Magazine article The Tracker

Livre Du Saint-Sacrament

Magazine article The Tracker

Livre Du Saint-Sacrament

Article excerpt

Olivier Messiaen, Livre du Saint-Sacrament, Paul Jacobs, organist, at the organ of Saint Mary the Virgin Church, New York City, 2 CDs. Available from www.ohscatalog.org, $17.99. On April 6, 1868, in New York City, the cornerstone was laid for a church that the rector and trustees named for Saint Mary the Virgin, the Blessed Mother of Jesus, openly challenging one of the uglier anti-Catholic prejudices of the day, and making no mistake that this was to be an Episcopal Church in the full Catholic tradition. The present edifice on west 46th Street was begun in 1894. The first organ was built by George Jardme for the first building and enlarged when moved into the new building in 1895. The present organ was built as Opus 891 in 1932 by Aeolian-Skinner according to the designs of G. Donald Harrison. Only 59 of the 86 ranks planned were completed at that time and the proposed casework has not been accomplished to this day. As a result, this is one of the ugliest looking organs in the city.

In 1942, the organ was increased to 81 ranks and various revisions were made by Aeolian-Skinner. Then organist Ernest White had a significant influence on this work and further alterations made in the following years. The current state of the instrument of 91 ranks was achieved under the direction of Lawrence Trupiano by Mann and Trupiano and the assistance of many others in the years of 1988 to 2002. ' In spite of being the product of many hands, it is one of the most successful instruments in the city. Not lovely to look at, nevertheless its commanding position high in the rear of the reverberant space allows it to speak out with a rich, powerful voice.

It is the liturgical history of "Smoky Mary's" and the character of its great organ that makes it such a compelling location for Paul Jacobs's performance of Messiaen's Livre du Saint-Sacrement. Messiaen was deeply religious, with strong Roman Catholic convictions. This, coupled with his interest in mysticism and in nature as exemplified by his love of birdsong, gives his organ music a unique and unforgettable character. …

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