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The Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral Organ

Notre Dame's Several Cathedral Organs

Though several organs were installed in the Notre Dame Cathedral over time, the earliest ones were far too inadequate for the building.

The well known and accomplished builder Clicquot finished the first noteworthy organ in the early 1700's, and almost 270 years after being installed, some of Clicquot's original pipe work in the pedal division still continues to sound from the organ today.

Notre Dame Cathedral

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The Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral Organ

The organ was almost completely rebuilt and expanded in the nineteenth century by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and the organ has 7800 pipes with 900 of these being classified as historical.

The organ has 109 stops, five 56-key manuals and a 32-key pedal board.  It was in December 1992 that work was completed on the organ to fully computerise the organ under 3 LANs (Local Area Networks).

The position of titular organist at Notre-Dame is considered as one of the most prestigious organist posts in France, along with the titular post of Saint Sulpice in Paris, Cavaille-Coll's largest instrument.

Among the best-known organists at Notre Dame was Louis Vierne, who held this position from 1900 to 1937.

Under his tenure, the Cavaille-Coll organ was modified in its tonal character, in the years 1902 and 1932. 

There were further alterations initiated by Pierre Cochereau, although Louis Vierne had already planned many of these.  One of the alterations included the electrification of the organ's action between 1959 and 1963. 

The original Cavaille-Coll console was replaced by a new console in Anglo-American style, but the original can still be seen at the organ loft as a tribute to Louis Vierne, and the addition of further stops between 1965 and 1972, notably in the pedal division, the re-composition of the mixture stops, and finally the adding of three horizontal reed stops "en chamade" were other alterations that Pierre Cochereau initiated.

After Cochereau's sudden death in 1984, four new titular organists were appointed at Notre Dame in 1985, which was reminiscent of the eighteenth century practice of the cathedral having four titular organists, each one playing for three months of the year.  Their names are Jean-Pierre Leguay, Olivier Latry, Philippe Lefevre and Yves Devernay, who unfortunately only died in 1990.

But, if you would like to see some of the music notes from Louis Vierne or one of the old organs, or even learn more about the history of Notre Dame why not take a visit to the Musee de Notre Dame de Paris which is located only a very short walk away from the cathedral.




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