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Alphonse MAILLY, royal organist and professor at the Brussels Conservatory, inaugurated the organ in Saint Nicolas, reconstructed by Pierre SCHYVEN, on 3rd August 1881. The programme of this concert has never been found. However, the publication on MAILLY by Jean-Pierre FELIX brings together various contemporary programmes and provides a fairly good idea of his inaugural repertoire: the works 1, 2, 4-7, 9 and 10 of the recorded programme form part of these.

Leon KERREMANS gave a recital on 25th September 1981 in this church to commemorate the centenary of the organ’s reconstruction. The works 4-7, 12 and 13 were part of this recital and he played them again in 2016, following the restoration of the instrument.

  Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)  
1. Toccata et Fugue en ré mineur, BWV 565 7’58
  Giovanni Battista MARTINI (1706-1784)  
2. Gavotte 2’30
  Antoine CALVIÈRE (1695-1755)  
3. Pièce d’orgue en mi mineur 2’02
  Félix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)  
  6e Sonate  
4. Choral : Variations 1 et 2 3’09
5. Variations 3 et 4 3’50
6. Fugue 2’15
7. Andante 1’52
  Antoine Édouard BATISTE (1820-1876)  
8. Grand Offertoire de Sainte Cécile n° 2 en Ré Majeur op. 8 9’11
  Alphonse MAILLY (1833-1918)  
9. Pâques fleuries 3’12
10. Marche solennelle 4’45
  Eugène de BRICQUEVILLE (1854-1933)  
11. Étude en forme de danse ancienne pour pédalier d’orgue 3’01
  Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)  
12. Andante cantabile, de la 4e Symphonie op. 13 n° 4 4’00
13. Allegro, de la 6e Symphonie op. 42 n° 2  8’10
14. El Doudou 3’23


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565

The most popular work by BACH, and even of the entire repertoire for organ. One should forget having heard it too often in order to rediscover the audacity and dramatic intensity of the Toccata, which must have terrified the listeners of the time.

The Fugue, with its fluid melodic line, recalls the writing for string instruments. One can note the obvious influence of Dietrich BUXTEHUDE, to whom BACH paid a visit on foot from Arnstadt to Lübeck in order to complete his training.

The interpretation by Léon KERREMANS seeks to reconcile the baroque style of the work and the romantic-symphonic resources of the instrument in Saint Nicolas.

Giovanni Battista MARTINI (1706-1784)

Giovanni Battista MARTINI, also known as Padre MARTINI, was a composer and music theorist. A very cultivated Italian, he was also a singer, harpsichordist, violinist, theologian, priest, mathematician and philosopher.

He was a friend of Pope Clement XIV, Frederic-William II of Prussia, but also the young MOZART who held him in lifelong esteem. His different relationships allowed him to collect a large number of documents, to a point where his library consisted of around seventeen thousand works.

He composed religious music as well as sonatas for harpsichord and organ, of which some in a contrapuntal style close to that of BACH.

The Gavotte comes from the 12th Sonata for organ, published in 1742. It is presented on this CD in the version played in about 1880 by Alexandre GUILMANT in concert at the Trocadéro, Paris. It demonstrates the Nazart and Quinte stops which were reconstructed during the restoration.

Page 10: Pipework of the Grand-orgue
Opposite page: The console and pedalboard (Photos: J.-B. Gaupillat)

Antoine CALVIÈRE (1695-1755)
Pièce d’orgue in E Minor

Antoine CALVIÈRE, renowned and talented follower of François COUPERIN, was one of the organists at Notre-Dame in Paris. Of his works only one single piece for organ, unsigned and of very doubtful authenticity, remains. In fact, the musicologist François-Joseph FÉTIS from Mons published this piece in his collection “La Science de l’Organiste”. He most likely wrote it himself, adding it to his large number of pastiches, characterised by their innocent historical shift.

It is a charming piece in the form of a Romance en duo with a misty-eyed touch à la Jean-Jacques ROUSSEAU. It shows off to advantage the two Cornets and the Cromorne.

Félix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
6th Sonata, Choral variations, Fugue and Andante

MENDELSSOHN started interesting himself in the organ during the summer of 1831 in order to study the works of J. S. BACH. The three Preludes and Fugues and six Sonatas have their origin in his love for the work of Bach.

However, Félix MENDELSSOHN did not write these works as exercises in the old style: instead, he set out to illustrate the old forms of writing in a new light.

The 6th Sonata dates from 1843. It is based on the Lutheran chorale “Unser Vater im Himmelreich”. Following the announcement of the choral theme, three contrapuntal variations precede a fourth in the form of a Toccata. A fugue in the bass also uses the choral theme. The Sonata ends in the contemplative gentleness of an Andante.

Antoine Édouard BATISTE (1820-1876)
Grand Offertoire de Sainte Cécile n° 2 in D Major op. 8

Antoine Édouard BATISTE was a fellow student of César FRANCK, Louis Alfred James LEFÉBURE-WELY, Camille SAINT-SAËNS, Théodore DUBOIS and of Charles Valentin ALKAN in François BENOIST’s class at the Conservatoire de Paris.

After his tenure as organist of Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs, he was appointed titular organist of the DUCROCQUET organ in Saint-Eustache. He was also professor of music theory at the Conservatoire.

He left many works for organ. His skill as composer really manifests itself in his Offertoires. Here is what the Abbot PLY, author of a book on the Saint-Eustache organs, writes: “BAPTISTE, in developing his idea, voices it first with discretion; then gradually develops, embellishes, adorns it with all the possible richness it can take, then finally, as if forced by and yet incapable of containing it, he allows it to burst forth in all its splendour”.

BAPTISTE’s music, very similar to that of LEFÉBURE-WELY, is characteristic of the Second Empire style. Throughout this Offertoire, the Clarinette, Cromorne, Hautbois, Voix humaine and Flûte harmonique are highlighted, as well as the Grand Chœur and reeds.

Alphonse MAILLY (1833-1918)
Pâques fleuries

Alphonse MAILLY was very active in Brussels in his time. He was first appointed organist at Notre-Dame du Finistère in 1856, then in 1869 at the Church of Carmes. That same year he became organ teacher at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Brussels where he taught some outstanding students. He inaugurated numerous organs by MERKLIN, SCHYVEN and VAN BEVER in Belgium. He finally became organist by appointment to King Léopold II.

Pâques fleuries is a somewhat nostalgic, curious work in which a choir of Voix humaine stops with Trémolo accompanies a Viole de gambe solo in the left hand. Alphonse MAILLY often played this work in his church, so that in the end it became known as the National hymn of the Carmes.

Marche solennelle

Deliciously outdated, Alphonse MAILLY’s Marche solennelle was probably destined to accompany one or another official or religious procession in the Royal Church Notre-Dame in Laeken.

The very lyrical central part, played on the foundation stops fused with the Basson-hautbois, contrasts with the outer sections of martial, even military nature, played on the Grand Chœur.

Eugène de BRICQUEVILLE (1854-1933)
Étude in the form of an old dance for pedal organ

The Count of BRIQUEVILLE was born in Avignon to an old Normandy family that descends on the female side from Louis VI le Gros, King of France at the beginning of the 12th century. His important personal collection of old music instruments was listed in a printed catalogue.

He studied the organ in Paris with Eugène GIGOUT. From 1897, he played in the Royal Chapel of Versailles for about twenty years. In Paris, he inaugurated the ABBEY organ at the 1900 World Fair during a session presided over by SAINT-SAËNS, and that of Saint-Denis-de-la-Chapelle in 1901.

Besides a Grand Chœur, his other work composed for organ is this Étude, published in 1898 and dedicated to René VIERNE. It is one of the rare works of the time for pedal solo.

Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Andante cantabile from the 4th Symphony

Born in Lyon, son and grandson of organ builders, WIDOR moved to Brussels to study the organ with LEMMENS and composition with FÉTIS.

He participated in the inauguration of the organ in Notre-Dame, Paris in 1868. He was “interim organist” of Saint-Sulpice, Paris, from 1870 to 1933. At César FRANCK’s death in 1890, he took over the direction of the organ class at the Conservatoire de Paris and modified the educational objectives there by concentrating on performance technique which had been neglected by his predecessor in favour of improvisation. He thereby established the basis of a school that was soon to become one of the best in the world.

Drawing on classical forms while incorporating some counterpoint at times, WIDOR professed to having been guided by the sound of his CAVAILLÉ-COLL organ in Saint-Sulpice in the composition of his ten symphonies.

Characteristic of the Second Empire style, the Andante cantabile, from the 4th Symphony, is in reality Andante variations, made up of three refrains played on the Voix celeste and by two small verses where the Récit Trompette harmonique makes an appearance.

The last refrain highlights the Grand-orgue Flûte harmonique en solo.

Allegro from 6th Symphony

The 6th Symphony was created on August 24, 1878 during the inaugural concerts of the Trocadero in Paris.

The Allegro impresses by the solidity of its construction. The initial motif is often employed during the work and superimposes itself on a second, more voluble motif.

El Doudou

The popular tune Doudou, of military origin, is the official hymn of the Ducasse of Mons. It recounts the struggle of Saint George against the dragon that terrorised the region during the Middle Ages.

As Encore at the inaugural recital of the organ in Saint Nicolas, Léon KERREMANS made a tongue-in-cheek paraphrase of it during which the theme appears in minor key, and even in oriental mode.








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