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Jeanne Demessieux

(1921-1968)

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- Saint Marks Church, London, 1947

- Victoria Hall, Geneva, 1953

Jeanne Marie-Madeleine Demessieux was born in Montpellier in 1921. In 1933 she was enrolled as a student at the Paris Conservatory; studying piano with Simon Riera and Magda Tagliaferro, harmony with Jean Gallon, counterpoint and fugue with Noël Gallon, and composition with Henri Büsser. She was also appointed titular organist at St. Esprit in Paris in 1933 - a post she held for 29 years. Between 1936 and 1939 she studied organ privately with Marcel Dupré whose organ class at the Conservatory she joined in 1939.

Her debut in 1946 was compared to those of Horowitz, Menuhin, and Gieseking; Dupré himself said “You have shown us this evening that we are in the presence of a phenomenon equal to the youth of Bach or Mozart ...” Of Paris’s finest organists present—including Langlais, Litaize, Grünenwald and Falcinelli—Duruflé more humorously (but no less seriously) declared “Next to Jeanne Demessieux, the rest of us play the pedals like elephants!”
In 1962, Jeanne Demessieux was appointed titular organist at La Madeleine in Paris.
After several months of illness Jeanne Demessieux died on November 11, 1968, due to cancer, in her Parisian apartment.

(This part of the text partly from Wikipedia and http://www.thediapason.com/legend-jeanne-demessieux-study)

 

She was Marcel Dupré's in my opinion master student and perhaps even surpassing him in some ways. Her sheer virtuosity and her ability to convey drama and music puts her no matter what in league with the best organists in the 20th century. Fortunately she recorded quite extensively and fortunately for us today most of her recordings have been reissued on CDs and online.

 

A note on the recordings:

 

Saint Mark's Church, London, 1947

Jeanne Demessieux recorded almost entirely for Decca Records and the two recordings from London presented here were some of her first made in 1947 and were recorded in Saint Mark's Church in London.

 

Victoria Hall in Geneva, 1953

Jeanne Demessieux recorded several times at Victoria Hall in Geneva. These two pieces presented here were recorded in September 1953 and released on Decca in 1954 on a 10 inch LP. Her version of the Toccata and fugue in d-minor is one of the most electrifying versions, it even rivals Alfred Sittards great rendition from 1928 in Hamburg.