Notes to Marchand:
Note: several tracks of this CD also appear on "Just organ tones" from 2014, some even in better quality.
Louis Marchand (1699-1732) was considered the foremost French improvisator during his lifetime, but because his improvisations could not be passed on to us, the current views on his work are formed by the few of his written compositions that have survived: 5 volumes of organ pieces, 4 of which belatedly published around year 1900 by A. Guilmant, and a few cembalo pieces kept at the Versailles museum and available on the National French Website. It is among these cembalo pieces that I found what looks like the memo that improvisers use to remember a few highlights they want to include in their performances. The first and last piece on the CD is based on this memo, starting with a verbatim rendering and then improvising.
Piece 4, 6 and 8 are from Marchand’s organ books, and track 9 is an improvisation over piece 8. Tracks 5 and 10 are rather free improvisations in the style of Marchand. He is said to have composed many other works, including a complete opera. A chest full of such compositions is listed in the inventory of his possessions made by the French authorities after his death, but when his publisher came to look for it, it was gone. A suspect for destroying the scores is his daughter, who after Marchand separated from his wife had been brought up by the mother to hate her father. Marchand had many sharp edges, such when he was employed by the king at Versailles Castle and the king withheld half his salary as alimony for the wife. Marchand played half a concert and then left, mumbling that his wife could play the rest! The king became rather angry and Marchand had to leave France for a while, which may be why his work was in a travelling chest. Marchand also said many negative things about the contemporary rival organists, such as Dandrieu (piece on track 2) and failed to show up at an organ contest with Johan Sebastian Bach (basis for the track 7 improvisation). Bach thought he was afraid to loose, but Marchand did not seem to doubt his master status, and it is more likely that the Versailles incidence forced him to cancel his trip to the Dresden contest (the main source for the above remarks is an article by André Pirro in “Sammelbände der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 136-159 from 1904).
Track 3 has little to do with Marchand, except that it is based on birdsong, which is also the interpretation of track 8 suggested by Carl Nielsen, who used the piece for a song called “ I know of a lark’s nest”.
Both Vejby and Søborg organs are mid-size instruments with 24 registers, distributed on three viz. two manuals plus a pedal claviature. The Søborg organ was made by the classical Danish organ builder Frobenius, while the Vejby organ is a modern construction with Spanish-style trumpet, vox humana and ranket voices en chamade (horizontal rather than vertical organ pipes).