Choral "Le don des larmes"

Solo instrument or voice
14 min.
for large symphonic organ

First performance : Benoît Mernier, 29.03.09. Commissioned by Bozar Music and Ars Musica

Date de création

Choral pour orgue "Le don des larmes" (2009)

The present work, wich was commissioned by Bozar Music and Ars Musica Festival (Brussels), satisfied my personal desire to write a genuine symphonic piece. My previous compositions for organ, Cinq Inventions and Toccata (both published by Edition G. Billaudot, Paris) focused rather on the economy of means (limited musical material, non crescendo registrations, relatively short durations, …) By contrast, this work of 15 minutes duration was conceived for a Grand Orgue of the Cavaillé-Coll type using only the registrations of the symphonic tradition, i. e. , the collectivity of the foundation voices, Grand-Chœur, flute choir, …

A large crescendo/diminuendo already occurs in the second minute of the work ! Slightly excessive, perhaps ? Rather let us call it the delight and enjyment in the richly expansive unfolding of sound. The texture is frequently complex and polyphonic, as I was searching for a very close relationship between harmony and timbre : how can one vary and alter the timbre, something that is determined on the whole by conventional registration, by making use of the harmonic space ?

The form is discursive, using organic repetition and renewal reminiscent of improvisation. Nevertheless, the form is simple – a « chorale » that is clearly closer to a chaconne than to a Lutheran chorale (as is the Chorale No. 2 in B minor by César Franck) is heard in four different forms : the musical thought at the beginning hardly develops and leads to a large crescendo/diminuendo that modelled via animated figures in the pedals ; the chorale is heard a second time and unfolds, but yet again it gives way to a cobwebbed texture in the flutes. The chorale appears a third time in a « mélange creux » [gapped registration] with terse, solemn harmonies and leads to a toccata before the piece ends with a veiled and distant sounding registration, recalling the chorale one last time.

The subtitle is derived from Catholicsm’s mystical tradition wich considers crying to be a boon. Le don des larmes [The Gift of Tears] is simultaneously a humble and exalted expression that is not only reference to abstinence, but also to farsightedness. As Victor Hugo said, « He who does not cry, does not to see »

The work is dedicated in friendship to the French organist Michel Bouvard, professor for organ at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse à Paris (with Olivier Latry) and titular organist of the Cavaillé-Coll organ at Saint-Sernin in Toulouse.

The work was recorded by the composer in the Abbey Church Maredsous in Belgium [MAR002] – website :

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