Organ influences on selected French piano works from the 1880s to the 1920s

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Mengfei Xu (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Andrew Willis

Abstract: This document examines the influence of the organ on French keyboard compositions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Three composers, César Franck (1822–1890), Charles-Marie Widor (1844–1937), and Marcel Dupré (1886–1971), will serve as representatives of their respective generations. However, their prestige as organist-composers has overshadowed their distinctive body of compositions for solo piano: both organists and pianists tend to stay within their fields and not cross over into each others’ realms. As a result, their solo piano works, especially Widor’s, are not given the attention they deserve by pianists and organists today. This study demonstrates that by applying organ approaches to piano composition, these organist-composers have enriched the solo piano repertoire in ways worthy of performing and analyzing. In contrast to their contemporary pianist-composers, these three composers’ piano music relies upon a different approach to sonority, technique, and interpretation that represents a response to the innovations and standardization of Cavaillé-Coll’s symphonic organ beginning in 1840. Overall, three influences can be seen to cross over to French piano repertoire: 1) the teaching and practice of improvisation on plainchant melodies, 2) the study of contrapuntal textures in J. S. Bach’s organ music, and 3) studies of “absolute legato” technique (a method of touch used to achieve a completely seamless connection in polyphonic textures). This study considers these organ influences on the following solo piano works, which are largely ignored by pianists and organists alike: Franck, Prélude, choral et fugue (1883–84)Franck, Prélude, aria et final (1886–87) Widor, Suite en si mineur, Op. 58 (1887) Dupré, Six préludes, Op. 12 (1916) Dupré, Quatre pièces, Op. 19 (1921) Dupré, Variations en ut dièse mineur, Op. 22 (1924) In showing how Franck, Widor, and Dupré applied their insights from organ composition to the solo piano, this document sheds light on their piano works and encourages pianists to go outside their field and apply information from organ studies to achieve a more sophisticated, nuanced performance.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
19th-century French music, 19th-century keyboard music, César Franck, Charles-Marie Widor, Marcel Dupré, Piano performance practice
Franck, Ce´sar, $d 1822-1890. $t Pre´lude, choral et fugue, $m piano $x History and criticism
Franck, Ce´sar, $d 1822-1890. $t Pre´lude, aria et final, $m piano $x History and criticism
Widor, Charles-Marie, $d 1844-1937. $t Suites, $m piano, $n op. 58, $r B minor $x History and criticism
Dupre´, Marcel, $d 1886-1971. $t Preludes, $m piano, $n op. 12 $x History and criticism
Dupre´, Marcel, $d 1886-1971. $t Pieces, $m piano, $n op. 19 $x History and criticism
Dupre´, Marcel, $d 1886-1971. $t Variations, $m piano $n op. 22 $x History and criticism
Keyboard instrument music $z France $y 19th century $x History and criticism
Keyboard instrument music $z France $y 20th century $x History and criticism

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