Xavier Darasse (3 September 1934 – 24 November 1992) was a French organist and composer. The Toulouse les Orgues festival organizes every 3 years the international Xavier Darasse organ competition in his honor.
Born in Toulouse in a musician family (his mother was an organist), Darasse was a student of Maurice Duruflé, Rolande Falcinelli, Jean Rivier and Olivier Messiaen at the Conservatoire de Paris. In parallel with his career as a concert organist, he was a professor at the Conservatoire de Toulouse and then at the Conservatoire de Lyon, the organ class being "relocated" to Toulouse. His repertoire extends from early music to contemporary repertoire.
In 1976, after a serious road accident, during which he lost his right arm (which he was successfully transplanted without being able to regain his motor skills), he had to put an end to his career as a concert performer. He then devoted himself to teaching the organ, as well as composition, with among other things "Instants éclatés" in 1983 for the Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse.
He was appointed director of the Conservatoire de Paris in 1991.
He died prematurely of cancer in 1992, leaving unfinished an opera adapted from Oscar Wilde's the Picture of Dorian Gray.
Darasse listened to the organ in a new way. He favored the breath (continuous or interrupted), the articulated discourse (the importance of touch and digital articulation), and registers and colours (the heritage of his professor of musical analysis, Olivier Messiaen).
During his short career, Darasse was one of the most eclectic organists of his generation, sensitive as much to early music, whose mysteries he knew, as to contemporary organ music, of which he was one of the great promoters. He recorded on the organ of the Robert Boisseau organ of the Église Notre-Dame de Royan one of the first disks of "contemporary" organ music in the very late 1960s (works by Luis de Pablo and himself). Very close to Antoine Tisné and Iannis Xenakis, he premiered in Germany and France the only work of the latter for organ: Gmeeoorh (1974).
Compositions for pipe organ
- Organum I for organ (1970), commission of the Festival de Royan
- Organum II for organ (1978), commission of the CNSM de Paris
- Organum III for organ (1979), commande pour le concours d’orgue de Chartres
- Organum IV for organ and three percussions (1981)
- Organum V for organ (1983), State commission
- Organum VI for organ (1986), a series of 6 short and easy pieces for a classical organ
- Organum VII for soprano and organ (1989), for the Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges festival
- Organum VIII for organ and brass quintet (1972), commission of the festival de Metz, in memoriam Jean-Pierre Guézec
- Pedal-Exercitium for organ (1988) commission of the Éditions Universal.
- Excerpts from sound archives of Xavier Darasse's works.
- Ch-M. Widor by Xavier Darasse at Saint-Sernin de Toulouse (YouTube)