An Introduction to the Organ Music of Louis Vierne

Article excerpt

BOOK REVIEW * An Introduction to the Organ Music of Louis Vierne, selected, annotated, and edited on three staves by Rollin Smith, Wayne Leupold Editions (WL600210), 2006, 90 p.

THIS VIERNE VOLUME IS THE FIFTH IN A SERIES ENTITLED "Annotated Performer's Editions," published by Wayne Leupold Editions. Conceived as an introduction to Vierne's organ music, the chosen works are printed in order of technical difficulty. Among well-known works, one discovers lesser-known ones, such as Vierne's Fugal Verse on In exitu Israël, his first published composition.

In his introduction, Rollin Smith, the author of the best actual reference book in English on Louis Vierne and his works (Louis Vierne, Organist of Notre-Dame Cathedral, published by Pendragon Press, Hillsdale, New York, 1999), explains that Vierne published many of his easier organ works in volumes that were destined as well for the harmonium, thereby presenting them on two staves with the indications for an intermittent obbligato pedal part. In order to render these scores more readable, they are here presented as three-stave organ music, allowing the inner voices to be distributed between the hands, in accordance with the composer's advice. In addition, suggested fingering and pedal indications help the performer achieve an elegant performance.

In a three-page description of the tonal and mechanical aspects of the Cavaillé-Coll organ, special importance is given to the hitch-down pedals that allow organists to make rapid crescendos and decrescendos. A schema of the Notre-Dame organ console is given, along with its stop list and a depiction of the console. This is followed by a section concerning the performance of Vierne's organ music, dealing -with matters of touch (legato playing is most suitable), phrasing (his lyrical and legato style), repeated notes and common notes (as with Widor and Guilmant), ritards (ending pieces with long ritards), rubato, fingering, expression, registration (especially dealing with the various ways to adapt these pieces to American organs, emphasizing the importance of carefully preparing subtle and refined crescendos and decrescendos) and tempo (one that allows extreme clarity). …