Organist Christopher Houlihan is about to begin a small tour performing the 6 symphonies for solo organ by Louis Vierne. Labelled Vierne 2012, the tour is covering only major cities like New York, Denver, Chicago, LA, Montreal and Dallas. The NY show (the kick-off date) is a two-part program that will be performed at 3 PM and 7:30 PM on Saturday, June 2, and you can purchase tickets for it here or on the link below
Christopher had time to stop and talk to another guy named Christopher.
CM: Can you talk about Louis Vierne and why you have such a strong connection to his music?
CH: Vierne was a French organist and composer, born nearly blind, and lived an incredibly tragic life. Both personally and professionally his life was one horrible event after another: three failed relationships, the deaths of his family members and mentors, breaking his leg, his worsening eye sight… the list goes on and on. But he transcended these events to write some tremendous music (not just for the organ, even). His music is incredibly personal, and I think that’s what has always attracted me to it. One can sense Vierne’s suffering (he often “wears his heart on his sleeve,” which I suppose I do in my own life as well, I admit), but he also has a great deal of humor, romance, and triumphant joy in his music. All put together, I can’t think of anything more I’d want from a musical experience.
CM Would you say he is one of the more important people for the organ repertoire alongside Bach or Franck?
CH: Bach and Franck are the really the two immutable “fathers” of organ music, and Vierne’s music is indebted to them a great deal. I’d say they were probably even the two composers he admired most, Franck actually being one of Vierne’s earliest teachers. Vierne’s organ compositions, especially the symphonies, represent the culmination of the style of “symphonic” organ writing that Franck initiated, and are certainly some of the most important in the organ repertoire.
Vierne: Symphony No. 3 (I: Allegro Maëstoso; St. Ignatius of Antioch, NYC; date unknown)
CM: Tell us about the two-part recital at the Church of The Ascension–It looks like an interesting idea to do two programs in one day.
CH: My recital on June 2nd at Ascension is on the exact 75th-anniversry of Vierne’s death at the console of Notre-Dame, in the middle of a recital! I wanted to do something to commemorate this great composer, and since the story of his death is so legendary, the anniversary seemed like the perfect day to do something like this. I’ll be playing Symphonies 1, 3, and 5 at 3pm, then Symphonies 2, 4, & 6 at 7:30. Each half is totally “digestible,” shall we say, and no longer than an big orchestral concert might be. Rather than play them totally chronologically, playing them “odds and evens” gives a better balance to each program, but the listener still gets to hear the evolution of Vierne’s style.
CM: Do you plan to record any other music by people like Franck or Franz Liszt? They also have great organ output!
CH: Oh, Franck and Liszt are wonderful! I actually play their music in recitals quite a bit. I hope to have the opportunity to record some of their music in the future, but at the moment I’d love to get to the Vierne symphonies first!
Liszt: Fantasia and Fugue on ‘Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Undam’ (rehearsal; end of Fantasia going into the Fugue; Temple Emanu-El, NY; 4/13/11)
CHRISTOPHER HOULIHAN – Organ
VIERNE 2012 Marathon
Saturday, June 2nd, 3 PM and 7:30 PM
The Church of the Ascension
5th Avenue at 10th Street, NYC