Tjeerd van der Ploeg The organ works of Charles Tournemire
Het ORGEL 97 (2001), nr. 1, 10-28 [summary]

tournemire.jpg (17008 bytes)Charles Tournemire (1870-1939) composed his first organ works before he was appointed organist at Ste.-Clotilde at Paris in 1898. In these early pieces, the influence of his teachers César Franck (construction of melody, variation technique) and Charles-Marie Widor (contemplation, full chords) is evident. In their modal character they resemble the repertoire of Léon Boëlmann and Eugène Gigout as well. Tournemire expanded the way his teachers treated the organ. His registrations are more adventurous, and aim at a many-colored sound.

After Triple Choral (1910), a great hymn dedicated to the Holy Trinity, Tournemire composed no organ music during 17 years.

In the works composed after his masterpiece L’Orgue Mystique (1927-1932), Gregorian themes appeared in only one piece (Deux Fresques symphoniques sacrées); nevertheless church and liturgy remained important sources of inspiration. Music in which the praise of God was not a central theme made no sense to Tournemire. The Trois Poèmes and Symphonie-Choral are based on psalm texts, and texts of St. Francis inspired Tournemire to compose the Sei Fioretti. Only once did Tournemire choose to experiment (Fantaisie Symphonique). The innovative aspects that characterise his early works are further explored in his later compositions.

In Tournemire’s œuvre, the ‘choral’ plays an important role; it offers the possibility to display many variation.