Jeanne Demessieux

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Jeanne Marie-Madeleine Demessieux (February 13, 1921–November 11, 1968), was a French organist, pianist, composer, and pedagogue.

Biography[edit]

Born in Montpellier, in southern France, Jeanne Demessieux was the second child of Marie-Madeleine Demessieux (née Mézy) and Étienne Demessieux. After taking private piano lessons with her elder sister, Yolande, Jeanne entered the Montpellier Conservatoire in 1928. Four years later, she obtained first prizes in solfège and piano.

In 1933, she began her studies at the Paris Conservatoire; studying piano with Simon Riera and Magda Tagliaferro, harmony with Jean Gallon, counterpoint and fugue with Noël Gallon, and composition with one of Franck's youngest pupils, Henri Büsser. The same year, she was appointed titular organist at Saint-Esprit (12th arondissement), a post she held for 29 years.

Between 1936 and 1939, she studied organ privately with Marcel Dupré, whose organ class at the Conservatoire she joined in 1939. After receiving a first prize in organ performance and improvisation in 1941, Demessieux studied five more years privately with Dupré in Meudon, before she played her début recital at Salle Pleyel in Paris in 1946. This was the beginning of her career as an international recitalist.

Altogether she gave more than 700 concerts not just in France, but also in the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, West Germany, and the United States. Blessed (like Dupré) with a prodigious memory, she knew more than 2,500 works by heart, including the complete organ works of Bach, Franck, Liszt, and Mendelssohn, as well as most of Dupré's compositions for the instrument. A prolific recording artist, she received in 1960 France's Grand Prix du Disque award for her Franck intégrale, committed to disc two years before.

In 1962, Demessieux was appointed titular organist at La Madeleine in Paris. She combined this with demanding academic duties (not solely in her homeland), serving as professor of organ both at the Nancy Conservatoire (1950–52) and later at the Conservatoire Royal in Liège (1952–68). Increasingly poor health obliged her to limit her performance activities after 1965. Nevertheless, in 1967 she signed a contract with the Decca label for a complete recording of every organ piece Messiaen had thus far written. Alas, the project was never realized.

'I can hear the flutes of the Madeleine' she said, while lying in bed during her last moments. She died in Paris, on November 11, 1968 to the effects of throat cancer. A large crowd, including Marcel Dupré, attended her funeral. The great organ of the Madeleine stood in silent mourning and a vast black drape hung from the gallery to the floor.

She left behind more than 30 compositions. Many of these were written for the organ, but she also produced pieces for piano, fairly numerous songs, a handful of choral works (including an oratorio, "Chanson de Roland"), and orchestral works. Only about one-third of her output has been published to date. On disc, as a performer, she is rather better represented: the Dutch label Festivo has re-released on CD several of her LP recordings, including the above-mentioned 1958 version of Franck's complete organ works, already in stereo.

Compositions[edit]

Organ Solo[edit]

  • Nativité, op. 4 (composed 1943/44. Sampzon: Delatour France, 2005)
  • Six études, op. 5 (composed 1944. Paris: Bornemann/Leduc, 1946)
    • Pointes
    • Tierces
    • Sixtes
    • Accords alternés
    • Notes répétées
    • Octaves
  • Sept méditations sur le Saint-Esprit, op. 6 (composed 1945–47. Paris: Durand, 1947)
    • Veni Sancte Spiritus
    • Les eaux
    • Pentecôte
    • Dogme
    • Consolateur
    • Paix
    • Lumière
  • Triptyque, op. 7 (composed 1947. Paris: Durand, 1949)
    • Prélude
    • Adagio
    • Fugue
  • Twelve Choral-Preludes on Gregorian Chant Themes, op. 8 (composed 1947. Boston, MA: McLaughlin & Reilly, 1950)
  • Andante (Chant donné) (composed 1953. In: 64 Leçons d'Harmonie, offertes en hommage à Jean Gallon, edited by Claude Delvincourt. Paris: Durand, 1953)
  • Te Deum, op. 11 (composed 1957/58. Paris: Durand, 1959)
  • Répons pour le temps de pâques: Victimae paschali laudes (composed 1962/63. Paris: Durand, 1970)
  • Répons pour les temps liturgiques (composed 1962–66. Sampzon: Delatour France, 2006)
    • Répons pour le temps du Très-Saint-Rosaire: Ave Maria
    • Répons pour le temps d'Advent: Consolamini
    • Répons pour le temps du Saint-Sacrement: Lauda Sion (first version, composed 1963)
    • Répons pour le temps du Saint-Sacrement: Lauda Sion (second version, composed 1966)
  • Prélude et fugue en ut, op. 13 (composed 1964. Paris: Durand, 1965)

Organ and Orchestra[edit]

  • Poème, op. 9 (composed 1949. Paris: Durand, 1952)

Piano Solo[edit]

  • Berceuse (composed 1926. Unpublished.)
  • Suite (composed 1938. Unpublished.)
    • Prélude
    • Scherzetto
    • Menuet
    • Toccata
  • Étude in F# major (composed 1938. Unpublished.)
  • Trois préludes (composed 1939. Unpublished.)
    • D# minor
    • B minor
    • D minor

Songs (with Piano)[edit]

  • Le moulin (composed 1937. Unpublished.)
  • Soudainement contre les vitres (composed 1940. Unpublished.)
  • Sonnet de Michel-Ange (composed 1949. Unpublished.)
  • Action de grâce (Not dated. Unpublished.)
  • Cavalier (Not dated. Unpublished.)
  • Le vase brisé (Not dated. Unpublished.)

Chamber Music[edit]

  • Sonata for violin and piano (composed 1940. Unpublished.)
  • Ballade, op. 12, for horn and piano (composed 1962. Paris: Durand, 1962.)
  • String quartet (Not dated. Unpublished.)

Vocal Music[edit]

  • Cantate pour le jeudi Saint for chorus, soloists, and organ; text by Félix Raugel (composed 1938. Unpublished.)
  • Barques célestes for three women’s voices a capella (composed 1938. Unpublished.)
  • Consolamini for five mixed voices a capella (composed 1950. Unpublished.)
  • Chanson de Roland for chorus, mezzo soprano, and orchestra (composed 1951–56. Unpublished.)

Miscellaneous[edit]

  • Two symphonic movements for orchestra (composed 1941. Unpublished.)
  • George Frideric Handel: Cadences for Organ Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (Unpublished.)
  • Franz Liszt: Funérailles, arranged for organ solo (Sampzon: Delatour France, 2010)

Discography[edit]

  • Jeanne Demessieux: Complete Organ Works.
    • Te Deum op. 11, Répons pour le temps de Pâques, 12 Choral-Préludes op. 8, Triptyque op. 7, Prélude et Fugue en Ut op. 13, Sept Méditations sur le Saint-Esprit op. 6, Six Etudes op. 5. Pierre Labric: Hommage à Jeanne Demessieux.
      • Pierre Labric, Organist. Recorded in July and December 1971 and October 1972 at St. Ouen, Rouen, and St. Pierre, Angoulème (Six Études, Sept Méditations). Musical Heritage Society, 1974.
  • Jeanne Demessieux: Complete Organ Works.
    • Nativité op. 4, Six Études op. 5, Sept Méditations sur le Saint-Esprit op. 6, Triptyque op. 7, 12 Choral-Préludes op. 8, Te Deum op. 11, Répons pour les Temps Liturgiques, Prélude et Fugue en Ut op. 13.
      • Maxime Patel, Organist. Recorded in August 2006 at the Jann Organs of the Stiftsbasilika Waldsassen, Germany. A film production by Federico Savio. Hombourg-Haut, France: Fugatto, 2008. 1 DVD.
  • Jeanne Demessieux: Complete Organ Works.
    • Nativité op. 4, Six Études op. 5, Sept Méditations sur le Saint-Esprit op. 6, Triptyque op. 7, 12 Choral-Préludes op. 8, Te Deum op. 11, Répons pour les Temps Liturgiques, Prélude et Fugue en Ut op. 13, Andante (Chant donné), Poème op. 9 for organ and orchestra.
      • Stephen Tharp, Organist. Recorded in June 2004 at St. Martin, Dudelange (Luxembourg; opp. 4, 5, 8, 11, 13, and Andante), and in May 2006 at St. Ouen, Rouen (opp. 6 and 7, Répons pour les Temps Liturgiques). Jeanne Demessieux, Organist/Orchestre Radio-Symphonique de Paris, direction: Eugène Bigot (Poème op. 9). Recorded in 1952 at Salle Pleyel, Paris. Korschenbroich, Germany: Aeolus Music, 2008. 2 SACD's & 1 CD.
  • César Franck: The complete works for organ.
    • Jeanne Demessieux, Organ. Recorded in July 1959 at the Cavaillé-Coll-Orgel of La Madeleine in Paris, France. Amersfoort, Netherlands: Festivo, n. d. FECD 155/156. 2 CD's.
  • Jeanne Demessieux aux grandes orgues de l'Eglise de la Madeleine à Paris, Vol. I.
    • J. S. Bach: Sinfonia from Cantata No. 29, Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott BWV 721, O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß BWV 622, Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam BWV 684; W. A. Mozart: Fantasia in F minor K. 608; F. Liszt: Prelude and Fugue on the name BACH; Ch. M. Widor: Allegro from Symphony No. 6 in G minor.
      • Jeanne Demessieux, Organ. Recorded in July 1958 at the Cavaillé-Coll-Orgel of La Madeleine in Paris, France. Amersfoort, Netherlands: Festivo, n. d. FECD 131. 1 CD.
  • Jeanne Demessieux aux grandes orgues de l'Eglise de la Madeleine à Paris, Vol. II.
    • J. S. Bach: Toccata and Fugue in F Major BWV 540, Fantasia in G major BWV 572; W. A. Mozart: Adagio and Fugue in C minor K. 546/426; E. Mignan: Toccata Médiévale; J. Berveiller: Mouvement; J. Demessieux: Te Deum op. 11.
      • Jeanne Demessieux, Organ. Recorded in July 1958 at the Cavaillé-Coll-Orgel of La Madeleine in Paris, France. Amersfoort, Netherlands: Festivo, n. d. FECD 132. 1 CD.
  • The Legendary Jeanne Demessieux, Vol. III.
    • O. Messiaen: Transports de joie (L'Ascension); J. S. Bach: Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier BWV 731; J. Berveiller: Mouvement; Ch. M. Widor: Toccata from Symphony No. 5 in F minor; W. A. Mozart: Fantasia in F minor K. 608; J .S. Bach: Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major BWV 564; F. Liszt: Ad nos, ad salutarem undam.
      • Jeanne Demessieux, Organ. Recorded on July 6, 1961 at the Müller-Orgel of St. Bavo, Haarlem (Mozart), on July 23, 1963 at the organ of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam (Bach: BWV 564), at Victoria Hall in Geneva (1963; Liszt: Ad nos), and the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool (1967; Messiaen; Bach: BWV 731; Berveiller and Widor). Amersfoort, Netherlands: Festivo, n. d. FECD 141. 1 CD.
  • The Legendary Jeanne Demessieux: The Hamburg Organs.
    • St. Sophienkirche: H. Purcell: Trumpet Tune; J. S. Bach: Praeludium and Fugue in A minor BWV 543, Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier BWV 731. St. Michaelis: C. Franck: Prélude, Fugue et Variation op. 18, Cantabile (Trios Pièces). Christianskirche: J. Berveiller: Mouvement; J. Demessieux: Te Deum op. 11, Consolateur (Sept Méditation sur le Saint Esprit op. 6), Tierces (Six Études op. 5); O. Messiaen: Dieu parmi nous (La Nativité du Seigneur); J. Demessieux: Improvisation on the Choral "O großer Gott der Treu" from Cantata No. 46 of J. S. Bach.
      • Jeanne Demessieux, Organ. Recorded in May 1959 (St. Sophienkirche), in November 1962 (St. Michaelis), and June 1958 (Christianskirche). Amersfoort, Netherlands: Festivo, n. d. FECD 6961/862. 1 CD.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Association Maurice et Marie-Madeleine Duruflé (ed.). Hommage à Jeanne Demessieux. Bulletin No. 9 (2009).
  • Tréfouel, Dominique. Jeanne Demessieux. Lyon, France: J2C/ALDRUI Éditions, 2005. ISBN 2-906196-14-2.
  • Trieu-Colleney, Christiane. Jeanne Demessieux: Une vie de luttes et de gloire. Avignon, France: Les Presses Universelles, 1977.
  • Welzel, Martin. "Jeanne Demessieux (1921–1968): A Critical Examination of Her Life." D.M.A. Dissertation, University of Washington, Seattle, 2005. Available through ProQuest Dissertation Express.

External links[edit]