James Nares (1715-1783)
James Nares was an English organist and composer. He mostly composed sacred vocal music, but he also composed some music for the organ and harpsichord. James Nares was the assistant organist at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, worked for a time at York Minster, and then returned to the Chapel Royal in 1756 to be the organist and composer to King George III. Apparently James Nares was the first person to publish a series of keyboard lessons for piano students. Nares resigned as organist of the Chapel Royal in 1781 because of declining health. He died in 1783 at the age of 67.
Gerard Brooks (organist)
Gerard Brooks is an English organist, composer, teacher, and arranger. He teaches at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England. Gerard specializes in playing the organ music of the French Romantic period on Cavaillé-Coll organs. He has recorded the complete organ works of Saint-Saens and Eugène Gigout. In 2016 Gerard Brooks recorded an album entitled “A Giant Reborn” which was recorded on the newly restored 1735 Robert Bridge organ at Christ Church, Spitalfields. Here is a recording of James Nares Introduction and Fugue in a minor and Major played on that organ.
Olivier Latry (1962-)
Olivier Latry is a famous French organist. He is the main organist at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. He also teaches organ at the Paris Conservatory of Music. Latry has played in over 40 countries across five continents. He has made many recordings on the big organ at Notre Dame Cathedral.
In January 2019, Olivier Latry recorded an album of J.S. Bach organ works on the Notre Dame Cathedral organ called “Bach to the Future.” It was the last recording done on the big organ before a fire devastated the Cathedral on April 15, 2019. The spire of the cathedral collapsed, several stained glass windows were destroyed, and the Cathedral had smoke and water damage. The big organ (about 8000 pipes, five keyboards, pedals, and 109 stops) managed to escape severe damage. There was some smoke and water that got into the organ. At the time of the fire the Cathedral was undergoing renovations.
The first organ of Notre Dame was built in 1357. A few years after the first organ was built a new one was put in. Since that time the organ has grown in size. The organ was greatly transformed by the famous organ builder Cavaille-Coll in 1868. Since that time the sound of the organ has greatly changed and the instrument has been modernized.
Here is an incredible video shot in Notre Dame Cathedral of Olivier Latry playing one of the pieces on his new album “Bach to the Future” called The Toccata and Fugue in d minor. This piece has been attributed to J.S. Bach but recent scholarship seems to refute that claim. It is one of the most well known organ pieces on the planet, perhaps the most well known piece. Enjoy the wonderful sound of this massive organ played by one of the greatest organists on the planet.
The Wanamaker Pipe Organ is located in Macy’s Department Store in Philadelphia. It is one of the largest instruments in the world with 6 manuals (keyboards) and 28,750 pipes. Here is a short video about the history of this massive instrument. Enjoy!
Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
Louis Vierne was a French organist and teacher. He was born nearly blind due to congenital cataracts. Vierne’s music was idiomatic for his instrument and the harmonies in his music were rich. He was an inspiration to the many Parisian organist-composers that came after him. Vierne was also a great improviser on the organ. He gave many recitals during his life and toured widely. In 1937 while giving his 1750th recital at Notre Dame in Paris Vierne died at the organ console.
Here are two rare recordings froom 1929 of Louis Vierne playing the organ at Notre Dame in Paris. 1929 was the first year that sound was recorded electronically. The first recording is a soft improvisation that Vierne made up on the spot. The second recording is a Bach Prelude and Fugue. The second recording is a piece by Vierne.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like carrying all that heavy recording equipment up the narrow stairway to Notre Dame’s balcony to record the organ.
An organ with more than 7000 pipes! Enjoy.
Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899)
Aristide Cavaillé-Coll was a 19th Century French organ builder. He completed his first organ in 1840. The period from the French Revolution beginning in 1789 and during the time of Cavaillé-Coll’s first organ was devoid of french organ music. Many pipe organs in France were auctioned off or destroyed, and many organists lost their jobs during the revolution. Some kept their jobs because they played popular music glorifying the revolution. When Cavaillé-Coll built his first organ there was basically one French organ composer named Boëlly who was writing for the organ. Cavaillé-Coll revolutionized organ building in France and he encouraged organists to compose for his romantic organs. He worked together with composers to promote their music and they wrote music that fit well together with the sounds of his organs. It was because of Cavaillé-Coll that French organ music became an important part of 19th century France. The organ in the Basilica of St. Denis was the first organ that Cavaillé-Coll built.
Pierre Pincemaille (1956-2018)
Pierre Pincemaille was a French organist who was well known for his improvisations during live performances and on cd recordings. He recorded Charles-Marie Widor’s organ symphonies on several Cavaillé-Coll organs, as well as works by Franck, Duruflé, Cochereau, and Vierne. Pierre graduated from the Paris Conservatory with first prizes in harmony, counterpoint, fugue, organ, and improvisation. He became the organist of St. Denis in 1987 and played there until his death on January 12, 2018. In the video clips you are about to see, Pierre Pincemaille improvises on the organ of St. Denis. He is making up the music on the spot. Enjoy!
Michel Chapuis (1930-2017)
Michel Chapuis was a French organist. He was well known for his interpretations of French Baroque and German Baroque organ music. He devoted his career to historically informed performance. He was also one of the masters of improvisation on the pipe organ. Chapuis served as the organist of many churches including St. Severin, Notre Dame, and St. Nicolas de Champs. Michel Chapuis was the titular organist of the Royal Chapel of Versailles from 1995-2010.
Here is an improvisation by Michel Chapuis on the chorale “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How brightly shines the morning star) from a live performance in 2001. I hope that you enjoy it.
Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Dieterich Buxtehude was a Danish-German baroque composer and organist. His organ music is a major part of the organ repertoire and is frequently performed at organ recitals and church services. His keyboard music represents the height of the 17th century North German School of organ composition. Buxtehude wrote over 100 beautiful and very expressive vocal compositions. Today Buxtehude is often thought of as a predecessor to J.S. Bach. In 1705, 20-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach walked over 200 miles to hear Buxtehude perform his music.
Bernarda Fink (1955 -) mezzo-soprano
Bernarda Fink is an Argentine mezzo-soprano. She has sung with many of the world’s top orchestras and ensembles including the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, and the English Baroque Soloists. She has worked with many of the top conductors in the world including Sir Neville Mariner, Sir John Elliot Gardiner, Riccardo Muti, Sir Colin Davis, and Valery Gergiev.
Bernard Foccroulle (1953-) organist, composer
Bernard Foccroulle is one of the top organists in the world. He is also a composer, conductor, and opera director. Bernard Foccroulle plays a wide repertoire of organ music from the Renaissance to contemporary music. As well as playing many world premieres of music by living composers, Bernard Foccroulle has performed and made many recordings of organ masterworks by composers such as Scheidemann, Weckmann, Buxtehude, and J.S. Bach.
Here is a recording of an aria by Buxtehude called the Klag-Lied: “Muss der Tod denn auch entbinden” (Must death then also break those chains). The aria was one part of a two part work written in homage to Buxtehude’s father who passed away in 1674. It is performed by Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano, and Bernard Foccroulle on the organ.
Jonathan Scott was born in Manchester, England. He has a varied performing career as an organist doing solo recitals and performing with orchestras such as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic. Jonathan also performs with his brother Tom Scott in a piano duo called the Scott Brothers Duo. With his brother Tom Scott, Jonathan Scott has released many recordings to critical acclaim on their own label entitled the Scott Brothers Duo label.
Here is a recording of an arrangement for organ solo by Jonathan Scott of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila overture recorded at the organ of Lancaster Priory, and another recording of an arrangement by Jonathan Scott for organ solo of Mozart’s overture to the Marriage of Figaro recorded on the Marcussen Concert Organ of Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, UK. I hope that you enjoy these performances.