Arbiter Records 111

André Marchal: The 1956 Zodiac recordings

Bach recital and studio organ demonstration

Track List

Recorded at Marchal's home on rue Duroc in Paris, 1956 on the neo-Baroque Gonzalez organ   "No one has an ear like Marchal. He has the best ear in Paris." –Francis Poulenc

  1. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Puer natus in Bethelhem, BWV 603
  2. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Gelobet sei'st du, Jesu Christ, BWV 604
  3. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Der tag, der ist so freudenreich, BWV 605
  4. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Von himmel goch, da komm' ich hier, BWV 606
  5. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Von himmel kam der engel schar, BWV 607
  6. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Lobt gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich, BWV 609
  7. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - In dulci jubilo, BWV 608
  8. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Jesu, meine freude, BWV 610
  9. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV 611
  10. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Wir christenleut', BWV 612
  11. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - Das alte jahr vergangen ist, BWV 614
  12. Bach: Orgelbüchlein - In dir is freude, BWV 615 (Bach)
  13. Bach: Toccata adagio and fugue in C, BWV 564 - Toccata
  14. Bach: Toccata adagio and fugue in C, BWV 564 - Adagio
  15. Bach: Toccata adagio and fugue in C, BWV 564 - Fugue
  16. Marchal describes the Gonzalez organ
  17. Le Positif / Choir: bourdon, flute conique, nazard, quarte de nazard, cornet, piccolo, ensemble of 8, 4, 2, and 1 ft. stops, cromorne
  18. Great organ: montre, prestant, doublette, plein jeu
  19. Swell, and combinations: dulciana, voix celeste, quintaton, principal , doublette, tierce, cornet, larigot, cymbale, trompette...
  20. Pedal, ensemble of the whole organ: 32' soubasse, 16' soubasse, bourdon, flute, ranquette, trompette, clairon, ensemble of pedal...

André Marchal and His Contributions to the Neo-Classic Movement by Jacqueline Englert-Marchal.

(The earliest recordings of the organ were made by masters representing the traditions of 19th-century France: Charles-Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, Charles Tournemiere, and Marcel Dupré. André Marchal (1894-1980) re-evaluated their approach to organ playing, and in doing so created the modern style we now take for granted. His transformation of heavy registration and legato playing into transparency with a variety of touch clarified the musical structure in an unprecedented way.

Lee Erwin, composer and incomparable organist for silent films, was Marchal’s first American pupil. Erwin arrived in Paris in 1931; after hearing Marchal improvise his Sunday morning service, Erwin and his colleagues made a frantic dash to the Paris Métro to reach Trinité in time for Messiaen’s improvisation. Such was the music-making on Sunday mornings in Paris long ago. Erwin maintained contact with his master and family throughout the decades. With the advent of his own Zodiac Records label, Erwin further preserved the art of Marchal by recording him at home, reissued on this cd. As Marchal announces and illustrates each stop on the Gonzalez organ (with English translations spoken by his daughter Mme. Englert),we hear how astutely he coupled sound with musical forms.

The following article is an excerpt from a lecture given by Marchal’s daughter, Jacqueline Englert-Marchal, at the University of North Texas on February 28, 1992 and published in full in The American Organist, February 1994. It vividly evokes the cultural background and personality of this master organist.)

André Marchal was born in Paris on February 6, 1894, four years after the death of César Franck. At the age of nine, he was admitted to the National Institute for the Blind, where Vierne and Barié had studied. General education was a bit primitive, but the musical studies were quite exacting: all organ and piano students had to learn, in addition to harmony, one string and one wind instrument; each week there was orchestra practice and choir rehearsal preparing for the Sunday service. For example, Marchal sang the tenor part in Franck’s Mass; he had also chosen clarinet and violin, which allowed him to perform a special trick later: he would play the violin while using the organ pedal-board as the bass.

When he was 15, he began studying organ with Adolphe Marty, and harmony with Albert Mahaut, both of whom had won the premier prix d’orgue at t he Paris Conservatoire in the class of César Franck.

In 1898, Albert Mahaut presented at the Trocadéro the works of Franck, little known then by the public, in two widely acclaimed recitals. He also toured extensively, and I have found in the diary of the painter Paul Klee the following, dated Fall 1905:

Organ recital of exceptional importance, given by the Parisian Mahaut, in Bern; program exclusively devoted to César Franck:

1. Fantasy in A minor

2. Cantabile

3. Pièce héroique!

4. Panis angelicus

5. Choral in E Major

6. Choral in B minor

7. Choral in A minor

8. Air de l’Archange (from Rédemption)

I am amazed at the length of the evening and at the endurance of both organist and Swiss audience.

Going back to the Institute for the Blind, there was not much difference between Vierne’s description of it, as it appears in his Journal, and in my father’s time, more than 20 years later. Every Sunday, each organ student had to take turns accompanying the choir and playing during the service in the chapel. The 34-stop instrument had been built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and inaugurated on March 17, 1883, César Franck having composed his Psalm 150 for the occasion.

My father’s top marks allowed him to become assistant teacher in 1918, and then full professor in 1920.

Meanwhile, he had been admitted to the organ class of Eugène Gigout at the conservatoire in 1911, and had obtained first prize for organ and improvisation, as well as the Guilmant Prize, in 1913. From then on, not only did he substitute for Gigout at Saint-Augustin (until being appointed to Saint-Germain des Prés in 1915) but often replaced his master at the conservatoire organ classes during the years of World War I.

Marchal had also attracted the attention of a famous piano teacher, Paul Braud; as a matter of fact, Franck had the accident that caused his death while going to attend a rehearsal at Paul Braud’s. Instead of launching himself in an organist career, my father gladly accepted the idea of thorough piano studies involving a wide repertoire comprising Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Franck, and Fauré. He once played the solo part of Franck’s Variations symphoniques and later played the reduction of the orchestral part, which, of course, he had to memorize.

Marchal had been appointed organist at Saint-Germain des Prés in 1915, succeeding Augustin Barié, who was very important in my father’s musical education, though he never officially was his teacher. Barié had studied with Guilmant and Vierne, and had earned the premier prix d’orgue the same year as Bonnet. He was considered the greatest improviser of his time, praised both by Vierne and Guilmant, who used to tell their pupils: “If you want to hear good improvisation, go to Saint-Germain des Prés.” Gigout had taught Marchal the classical style and the rigors of work, while Barié encouraged him to follow the musical language of Debussy and Ravel, music that Marchal had barely discovered. Unfortunately, Barié died very young, at 32, and his father immediately recommended Marchal for the position at Saint-Germain des Prés, where he remained 30 years, from 1915 to 1945.

In 1917, Marchal won the prix d’ excellence for fugue and counterpoint in the class of Georges Caussade at the conservatoire. As for my mother, she had just been awarded the premiere prix d’harmonie at the conservatoire. Two years later, they married and were engaged by the Institute for the Blind, my father teaching organ, improvisation, and composition, and my mother, piano and harmony. She had the great advantage of being able to read both Braille and print and was also a very good singer.

As soon as my parents had settled in an apartment within walking distance of the institute, Marchal’s first desire was to have an organ so that he could practice at home. He asked the Gütschenritter organ building firm, which was in charge of the maintenance of Saint-Germain des Prés, to build a small instrument; both father Joseph and son Gaston Gütschenritter took great care to give satisfaction to the ambitious young organist. This two-manual, six-stop (out of the eight scheduled) tracker instrument was inaugurated in 1921 by Gigout, Jean Huré, and the happy possessor, who improvised on a theme of Fauré. It was on this instrument that my father, between 1921 and 1923, learned most of his repertoire, working two hours every morning, before going to teach at the institute.

The years 1920-21 proved to be very important for Marchal through two very special encounters. In 1920, one of Marchal’s friends from the institute, the organist at the cathedral of Orléans, had been teaching a young man of 16. It was Norbert Dufourcq, who a few months later rang the bell at the apartment on rue Duroc, and became one of the first pupils to play on the newly installed instrument. In the summer of 1921, Marchal was in Maisons-Laffitte, a suburb of Paris and climbing to the organ loft of Saint-Nicholas, and met an organ builder repairing a cipher and making a few adjustments. Some detail brought to my father’s mind a comparison with his instrument at Saint-Germain des Prés. “You are André Marchal,” said the organ builder. “I am Victor Gonzalez.” It is through this chance meeting that a friendship began and a collaboration that was to last for 35 years.

In 1922, an exceptionally gifted pupil entered the Institute for the Blind, and soon attracted the attention of Marchal who took great trouble returning to teach late at night to prepare him for Dupré’s organ class at the conservatoire. That was Jean Langlais. Langlais soon became a friend of our family and remained so to the very end of his life, when he would still remember that it was he who had taught me, as a child, how to lace my shoes. Beyond that achievement, he substituted at Saint-Germain des Prés during my father’s first organ tour in the States and won premier prix d’orgue at the conservatoire in 1930. My father played La Nativité of Langlais in 1936 and my mother sang his Trois Motets, accompanied by the composer, in 1937. Then came the Te Deum and the Suite Médiévale, dedicated to Marchal. Edgar Varèse happened to hear a recital by my father at Saint-Eustache, and commented on the Te Deum: “It is like a race towards hell.” As for the Organ Book, it was written as a wedding gift for me and my husband Giuseppe, and in the last piece, Pasticcio, Langlais managed to use both our names, Jacqueline and Giuseppe, with the Braille system of notation. The fact that the Langlais family lived two doors away from us brought us closer together, and as an American once exclaimed: “This is organists’ row.”

This same year, in 1922, my parents went to visit and hear Vierne at Notre-Dame. As a schoolboy, Marchal had been introduced to Vierne in 1910, on the occasion of a performance of his Mass at the institute. No sooner had Vierne heard that my father had studied his Symphony III than he exclaimed spontaneously: “But I want to hear it!” “When?” said father. “Right now” was the answer. So my mother took both gentlemen back home, and Vierne, obviously satisfied with the performance of his symphony by Marchal, mentioned his Fourth, which, published in the States, had not yet been heard in France. Tempted by this new work, the first performance of which Vierne seemed happy to entrust to him, Marchal set to learning it with enthusiasm. Vierne had loaned him, for the Braille transcription, his own beautifully bound copy, a present from the publisher, G. Schirmer.

My father was preparing to make his first real contact with the public in four historical recitals given at the conservatoire under the patronage of the minister of fine arts and the conservatory director, Henri Rabaud, in January 1923. So, to a highly critical audience, consisting largely of professionals, Marchal played representative works from memory by the following composers: Cabezón, Frescobaldi, Buxtehude, Grigny, Bach, Daquin, Couperin, DuMage, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Franck, Saint-Saëns, Boëllmann, Widor, Guilmant, Gigout, Déodat de Séverac, Tournemire, Gabriel Dupont, Barié, d’Indy, and Dupré’s newly published Prelude and Fugue in B major. Vierne’s Symphony IV opened the third program; it had an immense success. Vierne embraced Marchal on the stage and let his feelings flow in a flood of affectionate and encouraging words. Having to leave the hall before the end of the recital, he wrote my father the following letter the same evening:

“Thank you again with all my heart, my dear lad, for the great joy you have just given me. I will retain the memory of this emotion, which is one of the most profound that I have experienced in my life as an artist. You have admirably felt and understood this work, which is brightened for a moment by the fragments of a happy dream, and finishes in a fever. You have interpreted it like a poet, and this is what really struck. I could not refrain from telephoning B. this evening so that he could tell you of my enthusiasm before this note reaches you. See in this a sincere and spontaneous gesture, the natural reflex of people of my kind and one that cannot be withheld.”

From then on, Vierne became a regular visitor to our home, following with great interest my father’ career, and playing the role of a grandfather to me. My mother often sang his “Angelus” in concert, accompanied by my father. Marchal gave, in 1928, for the Societé Nationale de Musique the first performance of Vierne’s third suite of Piéces de Fantasie, with the Impromptu dedicated to him. Vierne and Marchal were on the best of terms, and his sudden death at Notre-Dame in 1937 was like the loss of a family member.

My father had attracted Tournemire’s attention at the time he was in Gigout’s class at the conservatoire, and Tournemire had not hesitated to ask this young man of 18 to substitute for him on Assumption Day at Sainte-Clotilde. So my father went there before-hand, and hearing Tournemire improvise, was completely overwhelmed and captivated by the way he used the organ as an orchestra. Later, Tournemire dedicated his Office for Epiphany to Marchal: No. 7 of L’Orgue Mystique.

A few years later, Tournemire, Gigout, and Marchal, serving on the jury at the conservatoire for the admission of new students in the organ class, had all been impressed by an exceptional candidate: it was Maurice Duruflé. Tournemire had exclaimed: “That surely will be a premier prix, in the style of Marchal.” And he was right.

One can feel the evolution of the relationship between Marchal and Duruflé through the dedications written by Duruflé on the front page of his scores given to my father: at first very formal, and becoming more and more friendly; moreover, they were both in complete agreement concerning organ building, and Marchal had played the Choral varié sur le Veni Creator extensively.

Marchal’s career as a virtuoso had commenced. Recitals in various parts of France followed in rapid succession and soon his visits extended to other countries.

The organ at rue Duroc in Paris was originally meant to be an instrument for daily practice: two manuals and pedal, built by Gütschenritter. As years went by, my father’s repertoire increased, as did his ambitions and the number of friends who came to hear him. Thus, Marchal had a three-manual concert organ built in his studio. This expansion was achieved gradually, each step coinciding with his return home after international tours.

In 1934, the pedal action was replaced by an electric one, allowing with the addition of 24 pipes the extension of the soubasse to 32′ acoustical, 16′, 8′, 4′, and 2′. After the end of World War II, Victor Gonzalez took over and some modifications that were reflective of the aesthetics of Marchal and Gonzalez took place. In 1954, the Marchals enlarged the studio and the organ, original chests and tracker action were preserved and a third manual, an unenclosed Positif, was added, the manual placed underneath the Great and connected to its chest by electric action. On that occasion, the organ was named “Phillipe-Emmanuel”.

Marchal had heard of a Swiss inventor, Pierre Riondel, who was building a compact adjustable combination system, and he wanted to include this device in his organ. A new console with all electric stop action was designed by Georges Danion, who installed the Riondel system and its peripherals in an adjacent bathroom. It is upon this instrument that Marchal not only taught but also recorded for discs and radio broadcasts. It was the model for the Lincoln Center/Tully Hall instrument, inaugurated by my father in 1975.

Marchal first studied Bach at the conservatoire. Ten years later, while building his repertoire, he approached Bach in an entirely different way: with a deep knowledge of each piece, he tried to adopt a style of playing which would permit all the voices to breathe through phrasing, terrace dynamics, differentiated legato, and colorful registration. At that time, there were few instruments adapted to Bach’s music, but as he said, one could still look for lighter and clearer sounds in order to make the counterpoint come out. Thus, he broke away from the constant legato of the late 19th century, but guarded against excessive staccato.

Marchal had discovered French Classic organ music in the Guilmant/Pirro editions, which most organists were ignoring. Working on his own, he recreated the basic style of that music and propagandized strongly for it in his concerts and in his teaching. He was the first, in 1929, to play the two complete Masses of François Couperin. His colleagues would say: “Marchal? He plays the harpsichord.” And it was almost true, because the nearest interpretations to what he was aiming at were those of Wanda Landowska, no doubt the greatest harpsichordist at that time. It was with her that he realized he was perhaps right in his views, and much later, references to Wanda Landowska were often made by critics. In his interpretations, he would use accents in duration (agogic), keeping the main tempo strictly, but with some freedom within the measure.

If in a recital program there were several pieces calling for a Plein Jeu registration, he would take care, if the instrument allowed, to have a slightly different Plein Jeu for each piece. He had the extraordinary ability to adapt his touch and timing, attack and release, to the exigencies of a particular organ and the acoustics of a hall or church. When his first recordings at Saint-Eustache appeared in 1948, critics were surprised at their absolute clarity, in spite of the huge dimensions of the building: there was no smudging and never was an organ of this size played, in recording, so discreetly, the climaxes being achieved departmentally and the full organ rarely used. The same qualities appear in the Bach works recorded in 1963 on the Grossmünster organ built by Metzler in Zürich.

It is reported that after the Organ Concours of 1913 (when my father won the premier prix) Fauré was judging a fugue examination together with Gigout, who became enthusiastic about a well-written fugue. Fauré told him: “It is very good, but you have a pupil who still improvises better than that.” And it was my father.

Marchal’s extemporized creations ranged over many forms: variations, sonata, chaconne, canon, pastorale, scherzo, toccata, using Gregorian melodies or themes suggested by others. [Among the many who wrote themes for Marchal were Sibelius, Prokofiev, Vaughan Williams, and Britten.] He often improvised symphonies in four movements on four different themes given by four people.

In spite of all the praise and admiration, his humility touched all those who approached him. Life with him was easy and natural; it is only when looking back on his career that I am conscious of how extraordinarily courageous and gifted he was.

Allan Evans © 1998.