French Organ Music in the Reign of Louis XIV (Cambridge University Press, 2011) ISBN 978-0-521-88770-0, 368 pages, 20 b/w illustrations, 350 music examples.
Presenting a fresh approach to French organ music, David Ponsford analyses the repertory from the reign of Louis XIV by genre. The colourful French organ was so consistent in design that the very titles of pieces which were constituent parts of organ masses, Magnificats and suites prescribed the registrations: plein jeu, fugue, duo, trio, récit, fond d'orgue and grand jeu. Particular examples from published livres d'orgue and important manuscript collections are analysed chronologically, so that influences from Italian as well as French sacred and secular music can be traced. This analysis reveals the dynamic development of compositional styles in which each composer developed, modified or reacted against the exemplars of his predecessors. Composers discussed include Louis Couperin, Nivers, Lebègue, Raison, Boyvin, François Couperin, de Grigny, Clérambault and Marchand. The reader will gain an enhanced understanding of performance practices such as notes inégales, fingering and ornamentation, and the influence of French composers on J. S. Bach.
‘David Ponsford's achievement is remarkable: his book may not deal with all aspects of French baroque organ music, but it gives a coherent, articulate and extremely well informed presentation of it. English-speaking music-lovers, organists and organ specialists can at last have a close look into the secrets and intricacies of ‘a wonderful repertory of organ music that has been, perhaps, the most elusive in terms of the depth of our understanding and authoritative stylistic performance’ (p. 314). One can only hope that the book will trigger further research on the question.’
Pierre Dubois, The Organ Yearbook 2012
‘Ponsford's study is an invaluable aid to understanding and appreciating the subject and will, as the blurb on the dust-jacket claims, be ’a book the organ world is waiting for‘. It will also be a book for those outside the organ world who wish to enter, appreciate and understand that ’other world‘ of French organ music that flourished so distinctively during the reign of Louis XIV.’
Lionel Sawkins, Early Music
‘This book should be read from cover to cover, not just for the pleasure of its clear prose style and well researched content, but simply because there are too many important nuggets of information woven into the overall structure which one might otherwise miss. I hope this book will be widely used and quickly establish itself as a standard text.’
Terence Charleston, Journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies 2011
‘David Ponsford's analytical book on French classical organ music is a very welcome addition to the small number of works in English on this subject . . . The book is well indexed and I suspect that the work's true value will be as a reference tool for organists wrestling with performance issues for specific composers and pieces. This book is a must-have for any serious organist.’
William McVicker, Choir & Organ
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‘Instrumental performance in the seventeenth century’, in The Cambridge History of Musical Performance, ed. Colin Lawson and Robin Stowell (Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 421-447.
‘The Organs of Gottfried Silbermann’, Choir & Organ (March 1997), 16-18; (May 1997), 16-18; (July 1997), 22-24.
‘Unwriting the Unwritable’, Musical Times, 138 (April 1997), 24-26.
‘Inégalité and Récits: Genre Studies in Seventeenth-Century French Organ Music’, The Organ Yearbook, 28 (1998/1999), 61-77.
‘J. S. Bach and the Nature of French Influence’, The Organ Yearbook, 29 (2000), 59-74.
‘Buxtehude defined’, Choir & Organ (March/April 2000).
‘Towards a reappraisal of François Couperin’s organ masses’, Journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies, 27 (2003), 40-57.
‘Charpentier’s Messe pour plusieurs instruments au lieu des orgues (H 513)’, The Organ Yearbook, 33 (2004), 63-72.
‘Touching the Past’, International Piano 51 (May/June 2007), 20-23.
‘Spirit of the Age’ [Tercentenary article on Buxtehude’s choral music], Choir & Organ 15/3 (May/June 2007), 29-31.
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas, 3 vols. (Bologna: Ut Orpheus Edizioni, 2007).
JS Bach, ‘48 Preludes & Fugues’ (Stowmarket: Kevin Mayhew, 2003).
‘Genre and Notes inégales in the Livres d’orgue of François Couperin and Nicolas de Grigny’ (Cardiff University, 1999). An exploration of seventeenth-century performance practices in French Classical organ repertory through genre studies.
Regular reviews of books, music and CDs contributed to The Organ Yearbook and Choir & Organ.