French Lecturers Provide Insight into Life and Music of Louis Vierne
Notre Dame de Paris is famous not only for its unique architecture and important role in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. It also gave home and happiness to infamous French organist and composer Louis Vierne, who was born in 1870 and died in 1937 — quite an interesting time to live in.
The Louis Vierne Organ Festival that occurred this week in the Conservatory, although it passed quite unnoticed. It included three guest lectures led by professor Brigitte de Lersnyder, a master class with professor Michel Bouvard and professor Jean Galard, and an organ recital by Bouvard.
Lersnyder, the world’s leading authority on the music and life of Louis Vierne, was a dignified woman with a pearl necklace, sophisticated thin glasses and a thick French accent.
The topic of her readings was the life, love and intriguing works of Louis Vierne about whom Lersnyder is writing a major book. She showed yellowish black and white slides of organs, Vierne’s manuscripts, some portraits of him and shots of fancy houses in Paris in which he lived. She also played short musical excerpts.
Lersnyder endlessly cited French organ performers, composers and any major or minor events in the history of the Paris Conservatory year-by-year, month-by-month and day-by-day around the time of Vierne. She even gave the names of the witnesses of his first wedding, all with their original French pronunciation.
The lecture lacked emotional involvement; I don’t believe in the benefit of a lack of emotionality in a lecturer or a teacher. While the depth of her study clearly showed her professionalism and how profoundly she cared about Louis Vierne, her presentation was not convincing enough.
“I think it was a good lecture. I had an interest in the subject before hearing it and I’m glad that I learned so many new things about the music of Vierne” said sophomore Michael Lianos.
We both agreed that Lersnyder’s slides of organs were magnificent.
Later that day, an organ master class was held in Finney Chapel. Like the lecture, most of the listeners were organ students and faculty. Students who participated included first-year Glen Hunter, sophomore Eunhae Kim, junior Johnatan Bezdegian and seniors Songsun Lee and Jonathan Wessler. As they played, perched on the organ balcony, organ professor James David Christie, Bouvard and Galard occupied the space around the bench and exchanged fast and profound remarks concerning the students’ playing.
The French professors spoke in French, and I must highly praise Christie’s ability to deliver fast and accurate translation that flowed delightfully and naturally. The audience was grateful for this incredible skill, which allowed everyone to follow the masterclass with ease.
The organ professors indulged greatly in the details of the students’ performances — they were more than eager to show students every small thing that could be changed to benefit the articulation and line of the tune. Both professors talked about the stylistics and characteristics of Vierne’s music in connection to the cathedrals’ architecture. They advised all musicians in the house to think more like conductors and to try to detach from the instrument — quite good general remarks.
“I thought the professors are very good and they gave good suggestions,” said Bezdegian. “I started to perceive the music in a different way after their knowledgeable and expressive explanations.”
The organ festival brought high-quality advice to the organ students. Lersnyder, Bouvard and Galard inspired students, showing them a whole different perspective on Louis Vierne’s music.
“They were exceptionally familiar with the style of the composer and
their vast familiarity on the subject intrigued me,” said freshman Nicole