“Reaction to the fire at Notre-Dame has focused, naturally enough, on the building as a great religious center,” writes Ivan Hewett in Wednesday’s (4/17) Daily Telegraph (U.K.). “Hardly mentioned is Notre-Dame’s position as the crucible of Western classical music…. Its musical glory days began soon after consecration in 1196. It was surrounded by liberal arts schools, with scholars and theorists from all over Europe. Thanks to them, virtuoso singers and the incredible acoustics, something extraordinary came into being—polyphony… One composer who stands out from that period is Magister Perotinus, or Pérotin, whose towering pieces of four-part polyphony have unsurpassed grandeur…. Some fine composers later held the post of Master of Music, including Louis Campra. And the neoclassical organ built in the 1730s was the best in France….. But the really important moment was the installation in 1868 of a new organ, the work of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll…. The organ was a colossus, with five keyboards, 115 stops and almost 8,000 pipes. Despite initial fears, indications are that the organ has survived the fire more or less intact, although heat and smoke will have caused some damage. The most visible monument to Notre-Dame’s glorious musical history, we should be thankful it has survived.”

Posted April 17, 2019