Performance artists are most often remembered after their deaths through the compositions that they leave behind. Organ students learn to play works written by J. S. Bach or Franz Liszt, César Franck or Marcel Dupré, Olivier Messiaen or Jean Langlais; and thus their names and their works live on from one generation to another. For the rest, great performers are remembered during the lives of audiences who heard their memorable performances—great teachers, through the lives of their students.
David Craighead, legendary organ performer and now retired professor at the Eastman School of Music, has often lamented about the fleeting nature of fame. Some, like Arthur Poister, are remembered principally through competitions named for them, as in the Poister competition sponsored annually by Syracuse University where he taught; but even now, a few short generations after his death, there is included in the competition application a biographical sketch telling of his life and work.
For very many, there is no immortality of memory. In the words of the hymn: “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears its sons away. They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.” It is a sad dictum that those who do not compose most often decompose without leaving a mark on succeeding generations.
There are exceptions, of course. One thinks, for example, of opera singer Enrico Caruso or conductor Arturo Toscanini, great artists whose names continue to resound with their successor performers and audiences beyond specialists in music history. In those cases, they were people who transcended the limitations of the performance practices of their day, and thus left the arts they served transformed forever. For organists, the name André Marchal, the thirtieth anniversary of whose death is commemorated in 2010, must be added.
There are reasons for which André Marchal will be remembered as a transformational figure in the history of organ building and organ performance. He had an important impact on the organ reform movement in France, and subsequently in America—an influence that is only now beginning to be understood.
In particular, he influenced the Neo-classical style of organ building and aesthetics, through his association with the French organs of Victor Gonzalez. These instruments, in turn, influenced the aesthetics and registration practices of later twentieth-century French organ composers such as Langlais, Duruflé, Alain, and Messiaen. At the same time, Marchal was a forerunner in the formation of the performance practice now common today, especially in the interpretation of earlier organ works.
André Marchal entered the world at the end of the French Romantic era and lived until 1980. He was born without sight to middle-class parents in Paris, February 6, 1894. Both his father and grandfather noticed his musical talent at a very early age and encouraged his study of the piano.1 At the age of nine he enrolled at the Institute for the Young Blind (Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles–INJA) in Paris, where he studied organ with Adolphe Marty, and harmony with Albert Mahaut, both students of César Franck.
At the age of seventeen he entered Gigout’s organ class at the Paris Conservatory, obtaining first prize in organ and improvisation two years later. In 1915 he succeeded Augustin Barié as organist at Saint-Germain-des-Près. In 1917 he received the Prix d’excellence in counterpoint and fugue at the Conservatory, in the class of George Caussade. Four years later he was hired as an organ teacher at INJA, where he continued to teach from 1919 until 1959. He succeeded Joseph Bonnet as organist at the Church of Saint-Eustache in 1945, where he remained until 1963.
His long and distinguished career as an organ virtuoso began in 1923, when he gave the premiere performance of Vierne’s Fourth Symphony, with the composer present, at the Paris Conservatory. Two years later, he followed with his second public performance at the Salle Gaveau in Paris. In 1927 he toured in Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany. Again, in 1928, he gave the premiere of a work by Vierne, this time the third suite of his Pièces de fantaisie.
In 1930, he made his first tour of the United States, having no assistance from a guide and without any knowledge of English. (It was through Arthur Quimby—a student of Nadia Boulanger, and Curator of Musical Arts at the Cleveland Art Museum, who had heard Marchal perform in Paris—that the first tour was arranged.) At the Cleveland Art Museum, he played ten recitals of the music of
J. S. Bach. Seth Bingham, who taught at Columbia University, welcomed him in New York City, where he performed an improvised symphony in four movements at the Wanamaker Auditorium in New York City.2 This was followed with recitals in Chicago and in Canada. In 1938 he gave 30 concerts in the United States and Canada.
After World War II he performed in London at the Royal Festival Hall in the presence of Queen Elizabeth. On that occasion he met the English journalist Felix Aprahamian, who became a close friend and accompanied him on the tour to Australia in 1953.
His concert career spanned half a century; between 1930 and 1975 he made 19 trips to the United States to perform and teach.3 His importance as a teacher drew students from many parts of the world to study with him in his home or at INJA. It should be noted that his first American student, Lee Erwin, who made a career as a theatre organist, came to study with him just prior to his tour in 1930 and was responsible for the first recording on his house organ. His recordings, which also spanned over four decades, likewise have had a continuing impact on organists throughout the world.
André Marchal and the Organ
The Organ Reform movement (or Neo-classical movement as it is called in France) began in the 1920s in Germany and France, spreading to the United States in the 1930s. Albert Schweitzer was a pivotal originator. In France, it was realized primarily through the work of three men in tandem: the performer and teacher, André Marchal; the noted historian and musicologist, Norbert Dufourcq (1904–1990); and the organbuilder, Victor Gonzalez (1877–1956).
Victor Gonzalez, who was originally from the Castile region of Spain, began his career with the firm of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, where he became their chief voicer. He then worked for the firms of Gutschenritter and Merklin. In 1929, after declining to assume leadership of the Cavaillé-Coll firm, he established his own firm with the help, encouragement, and financing assistance of Béranger de Miramon Fitz-James, founder of Association des Amis de l’Orgue, together with a group of de Miramon’s friends. Gonzalez’s first organ was built in 1926 for the home of Béranger de Miramon, followed the same year by an organ for the parish church in Ligugé. By 1937 there were 50 employees at the firm who worked to rebuild the Cavaillé-Coll organ at the Palais de Chaillot, and in the following year to renovate the organs at the Versailles chapel and the Cathedral of Rheims.
From 1929 until 1936, Rudolf von Beckerath worked for Gonzalez on restoration projects for organs in Saint-Eustache, Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs, Solesmes, Bailleul, the Goüin residence, and the world’s fair in Brussels in 1935, prior to founding his own firm. Though the Gonzalez name is no longer in use, he was succeeded in the business by his son, Fernand Gonzalez, and then by his son-in-law, George Danion. Fernand Gonzalez, who was killed in World War II, was responsible for the design of the Palais de Chaillot. After his death, Bernard Dargassies was charged with the maintenance of most of the Gonzalez organs.4
In 1931 Victor Gonzalez built an organ for the Condé estate of Joseph Bonnet.5 Gonzalez built this instrument very much in the Cavaillé-Coll style of that time, with two enclosed divisions, the usual plan for his house organs. He departed, however, from Cavaillé-Coll by adding a three-rank mixture on the Swell and a series of mutations. The romantic Merklin organ at Saint-Eustache, which was rebuilt by Gonzalez, and the Gonzalez organ from 1934 in the home of Henry Goüin are landmark examples of the wedding of early music to the recreated sounds of early instruments.6 These instruments included many mutation stops and mixtures, which allowed authentic performances of early music. Under the influence of Marchal and Dufourcq, Gonzalez became the leading builder in France for half a century.
Collaboration with Norbert
Norbert Dufourcq’s collaboration with Marchal began in 1920, when he became Marchal’s organ student after studying for three years with Gustave Noël at the Cathedral in Orleans. Two years after beginning his organ study with Marchal, Dufourcq became principal organist of Saint-Merry in Paris, a post that he retained until his death in 1990. Dufourcq earned a degree in history from the Sorbonne (1923). In 1927 he was one of the founding members and secretary of Association des Amis de l’Orgue. Between 1932 and 1983 he was a member of the organ division of Commission of Historical Monuments. From 1941–1975 he served as professor of music history at the Paris Conservatory. (He also taught at the Collège Stanislas, Paris, from 1935 to 1946.)
During the years 1941 to 1975 Marchal performed many concerts in which Dufourcq provided the commentary. A gifted musicologist and persuasive public speaker, Dufourcq was able to give a poetic overview of the pieces performed, so that the uninitiated listener could follow. His mellifluous voice and the frequent use of the imperfect subjunctive case were noteworthy. Included in the commentaries was a series of eight concerts, entitled The Great Forms of Organ Music, with genres including prelude and fugue, toccata, chaconne, canzona, passacaglia, the chorale, partita, and fantasia. These recitals continued and included symphonic music and program music.
By 1933, Marchal and Dufourcq had become the leaders of the French national committee for the oversight of historic organs throughout France: the Commission des Monuments Historiques under the minister des Beaux Arts. Many of the nineteenth-century Cavaillé-Coll instruments, and earlier instruments by Clicquot, which were under the control of this commission, had fallen into disrepair and required renovations. This circumstance gave the commission the opportunity to rebuild those organs using the ideals of the Neo-classic design that Marchal, Dufourcq, and Gonzalez favored. Their work could be seen in the restorations at La Flèche, Saint-Gervais, Saint-Merry (where Dufourcq was organist), Les Invalides, the cathedrals of Auch, Soissons, and Rheims, the Palais de Chaillot, and the new concert organ in the French National Radio Studio 103, among many others. Many of the foundation stops were replaced with higher-pitched ranks and the reeds re-voiced. Marchal recorded on many of these instruments in the 1960s.
Influence on the Holtkamp Organ Company
This three-part collaboration among André Marchal, Norbert Dufourcq, and Victor Gonzalez, which affected the Neo-classical organ movement in France, subsequently came to the United States through the work of both Walter Holtkamp, Sr. and his son Walter Holtkamp, Jr., who wrote:
André Marchal came to the microcosm that is the Holtkamp Organ Company soon after World War II. While he had been in this country prior to the war, it was not until after that he brought his many talents to us with such marvelous results…. Both my father and I traveled to many cities of our country to sit with André Marchal at the console to evaluate our instruments. He would play and discourse upon the merits and demerits of that particular organ. From every encounter we came away with a new perspective of our work and our ideas.7
A transcript of one of these conversations with Marchal and the two Walter Holtkamps, Senior and Junior, which was recorded following a Marchal recital on the Holtkamp organ at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland, on May 10, 1957, gives an example of how the Holtkamps relied on Marchal’s advice regarding voicing:
WH (Walter Holtkamp, Sr.): André, we heard last night no 16′ Principal or 8′ Pedal Octave. My son and I would like to go to St. Paul’s and have a lesson on the use of the 16′ and what is lacking in this one.
AM (André Marchal): Your 16′ Principal is too large. There is too much gap in dynamic between the 16′ Subbass and the 16′ Principal. It is too big to be used without the reeds, and when the reeds are on the Subbass does just as well as the 16′ Principal.
WH: Perhaps this is a result of the 16′ Principal being placed against a stone wall rather than in the buffet as in the French organs.
AM: No, I noticed this same character at Baltimore, where the 16′ stands in the open. This is true on all your organs. The 8′ Pedal Octave is also too loud at St. Paul’s, Oberlin, Berkeley, Baltimore.
C (Walter Holtkamp, Jr.): I would like to know Mr. Marchal’s idea of the relationship as to loudness and quality between the Great 8′ Principal and Pedal 8′ Octave.
AM: In theory, the Pedal 8′ should be larger in scale than the Great 8′, but in use I really like the Pedal 8′ to be a little milder than the Great 8′. It could be a little more flutey.8
It is possible that Walter Holtkamp, Sr. heard Marchal’s series of ten recitals of the music of J. S. Bach at the Cleveland Museum of Art in March of 1930. In August of 1956, Walter Holtkamp, Sr. and Walter Blodgett, Curator of Musical Arts at the Cleveland Art Museum, drove to Methuen to hear Marchal play during the Summer Organ Institute, organized by Arthur Howes, and again the following year to hear him perform and record on the Holtkamp organ at MIT. Along with Fenner Douglas, in the early 1960s Walter Holtkamp and Walter Blodgett traveled to France to study the historic instruments there, including many by Gonzalez. In later years Marchal performed and taught frequently on Holtkamp organs at Syracuse University and Oberlin College. (Despite his love of Holtkamp organs, he often spoke of the similarity between the American builder G. Donald Harrison’s reeds and the French reeds that he loved.)
The composer Giuseppe Englert, another of Marchal’s students, who in 1954 married Marchal’s daughter Jacqueline, served as translator for the Holtkamps and Marchal during Marchal’s tours to the United States and the Holtkamps’ trips to France. The Englerts’ apartment in Paris, across the street from Les Invalides, was home to a Gonzalez organ, with a similar design to one in Marchal’s home. Maurice Duruflé admired this instrument and was inspired by it for the specification for the Gonzalez instrument in his own apartment. (The organ in Marchal’s home was originally a Gutschenritter, which was enlarged by Gonzalez.)
Marchal and performance practice
In the early 1920s Marchal continued to play in the style he had been taught by Gigout, a uniformly legato touch and a non-interpretive approach to the music of Bach and the Romantic composers. Gigout followed the tradition of the Lemmens school, learned from Widor and Guilmant. During his study of the music of the early masters, in preparation for a series of recitals of early music in 1923, Marchal rethought his approach to technique and interpretation. He was the first, in 1929, to play the two complete Masses of François Couperin. In an interview with Pierre Lucet for a series of recitals on the French National Radio in 1979, Marchal explained the process by which he changed his approach to early music and the organs upon which it could be performed:
Pierre Lucet: Maître, permit me to inquire first of all about your approach to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach:
Marchal: It [his approach] was made at two times. I was admitted to the Conservatory and at that time I listened to what was told to me, I learned technique; I was greatly in need of it. And it was from that point of view that I studied Bach. Ten years later , in establishing my repertoire, I began to concertize, and relearned Bach in a completely different manner. This time I studied each piece in depth, trying to understand it in the best way possible; and having assimilated it, I tried to bring out the beauty of each piece by certain ways of playing; for example, the phrasing, the breaths, the registration. Obviously, at that time, there were few organs on which one could register well the music of Bach; we were still in the full Romantic period. But one could still look for lighter stops, clear in any case, which would permit the beauty of Bach’s counterpoint to emerge.
After having obtained my prize in organ , while continuing to play the organ I worked a great deal on piano. Paul Braud, a student of Franck, took an interest in me. I became then more oriented toward the piano, which permitted me to know more music and to play more chamber music. I worked relentlessly . . . I purchased a small mechanical organ to practice my repertoire. It was at that time  that I really tried to express Bach. My colleagues said: “Marchal? He plays the harpsichord”—and that was almost true, since my interpretations that were closest to what I hoped them to be were like the marvelous ones of Wanda Landowska on her harpsichord.9
This process of searching for the appropriate style for early music and the instruments that would bring it to life continued for him through the early 1930s, when he gave a series of recitals of early music on Neo-classical instruments built by Gonzalez. After 1930, Marchal played very differently from his teacher, Gigout, and the other blind teachers from INJA. It was as if he grasped the essence of the music from within himself. His style was powerful, lyrical, and always convincing. His personality was also very strong. There was a radiance about him and a “joie de vivre” that came through in every piece that he played.
His touch was a radical departure from the 19th-century seamless legato that was carried on by Marcel Dupré and his predecessors. He had an infinite variety of touches. By the 1940s Marchal had become one of the most popular performers in France. The public related easily to the musicality of Marchal’s playing and to his vibrant personality. It is not surprising that such a different style—full of authentic poetry and lyricism—would win the hearts of the French public as well as those from other countries. It must also be said that with him and all the other blind organists, there was also something captivating at seeing a blind person being led onto the stage and then left alone to play the instrument, no matter how large, completely independently. When one contemplates the style of playing during the 1920s through the 1950s, which was completely dominated by the legato Romantic style, what is utterly amazing is this new, radically different sound and interpretation. Begun by Marchal, it was later adopted by Marie-Claire Alain and others.
Guilmant and Pirro, in the monumental Archives des Maîtres de l’Orgue, 1897–1910 (volumes 1–10 available online), made available for the first time, at the end of the 19th century, the music of Couperin, de Grigny, Clérambault, and many others. Although Guilmant and Pirro recommended the use of the Cornet registration, their grounding in the 19th-century style of playing and registration prevented them from recommending for this early music a complementary early style and registration. Likewise, the six volumes of Joseph Bonnet’s Historical Organ Recitals series, published between 1917 and 1940, continued the same style of playing and registrations. Bonnet’s role in the movement, however, should not be ignored. He was intensely interested in early music but played it in the manner that he had been taught by Guilmant.
Although he had substituted for his teacher, Eugène Gigout, as organ teacher at the Paris Conservatory, Marchal was never connected to any school in France except at INJA and the summer school of Nadia Boulanger in Fontainebleau. Nonetheless, so many students requested Fulbright grants to study with him, that by the 1950s he agreed to be referred to as a school himself. In America, many other organists fell under his influence through the many masterclasses he gave at Oberlin College, Syracuse University, Union Theological Seminary, Northwestern University, the universities of Illinois and Indiana, the Eastman School of Music, and the Organ Institute in Methuen.
In the release on CD (Arbiter, 2003) of his first recordings, originally recorded between 1936 and 1948 at Saint-Eustache and the Goüin residence, one can easily understand Marchal’s interest in early music and in the type of instrument that would be well suited to the music of earlier periods. The lyricism, so unlike the usual style of playing during the 1940s, was notably displayed in his performance of the Bach chorale prelude O Mensch bewein dein Sünde gross. His use of free trills, so unlike the measured trills found in the playing of his contemporaries, was quite a departure from the traditional style of playing.
The subtle rubato in all the playing is striking. In the Bach Passacaglia and Fugue, the phrasing of each variation gives life to the great work. The articulation of the pedal line and the variety in the registrations gives much interest to the form of the piece. What is compelling in all of his playing is the strength of the rhythm, especially noticeable in the fugue of this work. While listening to his performances, one senses that it should not be performed otherwise, that it is right.
What we understand today of the stylus fantasticus can already be heard in Marchal’s opening performance from 1948 of Buxtehude’s Prelude and Fugue in F-sharp Minor. There is considerable contrast between the free sections and the fugal sections. His personality comes alive in his commentary for demonstrating each stop, with brief improvisations that give fine examples of this style of organbuilding. The Blow Toccata in D Minor brings out the bass in the reed registers with great clarity. Listening to these improvisations on the individual sonorities of the Gonzalez house organ in the Goüin house gives a clear picture of this aesthetic: a Neo-classical organ that, in America, we would call an eclectic organ.
Other recordings include:
Chefs d’œuvres pour orgue de J.S. Bach “10 de répertoire” en 1989. Zurich, Grossmünster 1964. MUSIDISC 203412 AD 650.
Orgues et organistes français du XXè siècle (1900–1950) by EMI Classics (2002) as well as Jeux et registrations de l’orgue, Improvisations, Toccata de Gigout, Final de la 4ème Symphonie de Vierne, Apparition de l’Eglise éternelle de Messiaen, Choral dorien de J. Alain, Saint-Merry, 1958 et 1976. EMI Classics, 1 CD, 71716 2 (1997), Saint-Merry et Saint-Eustache.
The Organ Historical Society website lists the two recordings available through Arbiter (135 and 111) with these annotations:
The works by Buxtehude, Bach, Blow, Purcell, Sweelinck and Vierne were recorded by André Marchal (1894–1980) in April 1948, on the organ at St. Eustache in Paris, then a Merklin which had been rebuilt by Victor Gonzalez in 1927–32. In 1936, the Pathé firm released a 12-disc set entitled Three Centuries of Organ Music from which Marchal’s performances of Cabezon, Santa Maria, Landino, and Palestrina are taken. These first recordings of these early works are performed on an organ designed especially for early music and completed in 1934 by Victor Gonzalez at the home of Henry Goüin in Paris. Marchal also demonstrates the organ stop-by-stop, and narrates his demonstration. Available on Arbiter-135.
Arbiter 111 is described:
This unique CD reissues the 1956 stereo recordings made by André Marchal on his 3/28 house organ built by Gonzalez. The fidelity of the recording is unusually fine, capturing Marchal’s way with 12 of the Bach Orgelbüchlein, BWV 603–612, 614–615, and Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C, BWV 564. There are no revelations here for most of us, and the organ is located in an anechoic environment. The CD is a must for Marchal fans, who will revel in his spoken description and demonstration of the organ.
Although more difficult to locate, it is possible to find in libraries the Lumen recordings of Franck and early French music (Grand Prix du disque 1952); the Bach large fantasies and fugues by Ducretet Thomson; the Clérambault recordings at Auch Cathedral, by LDE 3231; many of these recordings contain the commentaries by Norbert Dufourcq. The Unicorn recordings from MIT (UNLP 1046–1048) of Bach and early French music on the large Holtkamp organ there from the 1950s are excellent.
Marchal’s Complete Organ Works of César Franck, originally released by Erato, has been reissued by Solstice ([email protected]). This recording was awarded the coveted Diapason d’Or. There are many unpublished recordings (some from Syracuse from 1960s, and two recordings from his last American tour in 1974 at the Church of the Assumption in Bellevue, Pennsylvania and in Rochester, New York) as well as many given on the French National Radio.
His teaching and legacy
His system of teaching usually began with having the student play a chorale prelude from Bach’s Orgelbüchlein. He usually heard a piece only one time giving all his ideas in the one lesson. For the early French music he did not use “notes inégales” during the 1960s, but by the 1970s he realized that this was, in practice, the style of this music, and adopted its use. His mind was always engaged and he heard every phrasing and nuance. His use of agogic accents to bring out the shape of a phrase was notable. Above all, he made each part sing independently of the other voices regardless of the period in which it was written. He was demanding especially with his more gifted pupils, desirous that each one achieve his/her highest potential.
His influence is continued not only in the legacy of performance practice and organbuilding. A number of publications and prizes have appeared since 1980: a thesis by Lynn Trapp at the University of Kansas (Lawrence, 1982), “The Legacy of André Marchal;” “Tribute to André Marchal” reprint of the L’Orgue Dossier I in 1997, with the addition of tributes by many American students who did not have the opportunity to be included in the original document; and prizes at the biennial Marchal competition in Biarritz.
The Académie André Marchal was founded in Biarritz, France in 1982 by Denise Limonaire to perpetuate the memory of this musical giant, his innovative style of performance, his neo-classical influence on organbuilding, and his rediscovery of early music. Susan Landale serves as president of the Académie, with Jacqueline Englert-Marchal as honorary president. Among other projects, the Académie has partnered with the town of Biarritz to sponsor the “Prix André Marchal,” an international organ competition with prizes in interpretation and improvisation. The competition is held every two years and has grown in quality and size. The ninth competition, held in 2009, accepted eighteen candidates of twelve nationalities. Americans desirous of supporting this valid and significant mission are strongly invited to become members; dues of $80 for two years may be mailed to Ralph Tilden at P.O. Box 2254, Banner Elk, NC 28604. André Marchal awards are given at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for excellence in organ performance.
His impact as a teacher was important. His blind students who obtained the first prize in organ at the Paris Conservatory included: André Stiegler, 1925; Jean Langlais and Jean Laporte, 1930; Gaston Litaize, 1931; Antoine Reboulot, 1936; Xavier Dufresse, 1952; Georges Robert, 1953; Louis Thiry, 1958; Jean Wallet, 1963; Jean-Pierre Leguay, 1966 (who had studied with both Litaize and Marchal). Two other pupils who obtained the first prize who were sighted were Noëlie Pierront, 1925, and Anne Marie Barat, 1976.
His other pupils included Corliss Arnold, Linda Clark, Craig Cramer, Philip Crozier, Alan Dominicci, Norbert Dufourcq, Giuseppe Englert, Lee Erwin (the first American pupil before 1930), Robert Eshenour, John Fenstermaker, Philip Gehring, Emily Gibson, Lester Groom, Jerald Hamilton, Ruth Harris, William Hays, Allan Hobbs, Howard Jewell, Elna Johnson, Margaret Kemper, Ralph Kneeream, Suzanne Kornprobst, Marilou Kratzenstein, Charles Krigbaum, Ann Labounsky, Susan Landale, David Liddle, Denise Limonaire, Robert Lodine, Alan Long, Robert Sutherland Lord, Chamin Walker Meadows, Kathryn Moen, Earline Moulder, Margaret Mueller, Arsène Muzerelle, Lois Pardue, Garth Peacock, Stephen Rumpf, Daniel and David Simpson, Robert Sirota, Rev. Victoria Sirota, Carl Staplin, Roger Stiegler, Edith Strom, Haskell Thompson, Ralph Tilden, Parvin Titus, Robert Judith Truitt, Marie-Antoinette Vernières, Gail Walton, Nicole Wild, and Mary Alice Wotring.
Influence on subsequent
His influence on subsequent composers such as Langlais, Duruflé, Alain, and Messiaen in their approaches to organ registration is likewise important to this reflection of André Marchal upon the 30th anniversary of his death. Jean Langlais studied organ with Marchal at INJA and at his home and was influenced by the work of Gonzalez in these two venues, as well as the organ at the Palais de Chaillot, where he performed his first symphony in 1943. His choice of the Schwenkedel organs of Neo-classical design, which he installed in his home and at the Institute Valentin Haüy, next door to INJA, shows this influence. The stops that he added to the organ at Sainte-Clotilde in 1962 included a Larigot 11⁄3′ on the Positif, a Prestant 4′ and Clairon 2′ on the Récit, and a Prestant 4′ and Doublette 2′ on the Pédale.10
The many Neo-classical registrations in his pieces likewise show this influence. For example, even the titles of a number of his pieces refer to these types of registrations: Dialogue sur les mixtures (Suite brève, 1947) and all the movements of Suite française (1948), which are based on titles found in classical French organ music such as Prélude sur les grands jeux and Contrepoint sur les jeux d’anches, and Suite baroque (1973).
As I have already mentioned, Maurice Duruflé often visited the home of Giuseppe Englert to study the specifications and dimensions of the Gonzalez organ, which inspired him for his house organ, also built by Gonzalez. Englert’s house organ was based on the specifications of Marchal’s house organ.11 In Duruflé’s organ works, even starting with the Scherzo from 1926, his registrations depart from the normal 19th-century models.
Marchal and Jehan Alain’s father, Albert Alain—an amateur organbuilder—were close friends and worked together on ideas for the specifications for their house organs. Similarities can be seen in the specifications of each.12 When Marchal had built his organ with a rather classic Positif, Albert Alain wanted to do the same thing.13 Jehan Alain’s first experiences of organ music in his home were influenced by the aesthetics of Marchal and Gonzalez. Jehan Alain and Marchal enjoyed playing and improvising together in Alain’s home. A very early work, Variations sur un thème de Clément Jannequin, demonstrates registrations that call for Neo-classical stops as well as the recall of early music in the title of the piece. Another work of Jehan Alain, Le Jardin suspendu, calls for a typically classical French stop, the Gros Nasard 51⁄3′ on the Positif. Marchal was among the first organists to perform Alain’s music, including Litanies, Variations sur un theme de Clément Jannequin, and Danses à Agni Yavishta, and had them transcribed into Braille notation.
Olivier Messiaen was also influenced by the Neo-classical trends in France. He changed the Cavaillé-Coll organ at La Trinité, where he was organist from 1930 until 1991, to include many mutation stops that were not part of the original specification. Even his earliest organ work, Le banquet céleste (1928), is a departure from the normal registration practices of the period, including Flûte 4′, Nasard 22⁄3′, Doublette 2′, and Piccolo 1′ for the pedal line. As he continued to compose, his works called more frequently for higher-pitched sonorities, often to imitate birds. One could say that it was a far cry from D’Aquin’s imitative harpsichord piece mimicking the cuckoo, but these sounds were all part of an interest in both the future and the past.
It is time to re-evaluate André Marchal’s contributions to the organ reform movement in France; his impact on organbuilding in the United States, particularly in his relationships to Walter Holtkamp and Walter Blodgett as well as Fenner Douglas; and his influence on the leading organ composers of the 20th century: Langlais, Alain, Duruflé, and Messiaen. In light of the development of early organ techniques and the number of publications that have been published and used in the thirty years since his death, it is time to listen again to Marchal’s recordings with a discerning mind and ask where his place is in the development of performance practice.
One certainly hears a wide variety of touches in all his playing. What was his “ordinary” touch? What were the main differences between his style and that of Joseph Bonnet, Alexandre Guilmant, and Marie-Claire Alain? Robert Noehren admired the sensitivity of his touch both on tracker and electric actions. It is also time to re-evaluate his influence on organ building; for example, in the composition of the Plein jeu mixture, which reserved the breaks until after middle C to enhance the clarity of the polyphonic line, and his use of different mixtures for each polyphonic composition that he performed.
Consider, too, the changes in the organ registrations in the music of Duruflé, Alain, Messiaen, and Langlais as compared to many other composers of the 20th century. The required foundations plus reeds on each manual, as a given for organ registration, changed as a result of Marchal’s impact on the Neo-classical organ in France. There is, indeed, much to ponder.
Perhaps Norbert Dufourcq, who was the most eloquent of his collaborators, best expressed the essence of his artistry:
André Marchal seemed to have found by himself the sources to which he probed the depths of his rich and attractive personality: the discovery of the works of the French organists of the 17th and 18th centuries, that of the complete works of Bach (he played almost all of it), of Cabezón, Frescobaldi, Buxtehude . . . It was for André Marchal to penetrate the secrets of a page of music, to discover the tempo, in searching the phrases, in marking the strong pulses, the weak pulses, without ever breaking the melodic line nor the polyphonic structure, without ever losing a rhythm which gave a work its forward motion, its line. One has praised the sensitivity of the Maître. It is better perhaps to speak of his sense of poetry.
To this static but mysterious and majestic instrument, he knew how to assure a poetic and lyric “aura” that he insisted on creating in a convincing phrasing with thousands of details in a style made more subtle by the use of minimal retards; of suspensions slightly brought out or by the imperious accents thrown into the center of the discourse. Goodbye to the inexpressive and neutral legato, André Marchal sought to impose on his instrument a suppleness with the use of imperceptible tensions—jolts of the soul—which did not stop. It is in this that he transformed the lens of the entire school of the organ, in France as in America . . . Under his fingers the organ no longer preached in an impersonal manner; under his fingers, the melodies rushed into the nave to touch the heart of each person. But it was never he who descended upon us. It was us, whom he seized with love, and attracted us to him.14 ■