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Messiaen's Pedal Technique


Peter Clark
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I seem to recall reading somewhere - it may well have been here - that Messiaen did not possess a particularly secure pedal technique, a supposition which is at least partially supported by the fact that the majority of his pedal - though not of course his manual - writing is relatively straightforward. However since he was organist at a notable Paris church for a long time surely he would have ben expected to play the "repetoire" including eg Bach, whose pedal writing is at times demanding. So is this just a rumour put about by some anti-Messiaen terrorist, an apocryphal tale or does it have some basis in reality? Personally I doubt the last option.

 

Peter

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I seem to recall reading somewhere - it may well have been here - that Messiaen did not possess a particularly secure pedal technique, a supposition which is at least partially supported by the fact that the majority of his pedal - though not of course his manual - writing is relatively straightforward. However since he was organist at a notable Paris church for a long time surely he would have ben expected to play the "repetoire" including eg Bach, whose pedal writing is at times demanding. So is this just a rumour put about by some anti-Messiaen terrorist, an apocryphal tale or does it have some basis in reality? Personally I doubt the last option.

The pedal part of the last section of Mvt 2 of L'Ascension seems pretty hard to me. Did OM record that? I don't know that he would have been "expected" to play Bach; afaik he chiefly improvised during the liturgy.

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The pedal part of the last section of Mvt 2 of L'Ascension seems pretty hard to me. Did OM record that?

 

The orchestral suite preceded the organ version, i.e. organists are contending with a transcription. And he did record it; see and hear samples here.

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I've heard similar things said about César Franck. I think it's a bit of an urban myth. Anyone skilful enough to win Premier Prix d'Orgue at the Conservatoire (and having been a pupil of Dupré) must have been at least "secure" downstairs. Besides, there are plenty of tricky pedal parts in his organ works.

 

'Innate' is surely right - it is extremely unlikely that there was any explicit requirement of the Maitre to play repertoire.

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