Elgar played in Verdun Cathedral





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Uploaded on Sep 30, 2008

Francois Henri-Houbart plays the heroic organ in the cathedral at Verdun. This organ was largely the work of Theodore Jacquot, who rebuilt the organ after the previous instrument (built by the firm of Jacquot-Jeanpierre & Sons of Rambervilliers) was all but destroyed by WWI and neglect. The Cathedral was a favourite target of the Germans during the war, the organ and case was miraculously spared damage but when it was removed to storage, the pipes were bent to fit into crates and then stored for a while in the nave, then open to the elements. Theodore Jacquot managed to restore the casework in 1927 and the virtually new organ (save for about 15 stops) was completed in 1935 and inaugurated by Marcel Dupré who professed it to be one the very best organs in France.

Its 64 stops are distributed across four manuals, Grand Orgue, Recit and Positif Expressif, powerful Bombarde division with 16/8/4 stentor fonds et anches and 11 ranks of mixtures, and the Pedale with its famous & thunderous 32' Bombarde, the 'Cannon of Verdun'. The specification is very much that of the Cavaille-Coll symphonic school, flutes, imitative reeds and strings in abundance.

Elgar needs no introduction, his Pomp and Circumstance March Op 39 No.4 was one of five marches, it was completed in 1907 and is played here in the transcription by Bryan Hesford. The piece was dedicated to George Sinclair organist of Hereford Cathedral.

Francois Henri-Houbart was born in Orléans in 1952, he received his musical education from Michel Chapuis, Suzanne Chaisemartin, Pierre Lantier and Pierre Cochereau. He is currently titulaire at the church of La Madeleine, Paris since 1980 and teaches the organ at the Orléans Academy of Music.

This recording comes from a CD Houbart recorded in May 1993 for the Forlane label UCD 16694. Other pieces include the Boellmann Suite Gothique, Dupré's Cortege et Litanie and an improvisation on La Marseillaise. I think the CD is no longer available.

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