintervalle, est survenu certain
vnement historique dont je ne manque
pas de faire tat au pointilleux fonctionnaire
joint par tlphone : Je veux bien admettre,
monsieur M., avoir en loccurrence outrepass
mon rle mais accordez-le moi aussi : sans
mon intervention, il ny aurait pas eu de
grand orgue au service funbre du gnral de
Gaulle !. Rponse du gnome : -Et aprs ?.
Ce dimanche-l, tait normalement program-
m Fred Tulan (un musicien aux gots plus
quatypiques doubl dun gai luron qui, plus
tard, sinstituera mon guide dans les rues
bosseles de San Francisco). Atteint hlas de
turista comme pas mal de ses compatriotes
6
7
confronts la cuisine europenne, Fred est
remplac au pied lev par Jean Galard, un
habitu auquel on a recours pour ces sortes de
dpannages : il habite deux pas de l ! Cinq
minutes avant que ne dbute les festivits, la
dame qui vend des cartes postales ct public
toque la porte de la tribune. -Il y a l un
monsieur qui demande voir lorganiste
-Mais voyons, a nest pas possible : le
rcital va commencer ! -Cest quil insiste
beaucoup : il dit tre un de ses vieux amis
et avoir rendez-vous avec lui. De guerre
lasse, je rceptionne lintrus qui se prsente,
la main tendue : -John Cage ! Revenu de ma
surprise qui nest pas mince, on limagine
et sans entrer dans des dtails pour le
moins scabreux, je lui annonce que Fred a d
dclarer forfait : -Il est mort ? me fait-il.
-Non, je vous expliquerai tout lheure
Alors, dsignant Galard : -Il y avait du
Satie au programme de Fred ; cest dailleurs
pour cela que jtais venu. Et lui, quest-ce
quil joue ? Je le lui dis et a na pas lair de
follement lemballer. Il reste nanmoins et, les
ayanl rsenls I'un I'aulre, |'allends Ia hn
du rcital pour entraner notre hte de marque
vers ce que nous appelons le gourbi, une
pice minuscule taille dans le soubassement
du buffet o se trouve remis le livre dor des
rcitalistes. Je lui demande si, dfaut davoir
pu entendre ce qui avait motiv sa venue, il
accepterait pour le moins de nous laisser
quelque souvenir de son passage. Le rsultat,
je nen reviens toujours pas : cinq courtes
lignes dans un parfait franais la gloire
de ceIui qu'iI y quaIihe de sainl d'ArcueiI
avec, se dtachant en majuscules pour former
un acrostiche central, le nom de TULAN ! A
Ia morl de Cochereau, |'ai cru devoir conher
les diffrents cahiers de ce livre dor Anne-
Marie Joly, la zle conservatrice du dfunt
muse Notre-Dame dont le contenu, depuis,
a t stock on ne sait trop o par des mains
quelque peu irresponsables. Peut-tre un jour
retrouverai-je la photocopie que javais faite
lpoque de ce bijou
Sans prsenter de lien direct avec le sujet et
se situant mme tout fait hors contexte, la
troisime anecdote qui me revient lesprit
vaut quand mme dtre rapporte ici, me
semble-t-il. Je la tiens dHerman Berlinski,
organiste et compositeur dorigine allemande
qui, de confession juive et fuyant le nazisme
en 1933, stait dabord tabli en France o
il servit sous nos drapeaux durant la drle
de guerre avant de franchir lOcan et
dacqurir la nationalit amricaine. Il tait
en autres lauteur dun Burning Bush (Le
Buisson ardent) fort pris dans les milieux
organistiques doutre-Atlantique au point
dy tre tenu un peu comme le pendant, pour
linstrument, du clbre Adagio de Barber.
Avant daller travailler l haut, nous
nous retrouvons tous deux attabls chez
Mado, la brasserie jouxtant Notre-Dame
laquelle servait de point de ralliement
nos visiteurs quand il me raconte ce qui
lui est arriv dassez peu banal Munich
o il stait produit la semaine prcdente.
L'lal de ses Iunelles Iui donnanl du hI
retordre, il se rend chez un opticien du centre-
ville o laccueille une toute jeune femme.
Dans le cours de la conversation, celle-ci lui
8
dit : -Je vois bien que vous tes Amricain
(votre accent suffirait le prouver) et,
pourtant, vous parlez notre langue de faon
irrprochable et, ne serait-ce que par votre
nom, vous ne pouvez quavoir des origines
allemandes. Dites-moi que je me trompe
Et Berlinski de lui exposer le pourquoi du
comment. Au bout dune minute, la jeune
femme linterrompt, se dirige vers la porte
dentre, retourne la pancarte qui indiquait
ouvert ou ferm, donne un tour de cl.
Puis elle revient, linvite sasseoir avec
elle dans larrire-boutique et, dans un lan
du cur qui semble comme un appel au
secours : -Je suis venue au monde aprs
Ia guerre, Iui conhe-l-eIIe, el |e ne sais
combien de fois jai demand mes parents
de mexpliquer ce qui stait pass de si grave
cette poque-l. Ils nen parlaient jamais
entre eux et me tenaient obstinment dans
lignorance de ces vnements pourtant
pas si lointains. A toutes mes questions, ils
ludaient, haussaient les paules agacs.
Jai pourtant le droit de savoir, non ?.
Et pendant prs dune heure, face une
assoiffe dinformations qui buvait ses
paroles, le concertiste de la veille sest mu
au dbott en historien de la Shoah.
A mesure que je sollicite ma mmoire, une
foule dimages en surgissent ple-mle. Je
me rappelle ainsi Litaize venant conseiller
ses lves chaque fois que lun deux tait
programm et faisant montre cette occasion
dune science de la registration proprement
sluhanle , MarchaI, as Ius ll inslaII,
attaquant sans prvenir une improvisation
que jai la chance de pouvoir saisir au vol (il me
manque juste les toutes premires secondes) ;
lAllemand de lEst (ctait avant la chute du
Mur) quun charmant accompagnateur
au sourire carnassier ne lchera pas dune
semelle ; Pierre Vidal sautant de lautobus
en marche moins vingt (le rcital dmarrait
moins le quart !) ; William Self qui, ayant
jou des pices de Dupr et Bonnet (les deux
pires ennemis de lentre-deux-guerres) se
retrouvant au bas de lescalier en prsence
des deux veuves et leur demandant
benotement si elles se connaissaient :
succs assur !
Un de nos invits ayant jou du Bsser que
je savais alors plus que centenaire, je lui
demande si ce dernier serait en mesure de
signer le fameux livre dor. -Entre dix heures
et midi, pas de problme ; aprs, a dpend
des jours. Rendez-vous est donc pris dans
ce crneau horaire et je me retrouve avenue
KIber en face du bonhomme qui me conhe
avoir t lui aussi organiste. -A mon retour
de la villa Mdicis me prcise-t-il, je suis
all trouver Massenet qui en ce temps-l
tait directeur du Conservatoire et je lui ai
demand sil connaissait une tribune qui ft
libre ; vous tombez bien, me rpond celui-
ci : Gounod vient de dmissionner de Saint-
Cloud. Jai pens par devers moi : -Tout
lheure, ce train-l, il va me parler aussi
de ses petits djeuners avec Jean-Sbastien
Bach. Mais il sest content de signer.
Une dernire vocation : lultime apparition
de Dupr Notre-Dame en 1969 (il tait
9
donc g de 83 ans), rptant non pas son
rcital (Cochereau lavait prudemment
incit seulement improviser vu ltat de
ses doigls) mais eauhnanl our Ie moins
les registrations dont il comptait se servir
et quen dbut de soire, je raccompagne
Meudon dans ma 4L. Nous ne sommes
pas sortis dIssy-les-Moulineaux que a
bouchonne dj (dbut de week-end oblige).
A mes cts, je sens le vieux matre qui
sagite, impatient. Au bout dun moment,
il me prie de marrter : -Laissez-moi l ; je
rfre hnir ied -Mais vous n'y ensez
pas : nous sommes au moins quatre
kilomtres de chez vous ! -Ninsistez pas,
je vous le demande : madame Dupr pourrait
sinquiter. A regret, je le regarde sloigner.
Le lendemain, je lui demande : -Alors, a na
as l lro dur celle hn de arcours ` -h
si me fait-il : a montait ! Mais comme il
y avait des bancs pour les promeneurs, de
temps en temps, je masseyais cinq minutes
avant de repartir.
En guise de conclusion (et en esprant que
lon voudra bien ne pas trop men vouloir de
mes digressions), je reviens rapidement sur le
contenu de ce disque et sur son interprte.
Ce dernier a beau se dire excd dentendre
colporte la rengaine selon laquelle, part
Demessieux son idole, il naurait su jouer
sa vie durant que du Widor et du Vierne
(stendant sur cinq sicles, son rpertoire
allait en effet de Purcell Guillou en passant
par Bach, Mendelssohn et Liszt), il nen
demeure pas moins que, selon moi, cest
en compagnie de ces deux-l quil parvint
lexcellence. Et Yvette qui lui faisait
rcemment observer quon les retrouvait
toujours inscrits au programme de ses (trop)
rares prestations publiques, le pimpant
nonagnaire quil est devenu aujourdhui a
rpondu, dsarmant de (fausse) candeur :
-Bien sr que jaurais aim leur jouer autre
chose, mais que veux-tu : ils en redemandaient
chaque fois ! Jtais bien oblig de leur faire
plaisir.
Invit maintes reprises par son ami
Cochereau (rappelons-le : en 1948, cest ex
aequo que ces deux joyeux drilles dixit
Marie-Claire Alain obtinrent leur Prix
dorgue dans la classe de Dupr) et mme si
son instrument prfr demeurait et de loin
celui de Saint-Ouen de Rouen, Labric se plut
se produire maintes fois Notre-Dame et
pas seulement dans le cadre des rcitals :
Moreau Ie suIanl ofhcieI s'lanl lrouv
opportunment indisponible, cest en effet
lui qu la veille dune tourne dun mois aux
lals-Inis, Cochereau conha ses cIaviers : iI
neut pas le regretter.
Lorgue de Notre-Dame, donc, et Labric
nouveau aux commandes interprtant ses
deux musiciens dlection : pouvait-on rver
Ius aIIchanle afhche ` II vous aarlienl
den juger.
Franois Carbou
juin 2013
*
Picrrc labric a Notrc-Damc dc Paris (1968) Itano|s Catbou / So|s||ce
11
Sunday organ recitals at
Notre-Dame de Paris
Little stories from a great adventure
A
s is often the case, it all started from
nothing or practically.
From the moment he took over, the newly
promoted archpriest of Notre-Dame, Canon
Berrar (I am not mentioning his forename:
he detested it!) had shown that he absolutely
abhorred a vacuum. Observing, for example,
that between vespers and the 6.30 Mass on
Sunday afternoon, no less than two hours
went by without anything happening in his
cathedral, this highly-cultivated intellectual
altogether a man of action and a peerless
oralor decided vilhoul furlher ado lo hII in
the empty interval with a series of lectures in
which personalities as diverse as Lanza del
Vasto, Hans-Urs von Balthazar, Dom Helder
Camara and Olivier Messiaen won renown,
and then gave them a musical extension in the
form of an organ recital. When he mentioned
his project to Pierre Cochereau, the latter of
course subscribed to it enthusiastically. That
occurred in early 1968, and now, nearly a
half-century later, the institution has outlived
its initiators with the success that is well
known.
When the moment came to implement his
archpriests idea, Cochereau rightly thought
that, at the outset, he would limit himself to
having a few of his colleagues and friends
play. They would devote themselves (sic!) in
turn since, just as no budget had been planned
for remunerating their appearance, there
was even less question of reimbursing those
from the provinces for their travel and living
expenses in the capital. That was without
reckoning on the vox populi. As soon as the
ro|ecl became knovn, requesls oved in
from all corners of the earth, to the degree that
it was soon necessary to draw up a waiting
list that, with time, grew from a few months
to two years! Measuring the amplitude of the
task and, owing to his multiples activities,
which prevented him from handling it
alone, our friend Pierre did me the honour
of entrusting the baby to me. So it was that,
for 17 years (i.e., up until the arrival of the
new organists, when I had to step down), it
fell to me to receive the mail from candidates
(discreetly ensuring myself as to the level of
the unknowns), set a date with the happy
few, harmonize their programmes so as to
avoid repeats from one Sunday to the next
and, naturally, , greet them with due
honours. (Many, sometimes coming from the
antipodes, thoughtfully brought with them
bottles of alcohol from home to give to me,
which resulted in my currently having in my
wine cellar a collection of the most unusual
beverages which I have deemed wise to
never touch!).
The honours that I have just mentioned
consisted first of all of introducing the
instrument to them on Friday evening, after
the cathedral closed a good hour being
necessary for this , then helping them
as much by turning pages as by handling
12
the combinations. A second rehearsal was
scheduled for the next day, when Jehan
Revert, the matre de chapelle, came up to
greet our guest, since he was in charge of
introducing the musician to the audience on
Sunday along with the pieces that were going
to be played, preceded by a brief commentary.
Some of those pieces necessitated his
inquiring beforehand as to their nature for,
quile oflen, and for lhe grealesl benehl of
the music lovers, our foreign friends were
anxious to enrich their performance with
little-known compositions from their national
repertoire.
Quite quickly, it seemed to me that we were
experiencing an exceptional phenomenon:
organists of all backgrounds, all generations, all
kinds, and all aesthetic penchants were induced
to express themselves on the manuals of the
same instrument and what an instrument!
Never, so far as I know, had a equivalent cast
been assembled in an organ loft.
That is why, equipped as we were on site
with a tape recorder and microphones
installed permanently, and obviously with
the permission of my patients (only one
refused), I decided to record these recitals
so as to put together a collection of sound
archives in order to perpetuate the memory
of it and not just individual memories.
Nonetheless, the undertaking was not risk-
free, the character of authenticity resulting
from these live recordings being countered
by all sorts of inconveniences: the very
high noise level (the very relative silence
of 3,000 listeners on average punctuated by
the squeaking of babies prams circulating
in the side aisles and the babbling of their
occupants), the impossibility of making
up for recording accidents (when it was
not a persistent cipher) and perhaps even
more, the increased stage fright which the
performer, busy at work, hardly needed
at that moment. Thus, noting this state of
things, I began to work following the second
rehearsal, that of Saturday evening. The
organisl hnaIIy decIaring himseIf ready, he
then played his entire programme, pausing
briey onIy lo go from one iece lo lhe
next, exactly as he would have to proceed
the next day. At the same time, this enabled
him to verify that he indeed was within the
allotted time and, involving on his part a
performance all at one go, banished the fear
of a wrong note in favour of pure musicality
as the great performers of the past were
accustomed to doing the sole exterior
noise of a nature to come through the walls
and mar lhe recordings being. lhe mufed
32 of the bateau-mouche engines!
When, in 1985, a year after Pierres death,
I relinquished the duties, the corpus thus
assembled consisted of no less than 743 recitals.
In addition to France, 29 other countries
were represented the prize going to the
United States, with Uruguay and Venezuela
bringing up the rear. Without being able to
achieve equality (it was not an issue at the
time!), female participation was nonetheless
around 18% (Room for improvement was
the opinion of Franoise Xenakis, seated
13
in front of me, who had come to hear her
husbands Gmeeoorh played, precisely, by one
of his female disciples). As for the choice of
works, it brought out the considerable place
occupied by the music of our time (Chaynes,
Ligeti, Philippot, Tisn) as well as a host of
vorId remieres or more simIy hrsl Irench
erformances. To hnaIIy drav u lhe Iisl of
the most frequently played composers, it will
come as no surprise that Bach was in the lead,
followed at a respectful distance and in order
by Vierne, Dupr, Franck, Langlais, Messiaen,
Reger and Duru.
Certainly, the list of our guests includes some
major absences. I notice first of all those
who, for personal reasons, chose to decline
the invitation: Virgil Fox, for example,
even though an old friend of Cochereaus,
could not bring himself to break one of his
principles: throughout his whole career,
not once had he accepted to play without a
fee! Or else, and for nobler reasons, Marcel
Lanquetuit, the organist of the cathedral of
Rouen who, for nothing in the world, would
have deserted his loft on a Sunday. There
were also those whom we stupidly forgot:
Germani, Tagliavini, Commette and many
others who, in spite of themselves, will have
left us in the lurch and in saying this, I
think of poor Jeanne Demessieux, who left
us too soon
We must also point out: of the great Baroque
specialists (Chapuis, Isoir, Chapelet to
mention only them), none felt dishonoured
by participating in the sound feast that we
offered them to share on an instrument albeit
so contrary to their views (and all, moreover,
were delighted to reoffend), whereas the
small fry played the intransigent purists as
usual. One of them (who, as it happens, was
a she) went so far as to decree that, in any
event, beyond forty stops, an organ was no
more than a machine for making noise! One
will appreciate...
What else might we add, this time from a
purely technical point of view, other than
that, the smoke of the candles (but in the long
run, this nonetheless entered into account)
less than the intensive use made of it (the
recitals only being grafted onto the numerous
services that took place in the cathedral), over
time, put a severe strain on the instrument,
which experienced a slow but unavoidable
deterioration. In the end, this resulted as
we know in its complete dismantling and
a restoration that, in my opinion (and I
speak only for myself), altered the harmony
in particular, and at very least, tempered it.
Moreover, subjected to the cycle of the seasons
with what that implies in terms of highly
contrasted hygrometry and temperatures, the
tuning of the mixtures and above all of the
reeds was not always satisfactory (listen, for
example, to the beginning of track 11) without,
for all that, becoming unbearable except, of
course, to the ears of those (I know a famous
one in Brussels) who, hopeless with the scale
of values, have accustomed to favouring an
aspect (not inconsiderable, certainly) of form
to the detriment of content. Here, thankfully,
content remains safe.
14
Although the recitals themselves generally
went without a hitch, one may suspect
that in the wings, rather unusual incidents
or situations sometimes occurred, some
comical or simply touching, others tinged
with a certain seriousness. Rather than
losing myself in idle (and, in any case,
subjective) considerations on the merits of
so and so, or launching into an umpteenth
analysis of the works, likely to bore a
majority of readers, I will therefore not
resist the pleasure of relating three of my
most vivid memories.
I was having my friend Andr Isoir rehearse
when, suddenly, the wind lacked, the
reservoirs collapsing noisily as is the case
at the end of a service, when the current is
turned off. A resourceful man, our guest soon
laid his hands on the large ladder that, via the
oculus located in the upper part of the lateral
wall, enabled us to accede directly to the
bellows room. The reason for the breakdown
vas delecled al hrsl gIance: lhe in lhal
interlocks the primary and secondary shafts
of the turbine had quite simply let go. We
replaced it with a handful of large nails lying
on lhe oor nearby, raying lo heaven lhal
they hold which they were kind enough to
do. The rehearsal was nonetheless shortened,
our undertaking having left us looking like
coalmen, covered with soot and dust. That
happened on a Friday (why is it that it is
always on the eve of weekends that this kind
of problem arises?). Approached as a matter
of urgency the next morning, a locksmith
from Bondy, living in the same street as
Yvettes parents, agreed to come and quickly
repaired the problem, allowing Isoir to give
his recital with a serene mind.
But the story does not end there and, at the
same time, the problems began. In fact, on
Monday morning, I wrote to the architect
of Btiments de France in charge of Notre-
Dame, calling attention to the incident and
its fortunate epilogue. I knew this sly little
man with a high-pitched voice to be quite
self-important owing to the duties bestowed
upon him by the Ministry of Culture
(and whose name, by charity obviously
Christian under the circumstances , I shall
not reveal). A few weeks later (an example
of the administrations legendary reactivity),
I received an incendiary registered letter
asking me by what right I had permitted
myself to intervene without authorization in
remises lo vhich onIy aulhorized quaIihed
professionals have access. Well, it turns out
that, in the meantime, a certain historic event
occurred that I did not hesitate to report to the
punctilious civil servant whom I reached by
telephone: I am willing to admit, Monsieur
M., that, in the situation, I overstepped my
role, but admit: without my intervention,
there would have been no great organ for
General de Gaulles funeral service! To
which the gnome replied: And what of it?
That Sunday Fred Tulan (a musician of
more than atypical tastes as well as a likely
lad who, later on, would be my guide
in the hilly streets of San Francisco) was
scheduled. Alas, victim of Montezumas
revenge (like quite a few of his compatriots
15
when confronted with European cuisine),
Fred was replaced at the last minute by Jean
Galard, a regular to whom we resorted for
this sort of emergency: he lived almost next
door! Five minutes before the beginning of
the festivities, the lady who sold postcards
on the public side knocked on the door of
the loft. Theres a gentleman asking to see
the organist. - But come now, thats not
possible: the recital is about to begin! - Well,
hes quite insistent: he says hes an old friend
and has an appointment with him Tired
of resisting, I received the intruder who held
out his hand and introduced himself: John
Cage! Getting over my astonishment
which was considerable, as one can imagine
and without entering into details that were
improper to say the least, I announced that
Fred had had to withdraw: Is he dead? he
asked. No, Ill explain in awhile Then,
pointing to Galard, he said: There was some
Satie on Freds programme; it was moreover
for that that I came. And this guy, whats
he playing? I told him, and this did not
appear to exactly thrill him. Nonetheless he
stayed and, having introduced them to each
other, I waited for the end of the recital to
take our prestigious guest to what we call
the gourbi [a shack or slum], a minuscule
room carved into the base of the case where
the recitalists visitors book was kept. I
asked him if, for lack of hearing what had
motivated his coming, he would accept to at
least leave us a souvenir of his passage. The
resuIl and I sliII can'l gel over il vas hve
short lines in perfect French to the glory of
the man he described as the Saint of Arcueil
with, standing out in capital letters to form
a central acrostic, the name TULAN! After
Cochereaus death, I felt I had to entrust the
various volumes of this book to Anne-Marie
Joly, the zealous curator of the defunct
Notre-Dame museum, the contents of which
have since been stocked who knows where
by somewhat irresponsible hands. Perhaps
one day I'II hnd lhe holocoy lhal I'd made
of this gem at the time
Despite its being without any direct
bearing on the subject and even totally out
of context, the third anecdote that comes to
mind is, it seems to me, still worth relating
here. It was told to me by Herman Berlinski,
a German-born organist and composer
vho, being }evish, ed Nazism in 1933
and initially settled in France where he
served in our army during the war before
crossing the ocean and taking American
citizenship. He wrote, amongst others, a
Burning Bush that was highly prized in
organ circles on the other side of the Atlantic
to the point of being considered somewhat
as the instruments counterpart to Barbers
famous Adagio. Before going to work up
there, we were eating at Chez Mado, the
brasserie next to Notre-Dame which served
as a rallying point for our visitors , when
he told me something hardly banal that had
happened to him in Munich where he had
performed the previous week. The state
of his eyeglasses causing him problems,
he went to an optician in the city centre
where he was received by a young woman.
In the course of the conversation, she said
16
to him: I can clearly see youre American
(your accenl vouId sufhce lo rove il) and
yet, you speak our language impeccably,
and were it merely for your name, you
could only have German origins. Tell me
if Im wrong And Berlinski told her
the why and wherefore. After a minute,
the young woman interrupted him, went
to the entrance, turned over the open/
closed sign and locked the door. Then she
came back, invited him to sit with her in
the back shop and, in a burst of emotion
that seemed like a call for help, told him:
I was born after the war and I dont know
how many times Ive asked my parents
to explain what happened back then that
was so serious. They never talked about it
between themselves and also obstinately
kept me in the dark about these events
that were not, however, so long ago. They
elude all my questions, shrugging their
shoulders, annoyed. But I have the right
to know, dont I? And for more than an
hour, facing this woman who thirsted
for information and drank his words, the
concert artist of the night before turned into
an extemporaneous historian of the Shoah!
As I appeal to my memory, a hotchpotch
of images surges up. For example, I recall
Litaize coming to advise his students every
time one of them was scheduled to play,
demonstrating on that occasion a knowledge
of registration that was literally stupefying; or
Marchal, as soon as he was settled, attacking
without warning an improvisation that I had
lhe Iuck of being abIe lo calch on lhe y (I'm
missing onIy lhe very hrsl seconds), or lhe
East German (this was before the fall of the
Wall), to whom a charming accompanist
with a carnivorous smile stuck like a leech;
or Pierre Vidal jumping from a moving bus
at twenty minutes before the hour (the recital
was beginning at a quarter to!); or William
Self who, having played pieces by Dupr
and Bonnet (the two worst enemies of the
interwar period), finding himself at the
bottom of the stairs in the presence of the two
widows, gullibly asked them if they knew
each other - sure to be a success!
One of our guests having played some Bsser,
whom I knew to be aged over a hundred,
I asked the latter if he would be capable of
signing the famous guestbook. Between 10
and noon, no problem; after that, it depends
on the day. So an appointment was made in
that time slot, and I found myself on Avenue
Klber facing a gentleman who admitted to
me that he, too, was an organist. Upon my
return from the Villa Mdicis [after winning
lhe Irix de Romej,' he secihed, 'I venl
looking for Massenet who was director of
the Conservatoire at the time, and I asked
if he knew of an organ loft that was vacant.
Youve come at just the right moment, he
answered. Gounod has just resigned from
Saint-Cloud. I thought to myself: At this
rate, in awhile hell also be telling me about
his breakfasts with Johann Sebastian Bach.
But he settled for signing.
ne Iasl evocalion: Dur's hnaI aearance
at Notre-Dame in 1969 (he was 83 at the
17
time), not rehearsing his recital (Cochereau
had prudently encouraged him to only
imrovise, given lhe condilion of his hngers)
bul rehning al lhe very Ieasl lhe regislralions
that he counted on using. In the early
evening, I drove him home to Meudon in my
Renault 4L, and we had not got out of Issy-
les-Moulineaux [right over the southern limit
of Iarisj vhen lrafhc vas aIready backed u,
being the beginning of the weekend. At my
side, I sensed the old master seething with
impatience. After a moment, he begged me to
stop: Drop me here; I prefer going the rest of
the way on foot. - Youre not serious! Were
at least four kilometres from your home! -
Dont insist, Im asking you: Madame Dupr
might worry. With regret, I watched him
walk away. The next day I asked him: So,
it wasnt too hard, the end of the journey?
- Oh yes, he replied, the road climbed! But
since there were benches for walkers from
lime lo lime, I sal dovn hve minules before
setting off again.
By way of conclusion (and hoping the reader
will not hold my digressions against me too
much), I will quickly return to the contents of
this disc and its interpreter.
The latter might well say it irritates him to
hear the same old refrain according to which,
aside from Demessieux, his idol, he only
knew how to play Widor and Vierne (his
reerloire acluaIIy sanned hve cenluries,
from Purcell to Guillou by way of Bach,
Mendelssohn and Liszt); it is no less true
that, in my opinion, it was in the company
of those two that he achieved true excellence.
And to Yvette, who recently observed that
they were always found on the programme
of his (overly) rare public performances, the
spruce nonagenarian that he has become
today responded, disarming with (false)
ingenuousness: Of course I would have
liked to play other things for them, but what
do you want: they asked for them again
every time! I was indeed obliged to give them
pleasure
Invited on numerous occasions by his friend
Cochereau (let us recall that, in 1948, these
two jolly fellows dixit Marie-Claire Alain
obtained their organ prize ex aequo in
Duprs class) and even though his favourite
instrument remained and by far that
of Saint-Ouen in Rouen, Labric enjoyed
appearing at Notre-Dame many times and
nol onIy as a recilaIisl: Moreau lhe ofhciaI
substitute fortunately being unavailable, it
was in fact to him that Cochereau, just before
setting off on a month-long tour in the United
States, turned over the manuals: he would
not have to regret it.
So, the organ of Notre-Dame with Labric
again at the controls, performing his two
preferred composers: might one dream a
more appealing programme? It is now up to
you to judge.
Franois Carbou
June 2013
(translated by John Tyler Tuttle)
*
Ic grand orguc dc Notrc-Damc dans Ics anncs 70 Robet| Ch5|eau / So|s||ce
19
PDALE
1. Principal 32 (B)
2. Contrebasse 16 (B)
3. Soubasse 16 (A)
4. Principal 8 (C)
5. Flte 8 (A)
6. Bourdon 8 (D)
7. Octave 4 (B)
8. Flte chemine 4 (F)
9. Bourdon 2 (F)
10. Piccolo 1 (F)
11. Fourniture III (F)
12. Cymbale IV (F)
13. Quinte 10 2/3 (B)
14. Tierce 6 2/5 (B)
15. Quinte 5 1/3 (B)
16. Septime 4 4/7 (B)
17. Tierce 3 1/5 (F)
18. Quinte 2 2/3 (F)
19. Tierce 1 3/5 (F)
20. Larigot 1 1/3 (F)
21. Bombarde 32 (A, B)
22. Bombarde 16 (A, B)
23. Basson 16 (B)
24. Ranquette 16 (F)
25. Trompette 8 (A)
26. Basson 8 (B)
27. Clairon 4 (A)
28. Chalumeau 4 (F)
I. GRAND ORGUE
1. Principal 16 (A, B)
2. Bourdon 16 (A)
3. Montre 8 (A)
4. Principal 8 (B, F)
5. Flte harmonique 8 (B)
6. Bourdon 8 (B)
7. Prestant 4 (B)
8. Octave 4 (A)
9. Doublette 2 (A)
10. Fourniture IV (A, B, F)
11. Cymbale V (A, B, F)
12. Bombarde 16 (A)
13. Trompette 8 (A)
14. Clairon 4 (A)
IV. SOLO
1. Bourdon 32 (A,F)
2. Principal 16 (B)
3. Montre 8 (A)
4. Flte harmonique 8 (B)
5. Prestant 4 (B)
6. Doublette 2 (B)
7. Fourniture II, 32 (F)
8. Fourniture V, 16 (F)
9. Cymbale IV (F)
10. Cornet IV-V (A, B)
11. Quinte 5 1/3 (A)
12. Tierce 3 1/5 (B)
13. Quinte 2 2/3 (B)
14. Septime 2 2/7 (B)
15. Cromorne 8 (F)
II. POSITIF
1. Montre 16 (A, B)
2. Bourdon 16 (A, B)
3. Salicional 8 (B, C)
4. Unda maris 8 (B)
5. Flte harmonique 8 (B)
6. Bourdon 8 (A)
7. Prestant 4 (A)
8. Flte douce 4 (A)
9. Doublette 2 (A)
10. Fourniture IV, 16 (E)
11. Cymbale III (F)
12. Quinte 2 2/3 (A)
13. Tierce 1 3/5 (E)
14. Clarinette 16 (B)
15. Clarinette 8 (A, B)
16. Clarinette 4 (B)
V. GRAND CHUR
1. Principal 8 (B)
2. Bouron 8 (B)
3. Prestant 4 (B)
4. Doublette 2 (B)
5. Piccolo 1 (B)
6. Cymbale IV (F)
7. Quinte 2 2/3 (B)
8. Tierce 1 3/5 (B)
9. Larigot 1 1/3 (B)
10. Septime 1 1/7 (B)
11. Tuba 16 (B)
12. Trompette 8 (A)
13. Clairon 4 (A)
III. RCIT EXPRESSIF
1. Quintaton 16 (A)
2. Principal 8 (C)
3. Gambe 8 (B, C)
4. Voix cleste 8 (B)
5. Flte harmonique 8 (B)
6. Bourdon 8 (F)
7. Octave 4 (C)
8. Flte harmonique 4 (B)
9. Octavin 2 (B)
10. Fourniture III (C, F)
11. Cymbale IV (F)
12. Bombarde 16 (B)
13. Trompette 8 (A)
14. Basson-Hautbois 8 (B)
15. Voix humaine 8 (A, B)
16. Clairon 4 (A)
hors bote / outbox :
17. Cornet dcho (A, F)
18. Trompette dcho (A)
19. Chamade 8 (F)
20. Chamade 4 (F)
21. Chamade 2/16 (F)
Tremblant ajustable
COMPOSITION DU GRAND ORGUE DE NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS DANS LES ANNES 70
SPECIFICATIONS OF THE GREAT ORGAN OF NOTRE-DAME, PARIS IN THE 70ths
ORIGINE DES TUYAUX / ORIGIN OF THE PIPES :
Thierry, 1733 / Clicquot, 1788 (A). Cavaill-Coll, 1868 (B). Mutin, 1904 (C).
Beuchet, 1932 (D). Hermann, 1963 (E). Boisseau, depuis 1965 (F).
RAPPEL DES ENREGISTREMENTS
DE PIERRE LABRIC CHEZ FY-SOLSTICE
FRANZ LISZT
Prlude & fugue sur B.A.C.H.
Fantaisie & fugue sur Ad nos
Variations sur Weinen, Klagen
Funrailles
(Saint-Ouen de Rouen) SOCD 264
*
JEANNE DEMESSIEUX
Six tudes op. 5 / Triptyque op. 7
Te Deum op. 11 / etc.
(Notre-Dame de Paris) SOCD 269
*
LOUIS VIERNE, vol. 1
Les six Symphonies
(Saint-Sernin de Toulouse) SOCD 277/9
*
LOUIS VIERNE, vol. 2
Les Pices en style libre / le Triptyque,
Les deux Messes basses / etc.
(Saint-Ouen de Rouen) SOCD 286/8
*
LOUIS VIERNE, vol. 3
Les Pices de fantaisie
(Saint-Ouen de Rouen) SOCD 290/1
*
EUGNE REUCHSEL
Promenades en Provence
(Saint-Ouen de Rouen) SOCD 289