They are the avant garde, the angry young men of Paris; all of them incredibly innovative yet still hugely modest. They have won all the big competitions and are leading the art of organ improvisation into the 21st century. That alone is a huge challenge. Paris is indeed the place where the young French organists continue the long tradition on the historical organs, yet many Parisian virtuosos also work in England, the USA and Germany. That can mean for example: Titulaire organist in Paris, Professor in London.
The International Organ Academy, Paris (AIOP) 2018, run and organised by ORGANpromotion in the week 23rd to 27th July, makes it possible to launch oneself into the Kosmos of the Parisian Art of the Organ, and get to know iconic instruments and fantastic organists in authentic settings.
Gaetan Jarry, only just in his 30's and already Titulaire Organist at Gervais, plays on this baroque masterpiece in a way that is breathtaking. It is evident that he is totally enthusiastic about his instrument. He explains to the participants of the academy the French idiom of the suite in a way that is both authoritative and charming and exclaims with a glint in his eyes after an improvised „ Recit en Taille”: „You must understand, the French suite always serves the instrument, making it possible to display it at its best. The music allows the organ to shine.” Indeed, Jarry sees himself as the servant of his instrument. That is what makes his playing so unmistakable.
Baptist-Florian Marle-Ouvrard is also a magician of sound, Titulaire Organist on the great organ of St. Eustache. Here he conjures up in his improvisations these incomparable sound colours. “These are what we want to work on and get to know”, opines one of the participants. Baptist- Florian grins, reacts immediately and starts demonstrating several scales and various ways to extend scales and modes. Everything that he shows, explains and plays is consistent and thought through. Finally he summarises the mystery of his art: “Study the works of Faure, Dukas, play Messiaen und Durufle!”
Yet a further maestro, Samuel Liégeon, Titulaire at St . Pierre de Chaillot, demonstrates not only baroque forms of improvisation, but above all modern techniques such as clusters and percussive methods, all of which had the participants open-mouthed. Fantastic cascades of sound are produced as his hands move like caterpillars up and down the manuals. Sometimes smooth, sometimes erratic, sometimes speeding up. Simply impressive the way such sounds move in waves over the manuals. Everyone immediately wants to try it for themselves.
Equally, in the courses by Francois Espinasse in St. Severin, Francois-Henri Houbert in La Madeleine, Frédéric Blanc in Notre-Dame d´Auteuil and Andrew Dewar in the American cathedral, the motto was always: everyone's allowed, no-one must. One of the high-points of the week has to be the meeting with Sophie-Veronique Couchefer-Choplin at the Cavaillé-Coll organ in St. Sulpice. It is immediately obvious from her didactically based and well-tried improvisation models, that she has very solid teaching experience, locking on to each participant's standard, motivating and praising.
Facit: An unbelievably inspiring week in Paris. As well as the courses there was a complementary extensive evening organ programme offering a unique experience of being able to make authentic sound experiences on the great Parisian organs! At the end of the week one had the impression each of the 30 participants from all over the world couldn't wait to get back home and start practising.
(Dr. Martin Hoffmann, D-86438 Kissing)