Louis Marchand and the organ music around him
by Dr. Wolfram Syré
Luois Marchand was born in 1669 at Lyon.
After the Marchand family had moved to Nevers had been offered the post as organist at the Nevers cathedral to the fourteen years old Luois Marchand.
Louis Marchand moved to Paris in the age of twenty years. He was organist there at different churches: Saint-Jacques, Saint-Benoît-le-Bétourné, and Saint-Honoré. In 1708 he was promoted to one of four royal organists. 1713 to 1717 lived Marchand in Germany. Back at Paris he was organist of the Cordeliers' abbey church. He died in 1732 at Paris.
Louis Marchand was in his time an admired musician and a scandaleous person. He startet an intrigue against the organist and priest Pierre Dandrieu. His wife got divorced from him because he has beatet she. The king Louis XIV. payed after that the half of Marchand's fee as royal organist to her. Therefor stopped Marchand his organ playing in the middle of the service and said to the king: "My wife should play the other half of the service because she gets the half of my fee.". Louis XIV. was one day amused about Marchan's hands, and Marchand answered an offending remark about the king's ears. The most famous story about Marchand is his escape before a harpsichord competition with Johann Sebastian Bach in 1717 at Dresden.
The organ music of Louis Marchand is remarkable. Premier Livre d'Orgue and Deuxième Livre d'Orgue contain the juwels of his organ compositions. One can collect this fifteen pieces in two "Ordres": a Grande Suite and a Petite Suite.
The scores of Marchand's organ music are not very exact. Playing Marchand one has to clear many problems about the ornamentation beside some real othographical mistakes. It means that has to decide between "notes inegales (long - short)", "notes coulées" (short - long), "tierce coulé", and "port de voix" which all are not exactly definated in the scores.
Louis Marchand was a very innovativ organ composer. He invented some new elemants of composition and performed some existing elements to a high level. At first I will name structural elements. The large double-pedal-part in the Plein Jeu, the mirror-theme in his Fugue, the form of his Basse de Trompette as an Dialogue between Trompette and Cornet, and the Quatour. It means a playing on four keyboards at the same time: Pédale, Positiv, Grand Orgue, and Récit. His two or three "tempi" in the movements Duo and Récit are unique. Addionally Marchand used very speciel harmonies: a chord based on the Septime as solution to the "Dominante" an chords with high alterated Quinte.
The pieces of the Grande Suite are very impressive: majestic and sensitive in a romantic sense.
We know about three pupil of Louis Marchand: Jean-Claude Daquin, Pierre du Mage, and Guillaume Guilain (Wilhelm Freinsberg).
Jean-Claude Daquin developed his own style of organ composition, but the two others followed strictly the musical ideas of Marchand.
Pierre du Mage used the typical harmonies of Marchand and also some melodical parameter. But he never reached the high level of Marchand's quality.
If we listen to the four Suites of Guilain we will recognize often a kind of Marchand plus. Guilain shows us a great respect before Marchand's talent. Guilain's perhaps best composition is his Suite du troisième Ton. Its Plein Jeu sounds like a Marhand-copy, and we find here also a Quatour and a Basse de Trompette "en Dialogue". Also the ornamentic of Marchand (see above) can be recognized in Guilain's organ music.
The Fantasia in G or Pièce d'Orgue BWV 562 seems me to be Marchand-inspirated. Even Bach's piece is much longer we find here the dramatical and tragical "Affect" according to the large Plein Jeu of Louis Marchand.