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This recording of Toccata & Fugue in d minor by J.S. Bach was made by world class French
organist and master of improvisation Jean-Baptiste Dupont, organist of Bordeaux Cathedral, on the historic, world-famous 1888 Cavaille-Coll organ of the Basilique de Saint-Sernin in Toulouse, one of the most important instruments in France and which has remained
tonally and mechanically unaltered since its builder designed it.
In this video Mssr. Dupont conducts a virtual
master-class on touch (all 5 types are used), nuanced tempo, and artful registration. One notes that, while this is a 19th-century French organ of a type with which the composer of this benchmark work was never familiar, its Positif division is down
on the rail much the same as with German baroque organs, and its foundation stops and mixtures seem made for the same kind of continually moving, multiple contrapuntal lines and dense texture so characteristic of this composer's music. This speaks to
the universality and timeless quality of the music of J.S. Bach, one of many reasons why his works still remain the kernel of all organ music down to this day [See blog, Bach d minor, Parts I-V].
In this video one notes as well the fine camera work, the seemingly effortless control and the fact that every note was memorized, the skillful use of the instrument's French ventil
pedals, the thumbs on sharps, abandonment of substitution and thumb glissando, phrasing, articulation, clarity of the moving lines, timing of the drawing and retiring of stops by hand, and the addition of 1) a 16' Montre when the central echo passages conclude
in the Fugue and 2) a tenor D in the left hand at the final chord. This organ has a flat, non-radiating pedalboard, and, while the pedal keys certainly permit the use of the heels, they're a bit stiff to operate due to linkage. When the toes are
used the player can lean into the pedals more, and the almost complete abandoment of the use of the heels in this video has almost as much to do with working the pedal keys as it does with the pursuit of stylistic authenticity.
This organ has mechanical action with Barker-assist, and the operation of the Barker machine may be noted. This was a pneumatic lever system used
by this builder which does the work with pneumatics of pulling pallets because there's a resistance in those pallets. This feature, while it moves the keys of coupled manuals automatically, it greatly reduces the force needed to depress the keys when
intermanual coupling is used with mechanical action.
How the fiery Cavaille-Coll chorus reeds and upperwork
which dominate the foundation stops are managed in the performance of a major Bach work on a French Romantic organ is evident in this video. We offer our highest compliments and sincerest thanks to Mssr. Dupont for making this fine recording and posting
it on YouTube for public viewing.