Mark Dancer’s Nineteenth Series of Summer Organ Recitals at St Peter’s, Petersfield begins on Tuesday May 29. As usual, they will feature composers who have a significant anniversary in 2018. This year’s composers are François Couperin, Hubert Parry and Jeanne Demessieux. The other dates are June 12 & 26, and July 10. Admission is free and they start at 1.00pm.
François Couperin (1668-1733) is probably the most famous member of one of the best-known families in Europe at the time. He was a virtuoso keyboard player and composed over 230 pieces of harpsichord music, published in four volumes. His two Organ Masses represent the apogee of the genre in France, epitomising the elegance of French baroque music.
Most people will have heard or sung ‘Jerusalem’ by Hubert Parry (1848-1918) or his coronation anthem ‘I was glad’. While not actually a child prodigy, he was sufficiently talented to pass the Oxford Bachelor of Music degree at whilst still at Eton. Music was not thought highly of as a profession in the mid-nineteenth century, so he read law and modern history at Oxford, becoming an underwriter at Lloyds of London after graduating. However, he was as unsuccessful at insurance as he was skilled at music, which he made his career, holding simultaneously the posts of Heather Professor of Music at Oxford and Head of the Royal College of Music.
Jeanne Demessieux (1921-1968) was a pupil of Marcel Dupré, joining his organ class at the Paris Conservatoire in 1939. She won first prize for organ performance and improvisation in 1941. After the end of World War II she began a career as a concert organist, giving over 700 concerts in Europe and the US, and from 1962 was titular organist of La Madeleine church in Paris. She had a phenomenal memory, having memorised over 2,500 works, but also the most astonishing technique, as is evidenced in her organ compositions and she was renowned for playing in stiletto heels!