Alexandre Pierre François Boëly (1785 - 1858)
Boely was a French musician, starting life as a pianist. He became organist late in life, being first appointed to a position at the age of 49. In 1840 he was appointed organist at St-Germain-l'Auxerrois, in Paris. Here he modified the organ to add a German style pedalboard and several stops allowing him to play the music of Bach. His style wasn't liked - it was too boring and old fashioned for his congregation, who expected operatic works, such as those by Lefubure-Wely. He was sacked in 1851 and died a lowly piano teacher. However, he was sought out by Franck and Saint-Saens to teach them.
Boely was heavily influenced by Bach. He played pieces by him every Sunday at home and supposedly the only picture in Boely's house was a portrait of Bach.
This set of 14 pieces is his last published as an organist, in 1847. Each piece is based on a melody by an anonymous writer and a verse by the 16th century poet Nicolas Denziot. The poems, published in 1553, deal with events leading up to Christ's birth and the first Christmas. Boely took these and made what has been described as a French, Christmas orgelbuchlein. The influence of Bach throughout the pieces should be obvious to hear. There are many similarities with the orgelbuchlein, not least that the pedals are 'obligato'.
The pieces received much praise throughout his lifetime, from people who enjoyed baroque/Bach music of course! Danjou, organist of Notre Dame at the time, wrote that Boely wanted to do what the old Germans, especially Bach, had done to Lutheran chorales and had indeed succeeded, stating that they were equal to the old German masters' works and unequalled by any composition since then.
Saint-Saens, writing a preface to a later edition of the works said that they had "no error of taste, inadequate writing, or echo of the secular style..." He ends by saying "This book of noels should be part of the repertory of all organists.
Hope you enjoy!