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Dear Matre Tournemire


Nigel Simeone

Bangor Monographs in Musicology

First published in 2003

Edition, translation and commentary Nigel Simeone 2003

Bangor Monographs in Musicology

are published by the School of Music,
University of Wales Bangor, Bangor LL57 2DG

Charles Tournemire visited London in 1936, three years before
his death, to give a concert for the Organ Music Society, a BBC
broadcast, and a lecture at the Institut Franais. The
negotiations and arrangements for this trip are documented in
the exchange of thirty letters between Tournemire and Felix
Aprahamian, in his capacity as Hon. Secretary of the Organ
Music Society. Though many of the letters are concerned with
practical details of the visit, Tournemire also discusses some of
his finest music, notably LOrgue mystique.
My thanks are due above all to Felix Aprahamian, who
gave me access to the letters and encouraged me to publish
them. His memories of Tournemires visit to London in 1936
remained particularly sharp when I talked to him in 2001 and
2002, and he has been an invaluable source of additional
information, providing me with photocopies of his pocket diary
for 1936 as well as reminiscing in conversations.
A word about the title, which was chosen by Felix himself:
It will explain a teenage respect for the Matre whom I had first
addressed as Dear Sir in my first letter to him (letter no.1). By
1936 when I first addressed him as Dear Matre Tournemire
(letter no.20), I was already 21 years old and should have
known better (and addressed him as Cher Matre)!
Philip Weller has read the text and translations with his
customary care and I am extremely grateful to him for many
valuable suggestions and corrections. I must also thank Roy
Howat and Wendy Hiscocks, in whose Paris flat most of my
work on this monograph was done. It was completed during a
period of study leave from the School of Music at the
University of Wales, Bangor, and I am grateful to my colleagues
there, in particular to Prof. Robert Pascall whose generous and
enthusiastic support of this publication has been invaluable.

Nigel Simeone, March 2003


Tournemire, French Organists and The Organ Music Society

Charles Tournemire (18701939) was a student at the Paris
Conservatoire with Charles-Marie Widor and, most
significantly, with Csar Franck, whose class he attended in the
academic year 188990. In 1898 he succeeded Gabriel Piern
(another Franck pupil) as titulaire of the magnificent Cavaill-
Coll organ at Sainte-Clotilde in Paris, a post which Franck
himself had famously occupied for over thirty years, from 1858
until his death in 1890. Tournemire remained at Sainte-Clotilde
for four decades, until his death in 1939. As well as his own
remarkable achievements as a composer, Tournemire is also a
fascinating transitional figure in the history of French music: a
devoted disciple of Csar Franck (and the author of a book
about his great teacher), he was, in later years, to be an
inspiration to several younger musicians. His pupils included
Joseph Bonnet, Daniel-Lesur (who was even rumoured to have
been Tournemires illegitimate son), Maurice Durufl, Jean
Langlais, Gaston Litaize and Henriette Roget. While Olivier
Messiaen never studied with him formally, he was a great
admirer of Tournemires music and knew him well during the
1930s; and Tournemire, along with Dupr, Widor and Marchal,
was among those who wrote references for Messiaen when he
applied successfully for the post of titulaire at the Trinit in
1931. At Sainte-Clotilde, Tournemires improvisations were the
stuff of legend, and they were considered to be among the best
to be heard anywhere in Paris at the time. Fortunately, some of
these were preserved on record in 19301: they are precious
documents which enable us to hear how fine an improviser he
was the legend corroborated in sound. He also composed
large works for chorus and orchestra, eight symphonies, and
even opera (Les Dieux sont morts was staged at the Paris Opra
in March 1924); but it is his works for organ, especially LOrgue
mystique (192732), which were considered Tournemires most
original music during his lifetime, and which have secured his
reputation today.

Tournemire was one of many French organists to be invited
to play in London by the Organ Music Society (OMS) during
the 1930s. This remarkable organisation was founded in
London on 10 February 1931 with Archibald Farmer as
President, Nicholas Choveaux as Hon. Secretary and Treasurer,
and two additional committee members, C.H. Trevor and
Harvey Grace. The occasion on which the Society came into
being was a recital at St Peters, Eaton Square, given by C.H.
Trevor, which included works ranging chronologically from
Frescobaldi, through Buxtehude, to Rheinberger and Karg-
Elert. The aim of the OMS was to bring the widest range of
organ repertoire, performed by leading players, to a large
audience: according to a leaflet issued at the time, the Society
was formed with only one intention: to be a mechanism for
promoting organ recitals of the finest kind. It is not an
organists society. It is for the musical public, of which organists
and listeners are both part. Felix Aprahamian born in 1914
and thus still in his teens joined the Society on the day it was
formed (a receipt for his subscription of 5 shillings, stated to be
for his First Annual Subscription, Organ Music Society, signed
and dated February 1931 by Nicholas Choveaux, survives in
Aprahamians archives). Almost at once the young Aprahamian
became closely involved in the administrative work of the
OMS, as Assistant Secretary. In 1935, Choveaux remained a
committee member, while Aprahamian succeeded him as Hon.
Each year there were three series of concerts, in Spring,
Summer and Autumn, and each series usually consisted of
three or four recitals. While the OMS had been conceived at
Trevors recital in February 1931, its official inaugural recital
was given at St Mary Aldermary in Queen Victoria Street,
London, by the Societys President, Archibald Farmer, on 5 May
1931. The mixture of old and new repertoire, a consistent
feature of OMS programmes, was established from the start:
music by Arne, Bach, Franck, Zipoli, Nowowiejski and
Holbrooke made up the first half of Farmers recital, while the
second half consisted of one major work: the first performance
of Karg-Elerts Kaleidoscope op.143. The other two recitals in the

first series were given by Eric Brough (19 May 1931) and
George Thalben-Ball (3 June 1931). Thalben-Balls programme
in particular was a formidable one (beginning with Julius
Reubkes Sonata on the 94th Psalm and ending with Liszts Ad
nos, ad salutarem undam) and his enthusiasm for modern French
music is apparent from his inclusion of three of Henri Mulets
Esquisses Byzantines.
A week later, the OMS put on an additional event, the first
concert to be played by a visitor from abroad: this was a
Special Recital, on 10 June 1931, given by the Polish organist-
composer Felix Nowowiejski. On 16 June 1932, in the Fourth
Series, Thalben-Ball played works by Louis Vierne and Marcel
Dupr. His recital in the Ninth Series (8 February 1934, St
Pauls, Portman Square) included Francks Choral no.3, and
pieces by Joseph Jongen, Eugne Gigout, Joseph Bonnet and
Alexandre Cellier.
On 20 March 1934, at the Royal Albert Hall, the OMS, in
conjunction with the London Contemporary Music Centre, put
on A Concert of Modern Organ Works, given by four British
players (Percy Whitlock, Thalben-Ball, Norman Greenwood
and Herbert Murrill). The programme was an enterprising one,
with the premire of Howellss Organ Sonata (played by
Thalben-Ball) and a substantial French component including
Viernes Fantmes from the Pices de Fantaisie, Honeggers
Fugue (Whitlock), Roussels Prelude and Fughetta and
Tournemires Choral no.3 from LOrgue mystique
(Greenwood). According to the printed programme, the concert
should have ended with Murrill playing Milhauds Organ
Sonata, but, as Aprahamian recalls: Murrill found the MS copy
to be illegible, if not musical nonsense! Anyway, it was not the
kind of music he either liked or would dream of playing
himself. So he never played it, and the work was omitted from
the actual concert.
While music by French composers was established as a
regular feature of programmes during the early seasons of the
OMS, it was not until 1934 that overseas players started to
appear on a regular basis: in June 1934 the Viennese organist
Susi Hock (later Susi, Lady Jeans) appeared at St Mary Abbots,
Kensington, and the following month the Italian Fernando

Germani performed for the Society at the Alexandra Palace.
The concerts given in 19356 demonstrate the quality of the
performers invited to play, as well as the Societys increasingly
international outlook. The Thirteenth Series began with a recital
at St Albans, Holborn on 15 November 1935, given by Joseph
Bonnet, the titulaire of Saint-Eustache. The first half of Bonnets
recital was devoted to Some Forerunners of Bach (Andrea
Gabrieli, Byrd, Buxtehude, Frescobaldi, Sweelinck and
Couperin), while the second half opened with Bach and this
was followed by Guilmants Nol languedocien and Francks
Choral no.3. Less than a month later, on 10 December, came the
brilliant London dbut of Andr Marchal, titulaire at the time of
Saint-Germain-des-Prs, making the first of what were to
become many visits to London. This, too, was given on the
magnificent 1893 Father Willis instrument at St Albans
Holborn, where the organist was Reginald Goodall (later to
become Britains most distinguished Wagner conductor). The
organ was destroyed in a bombing raid during World War II, a
tragic end to one of the finest instruments Willis built for a
parish church.
Marchals programme included a Baroque first half
(Clrambault, Couperin, Daquin and Bach) and a second half
consisting of the Pastorale by Franck, Viernes Impromptu
(dedicated to Marchal), Tournemires Fantaisie Office de
lEpiphanie from LOrgue mystique (also dedicated to Marchal),
and, to conclude, an Improvisation in the form of a
Symphony, on themes specially composed by a distinguished
quartet of modern composers: Roussel, Sibelius, Jongen and
Vaughan Williams, all of whom had been signed up as
Honorary Members of the Society by the enterprising Felix
Aprahamian. Marchals playing caused something of a
sensation not only his apparently effortless command of an
unfamiliar instrument and his dazzling virtuosity, but also his
profound musicianship.
Just how fine a player Marchal was at the time, can be
heard on the records he made in 1935 for Path, using the
Gonzalez organ owned by M. and Mme Gouin (Bachs Nun
freut euch, lieben Christen gmein, BWV 734, and the Toccata,
Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV 564). The sureness of touch and

the rhythmical energy of the playing are extraordinary, but
perhaps even more remarkable is the sense of style this is
worlds away from the usual approach to Bach playing in the
1930s. In 2002, these wonderful performances were reissued by
EMI France in a five-CD set entitled Orgues et organistes franais
du XX sicle (CZS 5748662). This set also includes Bonnets

account of de Grignys Rcit de tierce en taille recorded in 1936,

Marchals 1948 recordings of Jehan Alain, and performances by
Fleury, Tournemire (the five improvisations and extracts from
LOrgue mystique), Durufl, Dupr and Cochereau, all of whom
gave recitals for the OMS.
In the years before the outbreak of World War II, several
other French organists appeared for the OMS: Bernard Gavoty
(later the critic Clarendon whose reviews and articles
appeared in Le Figaro, from 1945 to 1981) was a pupil of Marcel
Dupr and gave a recital at the Temple Church on 11 June 1936.
Four months later, on 20 October 1936, Nolie Pierront played
at St Johns, Red Lion Square when she was the first organist to
include music by Messiaen in an OMS recital (almost certainly
the first time any Messiaen had been heard in Britain). A few
weeks later, on the same organ, Marchal returned for a second
visit this time his concluding improvisation was based on
themes specially written for the occasion by Alan Bush, Walton,
Britten and Constant Lambert. In the recitals which followed up
to the outbreak of war, the OMS included performances by
Rene Nizan, Charles Letestu, Paul de Maleingreau (from
Brussels), Andr Fleury (who gave the British premire of four
pieces from Messiaens La Nativit du Seigneur at his recital in
the West London Synagogue on 9 December 1937) and Maurice
Durufl (Christ Church, Woburn Square on 8 November 1938,
in a programme which included the first complete performance
in London of his Suite op.5). Another important event arranged
by Felix Aprahamian though not under the aegis of the OMS
took place at St Albans Holborn on 25 June 1938: the London
dbut of Olivier Messiaen, who gave the first complete
performance in Britain of La Nativit du Seigneur.
The activities of the OMS were suspended during the war
years, but in 1946, the recitals started up again. Among the
earliest post-war visitors (in 1947) were Jeanne Demessieux,

Andr Marchal and Marcel Dupr. In 1949 Durufl appeared
again, and during the 1950s Dupr, Fleury and Demessieux all
returned, while Marchal gave a number of OMS concerts
throughout the 1950s and 60s. New French visitors at the OMS
after the war included Rolande Falcinelli in 1951, Pierre
Cochereau in 1959 and Gaston Litaize in 1966.
As we have seen, in addition to the regular pattern of three
series of recitals each year, the OMS occasionally put on special
events. One of these was the Louis Vierne Memorial Recital (at
the West London Synagogue on 26 October 1937), given by
Bernard Gavoty. He played the Symphony no.2, three of the
Pices de Fantaisie and, to conclude, Stle pour un enfant dfunt
from the Tryptique. Gavotys programme note explained that
although it is the custom to conclude with a work of virtuosity,
this moving piece [] has been chosen to terminate this recital
because it was also the last work played by Louis Vierne at his
recital on June 2nd 1937, a few moments before his death.

Tournemires Recital
Tournemires recital for the Organ Music Society was given at
St Albans, Holborn on 22 February 1936. It had been discussed
by Aprahamian and the composer for a couple of years before
anything firm came of their plans. Ever since he first
corresponded with Aprahamian, it was clear that the organist
of Sainte-Clotilde was eager to be heard in London and, in
particular, to give a BBC broadcast, although by the mid-1930s
Tournemire was playing almost exclusively at his own church,
and unlike his most gifted younger colleagues such as Dupr,
Marchal and Fleury he was no longer active as a touring
recitalist. So the OMS and the BBC were both arguably taking
something of a risk when they invited him to London; while his
strikingly original music was gradually becoming known
through performances at the OMS and elsewhere, and his
recorded improvisations were admired by those who had heard
them, he was something of an untried commodity as a recitalist.
How did Tournemires playing compare with that of his
French colleagues? In conversation, Felix Aprahamian has
recalled the considerable problems Tournemire had with the
mechanics of the instrument at St Albans during rehearsals

(especially the combination pedals), and observed that he never
really mastered these even during the recital itself, where the
stops occasionally only came half-way out, as a result of his
timid approach to the combination pedals. By the 1930s, such
was Tournemires devotion to his organ at Sainte-Clotilde, that
he was sometimes unable to give of his best on an unfamiliar
instrument. There was a striking contrast here with the
performance of another recent French visitor fresh in the OMS
audiences memory: the immediate familiarity and
inventiveness on the St Albans instrument demonstrated by
Andr Marchal, whose blindness presented no problem at all
when it came to making a rapid assessment of the organs sonic
and colouristic potential. From a purely technical point of view,
then, Tournemires playing was unremarkable, especially on an
instrument he did not know well. The repertoire for his recital
was, however, an interesting example of the kind of
programme which was typical of the concerts Tournemire
himself gave in Sainte-Clotilde as well as those of the OMS.
Archibald Farmers long review of the concert, published in the
April 1936 issue of The Musical Times, is reprinted as Appendix
2. The original printed programme of Tournemires recital is
reproduced in Appendix 3.

The TournemireAprahamian Correspondence
The letters from Charles and Alice Tournemire to Felix
Aprahamian are preserved in Aprahamians archives, as are
some carbon copies (and one hand-written draft) of
Aprahamians letters to Tournemire. All the surviving letters
are published here. They cover a range of subjects: fairly
detailed discussion of Tournemires works, his off-the-cuff
comments on colleagues (notably a swipe at dIndy and
affectionate reminiscences of the organist Lynnwood Farnam),
his considerable eagerness to be heard on the BBC, and his
general approach to matters such as programming, fees and
In the following transcriptions, opening and closing
formulas are given in the original French texts but not in the
English translations. Passages originally underlined have been
rendered in italics, as have titles, whether underlined or given
in quotation marks in the original letters, and capitalisation has
been standardised. Tournemires occasional use of eccentric or
antiquated spellings (pome, thme) has been silently altered
to conform to standard modern spellings. Unless otherwise
stated, Tournemires letters were sent from 4, rue Milne-
Edwards, Paris 17 , and Aprahamian's from his home in

Muswell Hill, North London.

Felix Aprahamian first became interested in Tournemires
music in 1933 and he wrote to the composers publisher Heugel
requesting information for an article he was planning to write.
The firms reply, dated 14 November 1933, concerns LOrgue
mystique, enclosing a copy of no.21 (dedicated to Lynnwood
Farnam) and including the following observation on the
musical style of the cycle:

Tous les morceaux de LOrgue mystique sont, comme vous pourrez vous
en rendre compte, simplement inspirs du chant grgorien, mais
paraphrass dune manire extrmement libre.

All the pieces in LOrgue mystique are, as you can see, straightforwardly inspired by
Gregorian chant, but paraphrased in an extremely free manner.

Aprahamian responded to this with a request for authorisation
to use music examples from LOrgue mystique in his planned
article. On 22 November 1933, Heugel replied, sending
Tournemires address (4, rue Milne-Edwards, Paris 17 ) and e

giving permission in principle for short music examples to be

included in Aprahamians article. The firms letter also included
a brief biographical sketch of Tournemire, which inexplicably
asserted that he had been a pupil of Csar Franck at the Paris
Conservatoire, then of Vincent dIndy, a piece of
misinformation which produced an entertainingly vigorous
response from the composer (see letter no.5). Following this
exchange, Aprahamian began to correspond with Tournemire
directly, and a draft of his first letter survives in his archives:

1. Aprahamian to Tournemire [draft, ?November 1933]

Dear Sir,
I trust you will forgive a complete stranger for approaching you in
this manner but I am compelled to it by two things. Firstly to express my
personal gratitude and sympathetic feelings for your monumental work
LOrgue mystique. When completed it will undoubtedly be one of the
great artistic achievements of our time. My own deeply-felt reactions to
this work of yours bring me to my second point.
With your kind permission I wish to discuss this work in an article
and appeal for your valuable assistance. I have already been in
communication with your publishers Messrs Heugel who have been so
kind as to send me a biographical note on your good self, also the Suite
dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Lynnwood Farnam about
which I enquired. These together with numbers 8, 17, 18, 21, 24, 25, 27
have enabled me to make a start with this article. There remain however
a few points in which I would be grateful for your help.

Tantalisingly, Aprahamians draft ends there. Both he and

Tournemire were to recall the brilliant organist Lynnwood
Farnam again in later letters, but Tournemires reply here
included a brief survey of his organ works to date, and an
eloquent account of his most important work.

2. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 12 December 1933
Cher Monsieur,
Je me suis fait traduire votre trs aimable lettre. Jy rponds sans
tarder. Et dabord, je suis heureux que LOrgue mystique vous plaise, et
ravi que vous vouliez bien lui consacrer une tude que vous me ferez
parvenir, nest-ce pas? Puisque vous avez dj les nos. 21, 8, 7, 18, 23, 25,
27, permettez-moi de vous offrir les nos. 1, 15, 26, 36, 37, 38.
Vous trouverez inclus une excellente tude trs brve sur mon
oeuvre. Cette tude est signe de P. Giriat, un des meilleurs lves de
dIndy. Elle pourra vous servir.
LO.mystique est un considrable ouvrage qui reprsente 15 heures
de musique divises en 51 offices 40 ont paru chez Heugel jusqu ce
jour - quant moi, jai termin cette oeuvre immense depuis bientt 2
ans. Elle se compose de pices crites dans diffrentes formes: Chorals,
Fantaisies, Fugues, Postludes, Rhapsodies, Alleluias, etc. Ces oeuvres
peuvent sexcuter non seulement lEglise, mais aussi au concert. La
langue va de la simplicit du XV sicle (en matire dorgue) jusqu la

polytonalit et prvoit des mariages de sonorits trs modernes

Dans son ensemble, lO.M. constitue une seule et mme encore
puis que, trs souvent, des thmes essentiels relient les offices entre eux.
En dehors de lO.M., jai crit pour lorgue un Triple Choral, une Pice
symphonique, des pices de fantaisie, Sei fioretti, Trois pomes.
Je vous envoie un programme dun concert que je donne Ste.
Clotilde o jai succd Csar Franck, comme vous devez le savoir. Je
serais trs dsireux de faire entendre lO.M. en Angleterre, ainsi que des
oeuvres anciennes et du Franck. Voyez-vous la possibilit de marranger
un concert en votre brillante socit?! Cela me ferait certainement plaisir.
Veuillez, cher Monsieur, accepter lexpression de mes sentiments
trs sympathiques.
Ch. Tournemire

I have had your very kind letter translated. I am replying to it without delay. Firstly,
I am glad that you like LOrgue mystique, and delighted that you want to write a
study about it, which you will send to me, Im sure. Since you already have the
numbers 21, 8, 7, 18, 23, 25, 27, please allow me to offer you nos. 1, 15, 26, 36, 37, 38.
You will find enclosed an excellent very short study of my work. It is written by P.
Giriat, one of the best pupils of dIndy. I imagine it may be useful to you. LO[rgue]
mystique is a considerable work, consisting of 15 hours of music divided into 51
offices 40 have so far been published by Heugel. For my part, I finished this
immense composition nearly two years ago. It consists of pieces written in different
forms: Chorals, Fantasias, Fugues, Postludes, Rhapsodies, Alleluias, etc. These pieces
can be performed not only in church, but also in concert. The language ranges from
the simplicity of the 15th century (in terms of the organ) right up to polytonality
and sometimes anticipates the very modern marriage of sonorities. Taken as a
whole, lO.M. constitutes a single work the more so since important themes often
bind the offices to each other. Apart from lO.M., I have written for organ a Triple

Chorale, a Pice symphonique, several Pices de fantaisie, Sei fioretti, Trois pomes. I am
sending you a programme of a concert I am giving at Ste Clotilde where I succeeded
Csar Franck, as Im sure you know. I would be very eager to perform lO.M. in
England, as well as early music and some Franck. Would you investigate the
possibility of arranging a concert for me at your brilliant society?! That would
certainly give me pleasure. []

Aprahamian sent a reply, now lost, thanking Tournemire for

his answer. Presumably he also mentioned the Cantilne, one of
the improvisations Tournemire had recorded at Sainte-Clotilde,
and the possibility of arranging a recital on the BBC. The
composer wrote back on 26 December 1933, reacting with
enthusiasm to the prospect of a broadcast.

3. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 26 December 1933

Cher Monsieur,
Votre mot et vos voeux de Nol me touchent. Recevez mes voeux, en
retour. Quant ce que vous dites pour la BBC, si vous pouvez
marranger quelque chose Londres, cela me fera certainement plaisir. Et,
par avance, je vous dis un grand merci.
Javais oubli de vous dire que la Cantilne-Improvisation est un
petit morceau improvis, donc pas not, et encore moins grav.
Veuillez, cher Monsieur, me croire votre bien sympathiquement
Ch. Tournemire

Your note and your Christmas greetings touched me. Please accept mine in return.
As for what you say about the BBC, if you are able to arrange something in London, I
would be absolutely delighted. And for this I send you many thanks in advance. I
forgot to tell you that the Cantilne-Improvisation is a little improvised piece, so it is not
even notated, let alone printed. []

Aprahamian was not alone in his enthusiasm for Tournemires

improvisations. Recorded for Polydor at Sainte-Clotilde in
April 1930 and in February and November 1931, they were
transcribed after Tournemires death by his pupil Maurice
Durufl and published as Cinq improvisations by Durand in
1958. In his next letter, Tournemire sent a short note on a piece
from LOrgue mystique for a concert at the OMS.

4. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 5 March 1934
Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Cest tout fait affectueux de tant travailler pour moi. Et dabord,
votre article sur lOrgue mystique auquel vous travaillez toujours ce qui
me touche beaucoup et que jai hte de recevoir.
Ensuite, votre dsir de me faire aller en Angleterre un moment
donn ce qui me serait fort agrable. Enfin, votre trs dlicate pense
davoir inscrit au programme de 20 mars le Choral no.3 (Suite 38) de
lOrgue mystique. Vous trouverez inclus sur la petite feuille part
quelques mots sur ce choral.
Vous serez tout fait gentil de me faire parvenir le programme.
En attendant le plaisir de vous lire, et de vous rencontrer en Angleterre,
je vous prie de croire, cher Monsieur Aprahamian, en ma reconnaissance
vive et en toute ma sincre amiti.
Charles Tournemire

[Tournemires note, enclosed:] Le Choral no.3, du XII Dimanche de la


Pentecte est extrait du cycle de 51 offices qui reprsentent lAnne

Liturgique commente lorgue. Cette oeuvre est de franche allure. Le
thme se droule largement, dans la pleine force de lorgue; la forme
affecte la Fantaisie. La pense directrice est base sur le texte suivant:
Christ, jai cri vers toi durant le jour et la nuit. Alleluia.

Its extremely kind of you to work so hard on my behalf. And first of all, your article
on LOrgue mystique on which you are still working that touches me very much,
and I cant wait to receive it. Then, your wish to bring me to England at some time in
the future that would be extremely agreeable. Finally, your very thoughtful idea of
including in the programme of 20 March the Choral no.3 (Suite 38) from LOrgue
mystique. You will find enclosed a small separate sheet with a few words about this
choral. It would be most kind of you to send me the programme. I look forward to
reading you, and meeting you in England []

[Tournemires note, enclosed:] The Choral no.3, of the 12th Sunday of Pentecost, is
taken from the cycle of 51 offices which are musical commentaries on Liturgical Year
for the organ. This work has a straightforward appeal. The theme unfolds broadly on
the full organ; the form is like a Fantasia. The guiding thought is based on the
following text: Christ, I have cried out to you during the day and during the night.

The next letter refers to the same OMS Concert of Modern
Organ Works which included Norman Greenwoods
performance of the Choral no.3 from LOrgue mystique. As
requested, Aprahamian sent Tournemire a copy of the
programme together with a newspaper review of the concert.
The biographical note in the programme about Tournemire
followed the information Aprahamian had been given by
Heugel in November 1933, stating that the composer was a
pupil of Franck and dIndy. Tournemires entertainingly robust
reaction makes it abundantly clear that this was not so.
5. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 28 March 1934
Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Merci mille fois de mavoir envoy le programme, et larticle de
journal se rapportant au concert dorgue du 20 mars dernier. Une simple
remarque: je ne suis pas lve de V. dIndy.
Cest une erreur, un faux renseignement.
Je naime gure ce musicien, trs froid!!
Jespre bien vous connatre un jour. Dans cet espoir je vous offre
mes amitis les plus chaudes.
Ch. Tournemire

A thousand thanks for the programme you sent me, and the newspaper article with a
review of the organ recital on 20 March last. One simple comment: I was not a pupil of
Vincent dIndy. Thats a mistake, a piece of wrong information. I have little liking for
this musician: very cold!! []

Friendly contact between the young Aprahamian and

Tournemire continued, and the two exchanged Christmas cards
at the end of 1934.

6. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 23 December 1934

[Printed greeting: Joyeux et gai Nol, bonne et heureuse anne] et tous
les bons souvenirs amicaux de Charles Tournemire. Dans lattente
dautres nouvelles C.T. serait heureux de pouvoir, un jour, se rendre en

[Happy Christmas, and a Happy New Year] and all good wishes from Charles
Tournemire. In the hope of hearing more news. C.T. would be delighted, one day, to
be able to visit England.

As we have seen, Tournemires music was already being
performed at the OMS, and in March 1935 he wrote once more
to express his gratitude for this, to pursue his own desire to
broadcast for the BBC, and to accept Aprahamians invitation to
become an Honorary Member of the Organ Music Society.

7. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 3 March 1935

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Je vous remercie beaucoup pour votre affectueuse lettre laquelle je
rponds point par point. Il mest trs agrable de constater que vous
vous occupez si activement de faire aboutir lorganisation ventuelle
dun rcital dorgue au BBC. Vous vous doutez bien que si, comme je
lespre, vous russisez, jaurai grande joie aller Londres pour me
faire entendre.
Vous me parlez galement de me produire dans Organ Music
Society. Certes, cela aussi est parfaitement acceptable pour moi; et, par
avance, vous pouvez minscrire comme membre honoraire de cette
Jattends donc le rsultat de vos dmarches. Conformment au dsir
que vous mexprimez daugmenter les documents me concernant, je
vous ferai parvenir, cette semaine, quelques programmes et un ou deux
articles supplmentaires. Jy joindrai ma photographie pour vous-mme,
comme vous me la demandez si aimablement.
Je ne veux pas terminer ce mot sans vous remercier de lenvoi du
programme dAngleterre. A bientt, et croyez-moi, cher Monsieur
Aprahamian, votre tout dvou
Charles Tournemire

Thank you very much for your kind letter, to which I will respond point by point: It
is very agreeable for me to see how actively you are working to bring about
eventually the arrangements for a recital at the BBC. If you succeed, as I hope, you
can well imagine that I shall have great joy in coming to London. You also mention
the possibility of my doing something for the Organ Music Society. Certainly I would
be happy to do that; and before that you may of course enrol me as an honorary
member of this Society. And so I await the outcome of your negotiations. With
reference to your wish to have more documentation about me, I will send you this
week some programmes and one or two additional articles. I will also enclose the
photograph of me which you so kindly requested. I dont want to end this note
without thanking you for sending me the programme from England. []

A few months later Tournemire wrote again, this time from his
summer retreat at the Ile dOuessant, Finistre, announcing the
completion and first performance of his latest major work, Sept
Chorals-Pomes (originally entitled Sept Pomes-Chorals and
first performed at Sainte-Clotilde on 6 June 1935, by the
composer), wondering whether Aprahamian might be able to
help find him a London publisher for it, and asking once more
about the chances of a broadcast.

8. Tournemire to Aprahamian, Ile dOuessant, 31 July 1935

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Il y a longtemps que je nai eu de vos nouvelles. Vous seriez aimable
de men donner. Jimagine que vous devez tre en vacances et il est
probable que ce mot ira vous joindre assez loin de London.
Pourriez-vous me donner le nom et ladresse dun ou plusieurs
diteurs de musique de London qui seraient susceptibles de sintresser
la musique pour grand orgue?
Je viens de composer 7 Pomes-Chorales pour les 7 paroles du Christ.
Jen ai donn une premire audition sur mon orgue de Ste. Clotilde il y a
quelques semaines. Il me serait trs agrable dtre dit en Angleterre,
surtout cette oeuvre. Si vous connaissez particulirement une grande
maison ddition anglaise, pouvez-vous me rendre le service de vous
informer si mon oeuvre pourrait la sduire?
Je suis toujours dans laffectueux souvenir de votre dsir de me faire
jouer au BBC. Pensez-vous que quelque chose pourra sarranger pour
moi, en octobre ou novembre prochains? Ce me serait ainsi loccasion de
vous connatre, ce dont je serai bein enchant, vous, si dvou ma
Dans lattente de vos nouvelles, je vous prie, cher Monsieur
Aprahamian, de me croire toujours votre tout dvou et cordial
Charles Tournemire

I havent heard anything from you for a long time. It would be very kind of you to
send me your news. I imagine that you might well be on holiday and so its likely
that this letter will reach you quite a long way away from London. Could you let me
have the names of one or more music publishers in London who might be likely to
take an interest in organ music? I have just composed 7 Pomes-Chorales pour les 7
paroles du Christ, a work of which I gave the first performance on my organ at Sainte-
Clotilde a few weeks ago. It would be very agreeable for me to be published in
England, especially this work. If you know particularly any large publishing house,
could you do me the favour of discovering whether my work might be likely to
appeal to them? I still have a fond memory of your wish that I should play at the
BBC. Do you think anything might be arranged during next October or November?
That would give me the opportunity to meet you, something I shall be delighted to
do you who display such devotion to my music. []

The next letter from the Tournemire household was written by
Alice, the composers wife, who was charged with answering
his letters while he was away on a concert tour in Spain. She
deals with a few practical matters, such as Tournemires fee,
possible dates, and travel arrangements, and offers further
thoughts on the matter of a London publisher.

9. Alice Tournemire to Aprahamian, Ile dOuessant, 16 August 1935

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Mon mari vient de partir pour lEspagne, o des concerts le
retiendront encore deux semaines.
Moccupant de la correspondance du Matre, en son absence, je
rponds avec plaisir votre lettre reue ce matin.
Je puis vous dire dune manire certaine, que vous pouvez fixer
vous-mme la date de la venue Londres, jusquau 30 novembre inclus.
Ceci vous permet dorganiser son rcital votre Socit, au moment qui
vous convient le mieux.
Ainsi, il est facile de faire une proposition au BBC galement.
Quant aux conditions, elles sont de trois mille francs, et tous les frais
de voyage (chemin de fer, htel, etc.) en plus (pour le BBC).
Donnez-nous dans votre prochaine lettre quelques dtails plus
prcis, sur lorganisation de vos concert[s] lOMS.
Pour la question des diteurs, le Matre sera intress de recevoir la
liste des noms et adresses des diteurs que vous vous proposez de lui
envoyer, de plus, il sera trs sensible aux dmarches que vous comptez
faire auprs de vos amis qui sont dans ldition musicale.
Je ne veux pas terminer cette lettre, sans vous dire combien le
Matre ma souvent parl de votre dvouement son art.
Croyez, cher Monsieur, lexpression de mes meilleurs sentiments.
Alice Ch. Tournemire

My husband has just left for Spain, where he will be busy with concerts for another
two weeks. As I am dealing with the Matres correspondence while he is away, I am
pleased to reply to your letter received this morning. I can tell you for certain that
you can fix the date yourself for the visit to London, up until 30 November inclusive.
That will allow you to organise the concert at your Society at the most convenient
moment. So, it will equally be easy to make a proposal to the BBC. As for the terms,
they are: three thousand francs, plus all travel expenses (railway, hotel, etc.) on top
(for the BBC). In your next letter, please send us more precise details about the
organisation of your concerts at the OMS. On the matter of publishers, the Matre
will be very interested to receive the list of names and addresses which you are
offering to send him. Moreover, he will be very aware of the steps you are intending
to take with your friends who are involved in music publishing. I dont want to end
this letter without telling you how often the Matre has spoken to me of your
devotion to his art. []

By October, Tournemire was back in Paris, and plans were
progressing. The issue of what he considered an adequate fee
was uppermost in the composers mind; and he clearly
approved of Aprahamians suggestion that an appearance at an
OMS concert could be helpful in securing a BBC broadcast.

10. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 23 October 1935

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian
Je vous remercie pour votre aimable lettre reue ce soir. Jai t trs
intress par ce que vous me dites, et comme vous me le demandez, je
vais vous donner mon opinion sur la question: Si vous croyez que, pour
faciliter un engagement probable du BBC il suffit que vous leur assuriez ma
venue Londres, nhsitez pas le leur dire; mais, bien entendu, et entre
nous, sans un engagement du BBC, il mest impossible de me dplacer
pour la trop modique somme de cinq guineas offerte par votre Socit,
qui mest si sympathique. Ce qui serait loin de couvrir les frais de
voyage, dhtel, etc., sans compter limpossibilit de compenser ce quen
une journe je ralise Paris!
Tenez-moi au courant, ds que vous aurez des nouvelles prcises
me concernant. Votre empressement me touche beaucoup, et jespre
que nous raliserons ce projet bientt, ce qui me sera loccasion de vous
connatre. Etant prvenu lavance, je pourrais marranger pour me
rendre libre.
Bien sympathiquement vous.
Charles Tournemire

Thank you for your kind letter which I received this evening. I was very interested
by what you say, and since you have asked for it, I will give you my opinion on the
question: if you think that, to enable a likely engagement by the BBC to be secured it would
be sufficient for you to assure them that I will be coming to London anyway, do not hesitate to
say this to them, though, of course, between ourselves, without a BBC engagement, it
would be impossible for me to travel to London for the really too modest fee of five
guineas offered by your Society, which is so kind to me. This would fall a long way
short of covering the expenses of travel, the hotel, etc., without taking into account
the impossibility of compensating for what I can earn in a single day in Paris! Keep
me informed as soon as you have any more precise news concerning me. Your
attentiveness touches me greatly, and I hope we will soon be able to bring this project
together, which will give me the opportunity to meet you. Given advance notice, I
would be able to make arrangements to be free. []

Aprahamian evidently sent Tournemire some advice on the
best way to proceed with the BBC, and the composer was
obviously delighted when informed that Andr Marchal was
going to play at his forthcoming OMS recital the piece from
LOrgue mystique which Tournemire had dedicated to him.

11. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 17 November 1935

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Par le mme courrier, jcris au BBC, suivant vos instructions. Elles
sont excellentes, et je les ai suivies point par point. Jai t trs sensible
votre pense trs dlicate de demander au jeune Marchal de mettre son
programme la Fantaisie de lEpiphanie de LOrgue mystique. Je suis
content que vous ayez ainsi loccasion de lentendre; il la colore
Ci-inclus la petite notice que vous me demandez sur ma Fantaisie
pour le programme du concert de Marchal du 10 dcembre.
Ds que jaurai une rponse du BBC, je vous la ferai naturellement
connatre. En attendant, je vous renouvelle tous mes meilleurs
remerciements et vous adresse mon bien cordial souvenir.
Charles Tournemire

[Tournemires note, enclosed:]

Fantaisie Charles Tournemire. Extraite de lOffice de lEpiphanie, Orgue
mystique Livre VII (Heugel, diteur, Paris)
Cette Fantaisie se divise en trois priodes. Elle affecte la forme
libre de ce genre de composition; base sur deux thmes grgoriens
essentiels, elle comporte une troisime ide loffice Ad Matutinem de
Pques. Brillante comme une toile, elle commente la pense dominante de
la fte de lEpiphanie: Nous avons vu son toile en Orient, et nous
sommes venus, avec des prsents, adorer le Seigneur. Note de lauteur.
By the same post, I am writing to the BBC, following your instructions. These are
excellent and I have followed them point by point. I was most appreciative of your
very thoughtful idea of asking young Marchal to put on his programme the
Fantaisie de lEpiphanie from LOrgue mystique. I am happy that you will thus have
the opportunity to hear it. He colours it picturesquely. Enclosed is the short note
which you asked me for about my Fantaisie for the programme of the concert by
Marchal to be given on 10 December. As soon as I hear from the BBC, I will of course
let you know.

[Tournemires note, enclosed:] Fantaisie Charles Tournemire. From the Office for
the Epiphany Orgue mystique Book VII (published by Heugel, Paris). This Fantasia
is in three sections. It uses the free form of this type of composition; based on two
main Gregorian themes, it also includes a third idea from the Office Ad Matutinem
for Easter.Shining like a star, it comments on the dominant thought of the Feast of the
Epiphany: We have seen His star in the East, and we came with gifts to adore the
Lord. Note by the composer.

December saw a flurry of letter-writing chez Tournemire. The
composer had heard from the BBC, who refused to pay the fee
of fifty guineas (52.50) which he had requested, offering thirty
guineas instead. He also mentioned Marchals recital which
included the Fantaisie.

12. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 1 December 1935

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Je vous fais savoir que le BBC vient de me rpondre. Le cachet
demand par moi de 50 guineas lui semble trop lev! On me propose 30
guineas seulement. De mon ct, je rponds quil est souhaitable quun
arrangement bas sur une double concession puisse nous mettre
daccord. Jindique: 40 guineas.
Jespre bien, quainsi, tout sarrangera facilement au mieux de nos
dsirs. Dans lespoir de vous rencontrer bientt Londres, ce dont je me
rjouis par avance, je vous offre mon amical souvenir.
Charles Tournemire.
Je viens de recevoir le programme du concert de M. Whitlock. Jai
vu aussi lannonce de celui de Marchal avec les noms des auteurs quil
interprtera. Jespre que vous avez bien reu ma notice sur la pice de

This is to inform you that I have just heard from the BBC. The fee of 50 guineas
which I asked for is apparently too high for them. They are offering me only 30
guineas. For my part, I have said that a compromise by both sides is desirable so that
we can reach an agreement. I have suggested 40 guineas. I really hope that
everything can now be arranged easily to achieve what we wish for. In the hope that
I may soon meet you in London, something about which I rejoice in advance, I send
you my best wishes [] I have just received the programme of Mr. Whitlocks
concert. Ive also seen the announcement for Marchals, with the names of the
composers he will play. I hope you have already received my note on the Epiphany

A week later, Tournemire returned to the matter of his dealings
with the BBC, informing Aprahamian that he had reluctantly
accepted their revised offer of thirty-five guineas (36.75),
claiming that this was a good deal less than his usual fees. But
this is perhaps unlikely, given how few recitals Tournemire had
in fact undertaken away from Sainte-Clotilde in the recent past.
However, another proposal had arrived in connection with his
London visit which cheered him: an invitation from Madame
Michaut, director of the Institut Franais, to give a lecture.

13. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 8 December 1935

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Je vous ai adress 2 exemplaires de lO.M., que vous avez
certainement reu. Le BBC vient de me faire savoir quil ne peut
dpasser la modeste somme de 35 guineas! Cest bien peu, tant donns
mes cachets habituels; nanmoins, jaccepte ce cachet! Je leur fait savoir
que je serai Londres entre le 21 et le 25 fvrier 1936.
Remarquez que jai t dans lobligation de reculer un peu les dates
que vous mavez envoyes, par suite de la proposition de Madame
Michaut que jaccepte avec plaisir, et dont je vous remercie, car cela
mintressera beaucoup.
Ds que jaurai et cela ne saurait tarder des prcisions de dates
du BBC je vous les ferai connatre. Jespre que tout sarrangera trs bien.
Rien ne me parat plus simple maintenant. Je vous redis toute ma
sympathie et le plaisir vritable de faire bientt votre connaissance.
En toute cordialit.
Charles Tournemire.
Veuillez bien faire parvenir la lettre incluse Madame Michaut.

I have sent you two copies of lO[rgue] M[ystique] which you should certainly have
received by now. The BBC has just informed me that it cannot go beyond the modest
fee of 35 guineas! Its really not much, compared with my usual fees. Nevertheless I
have accepted this fee! I have told them that I will be in London between 21 and 25
February 1936. Note that I have been obliged to put back somewhat the dates you
first suggested to me as a result of Madame Michauts offer which I accept with
pleasure, and for which I thank you, since it interests me very much. As soon as I
have precise dates from the BBC and that should not take long I will let you
know. I hope that everything will then work out for the best. Nothing seems simpler
now.[] Please be so kind as to forward the enclosed letter to Madame Michaut.

Tournemire thereupon took to his bed for a few days, so it was
Alice who wrote the next two letters to Aprahamian, on
consecutive days. The first quotes the letter from the BBC dated
5 December and grumbles about the fact that there has, to date,
been no response from the BBC to Tournemires request for an
urgent reply noting furthermore that another letter had been
sent to London asking for an answer by return. Alice also sends
Aprahamian the title of Tournemires lecture and thanks him
for the copy of Marchals programme.

14. Alice Tournemire to Aprahamian, 19 December 1935

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Mon mari tant alit pour quelques jours seulement, se trouve
empch de faire sa correspondance.
Prenant connaissance de lchange de vos lettres, je crois devoir
vous mettre au courant de celui du BBC et du Matre.
Voici la dernire lettre date du 5 dc du BBC:
In reply to your further letter of December 1st, we very much regret
that we cannot see our way to increase our offer of thirty-five guineas for
a proposed broadcast when you are in England during February next.
This, of course, is taking into account the fact that you will not be
making a special visit to London, since we understand that you will be
coming over to play for the Organ Music Society.
Il leur t rpondu, que les 35 guineas taient accepts, que nous
serions Londres du 21 au 25 inclus et que nous dsirions savoir le jour
et lheure de lmission, et naturellement confirmation sur tous ces
points, ainsi que lacceptation du programme.
De plus, nous demandions une rponse presse.
Le 15, nayant rien reu, nous avons crit nouveau demandant une
rponse par retour.
Encore une fois nous sommes sans nouvelles.
Voyez-vous le moyen dobtenir ce renseignement ce qui est
important cest dtre fix sur le jour choisi par eux.
Auriez-vous lobligeance de faire savoir Mme Michaut que ds
que nous serons fix, elle en sera avis par le Matre. La confrence aura
pour titre: LOrgue et son dveloppement travers les sicles, sa littrature, et
lart de limprovisation auditions de disques (disques que nous
Nous vous remercions pour lenvoi du programme de Marchal, et
pour la belle notice de la pice de lEpiphanie.
Avec le cordial souvenir de mon mari, et lexpression de mes
sentiments les meilleurs.
A. Ch. Tournemire

My husband is in bed for a few days, and so is unable to deal with his
correspondence. Knowing about the exchange of letters between you, I thought I
should keep you up to date about that between the BBC and the Matre. Here is the
latest letter, dated 5 December, from the BBC: In reply to your further letter of
December 1st, we very much regret that we cannot see our way to increase our offer
of thirty-five guineas for a proposed broadcast when you are in England during
February next. This, of course, is taking into account the fact that you will not be
making a special visit to London, since we understand that you will be coming over
to play for the Organ Music Society. He replied to them, saying that the 35 guineas
are acceptable, that we will be in London from the 21st to the 25th inclusive, and that
we would like to know the day and time of the broadcast and of course requesting
confirmation of all these points, as well as agreement about the programme.
Moreover, we asked for a quick answer. On the 15th and having hear nothing, we
wrote again asking for a reply by return. But still we are without news. Can you see a
way of obtaining this information? What is important is to confirm the date chosen
by them. Please could you inform Mme Michaut that, as soon as arrangements are
fixed, she will be advised by the Matre. The title of the lecture will be: The Organ and
its Development over the Centuries, its Repertoire, and the Art of Improvisation with
extracts of recorded music (from records which we will bring with us). Thank you for
sending the Marchal programme, and for the excellent note on the Epiphany piece.

The very next day, a letter arrived from the BBC and this
development was duly reported by Alice to Aprahamian. She
was clearly not pleased by what she saw as the BBCs lack of
respect for Tournemire, nor by their inability to give a date.

15. Alice Tournemire to Aprahamian, 20 December 1935

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Une nouvelle lettre du BBC vient darriver; dont voici copie:
We must apologise for the delay in replying to your letter of Dec
8th. We have also to acknowledge receipt of your further letter of the
15th. With regard to your visit to England in February, we are afraid it is
not possible at the moment to say anything definite as to the date for
your proposed broadcast, or the programme. Arrangements for the
period in question will be completed in a week or two and we shall not
fail to communicate with you when details can be decided upon. We are
very glad that the suggested fee of thirty-five guineas will be acceptable
to you.
Elle nest pas lgante comme vous pouvez en juger vous-mme; ils
ignorent sans doute ce quest exactement Mr. Tournemire!
En prsence de cette lettre, voyez-vous la possibilit, ainsi que Mme
Michaut, dattendre une ou deux semaines afin dtre fix du ct du
BBC dabord. Dans le cas contraire, cest dire si les dates indiques par
vous ne peuvent pas tre dplaces, nous devrons alors prendre en
considration vos efforts si dvous afin de rsoudre le problme au

mieux de nos dsirs rciproques.
En attendant le plaisir de vous lire, je vous envoie les bons
souvenirs du Matre, ainsi que lexpression de mes sentiments
A. Ch. Tournemire

Another letter has just arrived from the BBC, of which I send you this copy: We
must apologise for the delay in replying to your letter of Dec 8th. We have also to
acknowledge receipt of your further letter of the 15th. With regard to your visit to
England in February, we are afraid it is not possible at the moment to say anything
definite as to the date for your proposed broadcast, or the programme.
Arrangements for the period in question will be completed in a week or two and we
shall not fail to communicate with you when details can be decided upon. We are
very glad that the suggested fee of thirty-five guineas will be acceptable to you. It is
not exactly gracious, as you can see for yourself. They are no doubt unaware of who
exactly M. Tournemire is! In view of this letter, do you, and Mme Michaut as well,
see the possibility of waiting one or two weeks so that things can be fixed with the
BBC first? In the event of this not being possible, and if the dates indicated by you
cannot be altered, we would of course take into consideration all your dedicated
efforts to resolve the problem to our mutual benefit. []

Tournemire himself wrote with evident relief two days later on

learning that Aprahamian had been in touch with the BBC
(though there was still no firm date for a broadcast). For the
first time, he also sent Aprahamian a draft programme for his
forthcoming recital at the Organ Music Society.

16. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 22 December 1935
Mon cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Je suis trs satisfait dapprendre par votre lettre la date de mon
mission que vous a t communique par le BBC. Je nai pas encore reu
confirmation de cette date, mais, daprs le renseignement prcis que
vous venez davoir, nous pouvons maintenant organiser lensemble de
nos manifestations artistiques. Je ne puis envisager un sjour de plus de
5 6 jours Londres; vous le comprendrez vous-mme trs aisment.
Puisque le BBC a fix mon mission au 21 fvrier, songez que si je jouerai
votre socit le 19, je serais dans lobligation de me trouver Londres
le 17, ce qui prolongerait trop mon sjour, cause de la confrence du 25.
Consquemment, comme le mardi a t choisi pour vos deux derniers
concerts (comme je lai appris par les 2 programmes prcdents) je vous
demande davoir la bont dorganiser le mien le mardi 25 (soir de ma
confrence) ou le Samedi, Dimanche ou Lundi prcdents, car je devrai
regagner Paris le 26.
Croyez bien que je fais pour le mieux, et pour tout vous dire, cette
poque-l, jaurai prparer une importante audition de mes lves au
Conservatoire. Je comprends trs bien votre dsir de vouloir que je joue
en premier lieu votre socit; mais, dites-vous que laudition du BBC
aura un caractre tout diffrent dun concert en public. Ci-inclus mon
programme pour lOMS. La dure est de: 1h 10 environ, y compris
limprovisation. Merci pour la publicit que vous allez entreprendre: elle
sera certainement trs bien faite.
Merci aussi pour toute votre gentillesse et votre dvouement. Cela
me touche beaucoup. Je vous dis donc: a bientt. Bien cordialement
Charles Tournemire

[Draft programme enclosed:]

1. Fantaisie et Fugue (sol mineur) Peters Band II J.S. Bach
2. a. Toccata (pour llvation) G. Frescobaldi
b. Fugue modale D. Buxtehude
3. III Choral
Csar Franck
4. a. Communion (Mystic Organ, Book 35) Charles Tournemire
b. Offertoire (des Petites Fleurs musicales)
5. Paraphrase-Carillon (Mystic Organ, Book 35)
6. Symphonie-Choral improvise
(sur un thme donn par Xxxx, de lassistance)

I was very happy to learn from your letter that you have been contacted by the BBC.
I still have not received confirmation of this date, but after the precise information
you have just had, we can now organise all of our plans for these artistic events. I
cannot envisage a stay in London of more than five or six days; you will easily
understand the reasons for that. Since the BBC has fixed my broadcast for 21
February, you should remember that if I play for your Society on the 19th, I would
need to be in London on the 17th, which would unduly prolong my stay because of the
lecture [at the Institut] on the 25th. Consequently, since a Tuesday has been chosen for
your last two concerts (as I see from the two latest programmes) I wonder if you
would be kind enough to organise mine on Tuesday the 25th (the evening of my
lecture) or on the preceding Saturday, Sunday or Monday, as I have to make the
journey back to Paris on the 26th. I am doing all this for the best, and, to tell you
everything, I have to prepare an important concert by my pupils at the Conservatoire
at the same time. I understand very well your wish that I should play in the first
place for your Society, but do you say that the BBC broadcast will have a rather
different character from a public concert? Enclosed is my programme for the OMS.
The duration is approximately 1 hour 10 minutes, including the improvisation.
Thank you for all the publicity you are going to undertake: I am sure it will be very
well done. Thank you also for all your kindness. [] [Draft programme enclosed: see
above; ending with an improvised Symphonie-Choral on a theme to be supplied by a
member of the audience.]

Tournemire was delighted to get a contract at last from the

BBC, with a firm date and time, and he was now in a position to
make more definite plans concerning the dates for his lecture at
the Institut Franais and for his OMS recital, for which he
enclosed a (considerably) revised programme.

17. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 5 January 1936

Mon cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Enfin, je viens de recevoir le contrat du BBC.
La date de lmission est fixe au lundi 24 fvrier, de 7h 45 8h 30 du
soir. Voil donc le point principal acquis. Ceci dit, le maximum dabsence
ne peut, en aucun cas, dpasser 6 jours, cause de mes cours au
Je serai donc Londres le jeudi soir 20 fvrier jusquau mardi 25
inclus. Vous avec donc le choix de vendredi 21 fvrier, du samedi 22, du
dimanche 23, du mardi 25, pour le concert de lOMS. Notez que le mardi
25 sera le jour de la confrence lInstitut 3h 15 ce qui me permettrait
de jouer le soir lOMS.
Faites pour le mieux.
Vous trouverez inclus le nouveau programme. Je lai sensiblement
modifi. Il y a cinquante minutes doeuvres crites, environ; le reste sera
consacr limprovsation.
Je suis bien enchant lide de vous connatre autrement que par la
correspondance. Croyez toute ma sympathie et mon contentement du
projet enfin ralis de jouer Londres. Vous avez t tenace et vraiment

charmant. Bien cordialement
Charles Tournemire

[Revised programme enclosed:]

Fantaisie et Fugue in G minor J.S. Bach
Tiento VII Johannis Cabanilles (16441712)
Paso XIII P.N. Casanoves (17471799)
II Choral
Csar Franck
Pome-Choral no.2 Ch. Tournemire
Hodie mecum eris in paradis
Alleluia no.5 (Mystic Organ, Book 33)
Symphonie-Choral (improvise sur un thme donn)

At last I have just received the contract from the BBC. The broadcast is fixed for
Monday 24 February from 7.45 to 8.30 p.m. This, then, is the main issue sorted out.
That said, my maximum absence away cannot under any circumstances exceed six
days, because of my teaching at the Conservatoire. I will therefore be in London from
the evening of Thursday 20 February until Tuesday 25 February inclusive. So you have
the choice of Friday 21 February, Saturday 22, Sunday 23 or Tuesday 25 for the OMS
concert. Note that Tuesday the 25th is the day of my talk at the Institut at 3.15, which
would enable me to play that evening for the OMS. Please arrange things as you
think best. You will find enclosed a new recital programme. I have modified it
considerably. There are about fifty minutes of written pieces, and the rest will be
devoted to the improvisation. I am delighted by the idea of getting to know you
other than by correspondence. [Revised programme enclosed: see above]

Together with his long letter of 11 January, Tournemire sent a

photograph and details of his recital programme for the BBC
(the title of the Bach piece given in endearingly shaky German),
as well as asking about the identity of the Mr. Lewis who was
to provide the themes for the improvisation at the BBC.
Tournemire also provided Aprahamian with a list of his major
works to help with the articles that were to be written about his
visit to London.

18. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 11 January 1936
Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Vous allez recevoir, par le plus prochain courrier, la photographie
que vous venez de me demander.
Je nai pu avoir le clich, mais certainement avec ce que je vous
envoie, la reproduction sera facile. Cest du reste ainsi que lon fit au
Monde musical, et cest trs bien, comme vous avez pu vous en rendre
Au BBC je jouerai:
Choral: O Mensche Bewein dein Snde gross J.S. Bach
Grande pice symphonique C. Franck
En tout, 40 minutes dorgue (cest le temps demand).
Connaissez-vous M. Lewis? Cest lui qui doit me donner le thme
ou les thmes, le jour mme de laudition, et au moment mme,
Merci infiniment pour tout ce que vous vous proposez de faire pour
annoncer ma venue Londres. Cela me touche et je vois en vous un ami
vritable. Jattends la date choisie par vous et votre socit. Sera-ce sur
lorgue o a jou M. Marchal? Cet instrument est sympathique.
Pour les articles que vous voulez bien faire pour prparer ma venue
Londres, vous pourriez peut-tre citer quelques ouvrages de moi,
450 pices dorgue (O. mystique, 2me Symphonie dorgue, 7 Pomes-
Chorals, un Triple choral)
pour lorchestre: 8 Symphonies
2 Psaumes, orchestre et choeurs
un Pome pour orgue et orchestre
une grande trilogie: Faust, Don Quichotte, St Franois dAssise
(orchestre, choeurs, rcits)
LApocalypse de S. Jean (orchestre, choeurs, rcits)
3 drames lyriques, dont: La lgende de Tristan
de la musique de chambre
de la musique de piano
de chant, etc. etc.
Ces oeuvres ont t joues: lOpra de Paris, Strasbourg, Berlin,
Amsterdam, Moscou, etc. etc.
Jai dit Madame Michaut, la directrice de lInstitut Franais
Londres, que japporterai avec moi des disques pris Ste Clotilde, dans
des improvisations de moi. Ce sera, je crois, une bonne manire
dillustrer ma confrence.
A bientt, cher Monsieur Aprahamian. Bien cordialement vous.
Charles Tournemire

You will receive, by the very next post, the photograph which you have asked me

for. I havent been able to get hold of the negative, but what I am sending you should
be easy to reproduce. It is moreover what they used at the Monde musical, and it
works well, as you will be aware. At the BBC I will play: Choral: O Mensch, bewein
dein Snde gross J.S. Bach; Grande pice symphonique C. Franck; Improvisation.
40 minutes of organ playing in total (the amount of time requested). Do you know
Mr Lewis? It is he who will give me the theme or themes on the day of the broadcast,
and of course at the very moment during the recital. Thank you so much for
everything you are offering to do to prepare my arrival in London. That touches me
and I find in you a true friend! I await to hear the date chosen for my recital by your
Society. Will that be on the organ which M. Marchal played? That is a pleasing
instrument. For the articles which you want to write in preparation for my visit to
London, you would perhaps like to know about some of my works, in particular: 450
pieces for organ (O[rgue] mystique, Symphony no.2 for organ, 7 Pomes-Chorales, a
Triple choral), 8 Symphonies for orchestra, 2 Psalms for chorus and orchestra, a Pome
for organ and orchestra, a large trilogy: Faust, Don Quichotte, St Franois dAssise
(orchestra, choir, soloists), The Apocalypse of St John (orchestra, chorus, soloists), 3
lyric dramas, including La lgende de Tristan, chamber music, piano music, songs, etc.
etc. These works have been performed at the Opra de Paris, in Strasbourg, Berlin,
Amsterdam, Moscow, etc. etc. I have said to Madame Michaut, Director of the
Institut Franais in London, that I will bring the records made at Ste Clotilde with my
improvisations on them. I think that will be a good way of illustrating my lecture.

Just over a week later, Tournemire wrote to inform

Aprahamian that he had finished writing his lecture, and to ask
once more about the date and venue of the OMS recital.

19. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 20 January 1936

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Jespre que vous avez reu ma photographie ainsi que ma dernire
lettre? Voulez-vous avoir lobligeance, ds que vous le pourrez, de me
faire parvenir la date de mon concert The Organ Music Society? Si le
concert doit avoir lieu sur lorgue o Marchal a jou, ne vous donnez pas
la peine de menvoyer la composition de lorgue, car jai conserv le
programme sur lequel elle se trouve (1).
Jai termin la rdaction de ma confrence pour lInstitut Franais.
Dans lattente dun mot de vous, je vous redis, cher Monsieur
Aprahamian, mon sympathique souvenir et je me rjouis lide de vous
connatre autrement que par correspondance
Charles Tournemire.
(1) Dans le cas contraire faites-moi parvenir la composition de
lorgue choisi par votre socit.

I hope you have recieved my photograph as well as my last letter? Please would you
be kind enough, as soon as you can, to send me the date of my concert at the Organ
Music Society? If the concert is going to take place on the organ which Marchal
played, dont go to the trouble of sending me the specification of the organ, since I
have kept the programme on which that is to be found (if this is not the case, please
send me the specification of the organ chosen by your Society). I have finished
writing my lecture for the Institut Franais. I am waiting to hear a word from you

Aprahamian was now in a position to send Tournemire firm

information concerning the forthcoming concert tour, and did
so by return. He comments enthusiastically on Tournemires
choice of programme, tells the composer something about Mr
Lewis (later Sir Anthony Lewis), outlines the articles that are
likely to appear to herald the visit, issues a friendly caveat about
the BBC organ, and offers in addition to translate the text of
Tournemires lecture, and to help with practical matters like

20. Aprahamian to Tournemire, 21 January 1936

Dear Matre Tournemire,
Everything is planning out well. I have to thank you for two letters
and the photograph which you so kindly sent. At last I have been able to
secure St Albans Church, Holborn, for your recital. It has been arranged
for 8.45 p.m. on Saturday, February 22nd. I note that you already have
the specification of the organ, but with my next letter I will send a
diagram of the console and a list of the fixed combinations on the
combination pedals.
The programme: we are all delighted with your choice of pieces. It
there are any notes of the Spanish pieces or on your own two works
which you would like to appear on the printed programme please do
send me them. You may judge from the Marchal programme how much
room there is for programme notes.
BBC: Mr Lewis is on the staff of the BBC and is now more or less
responsible for the organ broadcasts. It is he that I have had to interview
on your behalf. The Radio Times have not accepted my article on your
visit, but in returning it, the Editor writes that they will possibly be able
to include a paragraph on you. (A half page article with your photo will
appear, however, in Musical Opinion, and 250 words in Musical Times).
You have no doubt received from the BBC the specification of their
organ. It is a curious instrument and, despite all the gadgets, a difficult
instrument to manage. Its tone will not please you nearly so much as St
LInstitut Franais: I am glad to hear that you have completed your

preparation for your lecture. If it has been written out, I should be very
pleased to translate it so that it could appear, in printed form, in one of
the March musical journals. It is sure to be of great interest to many. I do
hope that you do not have trouble with the customs over the records you
are bringing with you. I believe they are dutiable but cannot be sure.
Have you made any arrangements at all for your stay here? If there
is anything I can do for you in the matter of finding a hotel, do please let
me know. Are you travelling alone, or will Madame Tournemire
accompany you? Would you care to hear an orchestral concert while you
are in London? May we attempt to organize a little supper gathering for
our members to meet you? We are all anxious that your short stay in
London should be made as comfortable and pleasurable for you as
possible, and I would earnestly ask you to let me know exactly what you
would prefer. Perhaps you might take this opportunity of bringing with
you an orchestral score or two to submit to the BBC. I am enclosing a
rather important document which you will find necessary to produce.
With my kindest regards,
Always yours sincerely,
Felix Aprahamian

Tournemire replied with a few additional questions, including

whether some of his friends in London could be invited to the
concert, even if they were not members of the OMS. He also
sent programme notes on the pieces to be played at the OMS
recital, and promised to send the complete text of his lecture.
Five days later, with his next letter, he did so (a manuscript
copy in Alice Tournemires hand). Aprahamian acknowledged
receipt of both the notes and the lecture in his reply (letter

21. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 24 January 1936
Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Je prends bonne note de la date du 22 fvrier pour mon concert St
Alban's Church. Veuillez trouver ci-inclus les petites notices qui
serviront illustrer le programme.
Je vous serai reconnaissant de mettre de ct quelques exemplaires
des journaux dans lesquels se trouvent les articles se rapportant mes
Envoyez-vous des invitations en dehors de vos abonns? Dans
laffirmative, pourrais-je vous communiquer quelques noms de
personnes dsirant assister au concert?
Comme vous tes aimable de vouloir organiser un souper avec les
membres de la socit; il va sans dire que je serais ravi de passer de bons
moments au milieu de votre sympathique groupe.
Je voyagerai avec Madame Tournemire: nous quitterons Paris le 20
fvrier. Nous avons dj crit un htel; nanmoins, je vous remercie
beaucoup de votre trs charmante proposition davoir voulu vous
occuper de cette question matrielle.
Questions artistiques:
Cest avec plaisir que nous entendrions un orchestre anglais.
Vous avez une excellente ide dont je compte tirer parti, au sujet de
ma musique dorchestre; je ne manquerai pas dapporter Londres une
ou deux partitions pour les proposer au BBC.
A bientt le rel plaisir de vous voir, et bien cordialement vous.
Charles Tournemire.
N.B. Vous voudriez bien, aprs usage, me retourner la
photographie. Dans quelques jours, vous recevrez un exemplaire de ma
confrence, et je vous remercie de la traduire en vue de la publication dans
une feuille anglaise.

[Tournemires programme notes, enclosed:]

Tiento VII Johannis Cabanilles (16441712)
Cette pice, dun caractre infiniment calme, est un chef doeuvre. Chose
trange, on y peut dvouvrir lorigine de certaines harmonies chres
Gabriel Faur. Cabanilles, matre Catalan, honore grandement lcole de
son pays.
Paso XIII Narcis Casanoves (17471799)
Ce matre appartient lcole du monastre de Montserrat (Espagne). La
pice entendu aujourdhui est plein desprit.
2 Choral
Csar Franck
Cette oeuvre est, en somme, une chacone libre. Le balancement
majestueux du thme communique cette fresque sonore un caractre
daustre grandeur. Les divertissements font songer un peu
Buxtehude, et certains coins attestent, chez Franck, une connaissance

approfondie du Cantor de Leipzig.
Alleluia no.5 (Orgue mystique no.33) Charles Tournemire
Composition flamboyante faisant songer la rosace septentrionale de la
Cathdrale de Paris. Il sagit du commentaire de lAlleluia du VIII
Dimanche aprs la Pentecte. Magnus Dominus et laudabilis valde in
civitate Dei, in monte sancto ejus.
Pome-Choral (no.2) Charles Tournemire
Oeuvre faisant partie dun cycle: Les 7 Paroles du Christ. Ce Pome-
Choral est le commentaire de la parole suivante: Hodie mecum eris in
paradis[o]. On remarquera la douceur des teintes et le sentiment rveur
qui incite lauditeur quitter la terre pour les rgions sereines.
La Symphonie-Choral improvise sera construite sur des thmes donns par
les membres prsents de The Organ Music Society.
I have made a careful note of [Saturday] 22 February, the date of my concert at St
Alban's Church. Please find enclosed the short notes which help to present the
programme. I would be grateful if you could keep a few copies of the newspapers in
which there are any articles connected with my concerts. Do you send out invitations
to those who are not members? If so, may I send you some names of people who
would like to come to the concert? How very kind you are to think of organising a
supper with the members of the Society. It goes without saying that I would be
delighted to spend a few agreeable and friendly moments in the company of your
group. I shall be travelling with Madame Tournemire. We will leave Paris on 20
February. We have already written to a hotel; even so, I thank you very much for
your charming offer to help with these practical details. Artistic matters: it would be
a pleasure for us to hear an English orchestra. Youve had an excellent idea, which I
would hope to turn to good advantage, concerning my orchestral music. I will bring
to London one or two scores to offer to the BBC. [] N.B. After you have used it,
please return the photograph to me. In a few days, you will receive a copy of my
speech, and I thank you for translating it with a view to publication in an English

Tournemires notes were translated by Aprahamian into

English for publication in the programme for the OMS recital
(reproduced in Appendix 3).

22. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 29 January 1936
Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Je vous expdie par le mme courrier la copie de ma confrence. Je
vous remercie encore de la charmante ide que vous venez davoir de la
traduire afin den saisir un journal anglais susceptible de la publier. Vous
avez d recevoir, il y a quatre ou cinq jours, mes petites notices sur les
morceaux dorgue que jexcuterai St Alban. Naturellement, je nai pas
cru devoir crire quoi que ce soit sur la Fantaisie et Fugue en sol mineur
de J.S.Bach, tellement cette oeuvre admirable est connue.
Dans lattente de vos bonnes nouvelles, et en attendant le vrai plaisir
de vous connatre, je vous envoie mon cordial souvenir.
Charles Tournemire.
Jarriverai Londres le 20 fvrier. Prochainement, vous voudrez
bien me faire savoir les jours et heures de mes rptitions St Alban.

I am sending you in the same post a copy of my lecture. I thank you once again for
your delightful idea of translating it so that you can find an English newspaper
which would be interested in publishing it. You should have received, four or five
days ago, my short notes on the organ pieces which I will be playing at St Albans.
Naturally, I didnt think I needed to do anything on the Fantasia and Fugue in G
minor by J.S. Bach, since this great work is so well-known. I await to hear good news
from you [] I will be arriving in London on 20 February. Soon, would you let me
know the dates and the times when I shall be able to rehearse at St Albans.

Aprahamian was pleased to tell Tournemire in his next letter

that the themes for the improvisation were to be provided by
Sir Walford Davies, that arrangements for the trip appeared to
be going well, and that unfortunately the OMS did not send out
free tickets except to members of the press and those actually
travelling with a performer. He also enclosed a proof copy of
the article which duly appeared in Februarys Musical Opinion.
Aprahamian also felt he had to admit to Tournemire that he
was a mere twenty-one years old.
23. Aprahamian to Tournemire, 31 January 1936
Dear Matre Tournemire,
Many thanks for your two letters, the first enclosing notes for your
programme and the second accompanying the script of your lecture
which I have found enormously interesting. As soon as the
arrangements for the next series of OMS recitals have been completed I
will set about its translation. I am sure that it will form a welcome article
for any of the journals devoted to music here, but unfortunately the scale
of payment is ridiculously small. In fact the best and most scholarly
quarterly Music and Letters is run as a labour of love and barely pays its

way. However, this can be discussed in London.
It will interest you to hear that our celebrated Sir Walford Davies,
Master of the Kings Musick, has consented to supply the theme or
themes for your improvisation. As the Symphonie-Choral will be in one
movement, perhaps you would let me know whether you would like
one theme, two complementary themes, or several themes.
With regard to the Institut Franais lecture, this will be quite open
and Mme Michaut will no doubt send invitations to any persons that
you may suggest. As for the OMS recital, the constitution of the Society
is such that it depends on a small admittance fee to the recitals. Only the
press and those actually travelling with a recitalist are sent
complimentary tickets. I will be glad, however, to send the advance
programme and announcement to as many names as you care to
I am enclosing some proof copies of the short article which has
appeared in this months Musical Opinion. There remains one thing I
have to ask you. It is whether you have yet committed the little
Cantilne-Improvisation to paper. This work has long cast a musical spell
over me. It exercises a fascinating charm and I hope some day to see it
available in print.
And now, Dear Matre Tournemire, it will not be long before I have
the great and pleasurable honour of meeting you and Madame
Tournemire in London. It seems that at last after corresponding for these
few years the wish which we both expressed at the first has now come
about. It is my sincere hope that your BBC recital will be such a success
that you will become a regular visitor to London for broadcasting. In
reading over the letters we have exchanged I have just realised an
amazing thing; I have never indicated my age to you. Perhaps you have
imagined me as an elderly person! I hope not! Actually I am twenty-one,
a very young disciple. When Lynnwood Farnam last visited England I
had just left school, and it was at a very impressionable age that I heard
the wonderful Carillon-Paraphrase and soon I am to meet its composer.
Always yours sincerely,
Felix Aprahamian

Aprahamians article for Musical Opinion, The Visit of Charles
Tournemire (February 1936) announced the visit, provided an
overview of the composers characteristics and his
achievements, and emphasised his love of improvisation and
his links with Franck. This is the full text:

The Organ Music Society announces a recital of unusual interest for

Saturday evening, February 22nd, at 8.45 p.m., at St Albans, Brooke
Street, Holborn. The player is to be the famous organist and composer
Matre Charles Tournemire, one of Csar Francks few surviving pupils.
Since 1898, he has been organist at Sainte-Clotilde, Paris, the post held by
his master until the time of his death in 1890.
Born in 1870, at the early age of eleven Tournemire was appointed
organist at the church of Saint-Pierre in his native city of Bordeaux. Four
years later he obtained the post of organist at the Basilique Saint-Seurin.
Coming to Paris as a student, he was immediately admitted to an
advanced piano class and a class in harmony. One day he visited the
organ at Sainte-Clotilde and heard Franck playing on the organ. He was
so moved that, although he had no previous idea of doing so, he asked
permission to join the masters celebrated organ class at the
Conservatoire. This was granted, and Tournemire became Francks
youngest pupil at the age of nineteen. Franck was then sixty-seven; after
a years study with him, Tournemire carried off the first prize for organ
playing and improvisation.
Writing of his work in Improvisation under Franck, he says:
The art of improvisation was carried to an extraordinary degree of
intensity. Instruction by example was used lavishly. A fugue subject
would no sooner be proposed to us than our master would seat himself
at the console and find many counter-subjects almost spontaneously. We
had only to choosebut this luxuriance of material was to us a source of
great trouble. We would place ourselves in turn at the bewitched
claviersand, alas, we would soon go astray in the mire: it would
become impossible to extricate ourselves. Franck would come to our
rescue with a Then let me show you, uttered in a deep, paternal voice.
How we love our memory of the advice of papa and his sagacity!
When we did well, a sonorous I love it! gave us singular joy.
Tournemire is now famed as a brilliant improvisator himself. His
recital at St Albans will conclude with a Symphonie-Choral to be
improvised on a theme which is to be submitted by an eminent
There is always a certain glamour attaching to performances of
musical works by those who can be relied upon to give authoritative
renderings by reason of their connection with the composer. Ansermets
Debussy and Stravinsky, and Landon Ronalds Elgar are instances that

spring to mind. When, however, the composer happens to be one so
seemingly remote as Csar Franck, the performance of one of his works
by a favoured pupil in a foreign musical centre which has hitherto
heard its authentic Franck at the hands of players of the second
generation is a musical event of the greatest importance. Already we
find that FranckviaGigout differs from FranckviadIndy. When
Matre Tournemire plays the beautiful Second Choral, we shall hear
what must indisputably be accepted as the real Franck.
The St Albans programme will also include Bachs Fantasia and
Fugue in G minor, two rarely heard works by Casanoves and Cabanilles,
and two of Tournemires own compositions. One of these will be drawn
from LOrgue mystique, Charles Tournemires great and noble
contribution to contemporary musical art.
On the following Tuesday afternoon, February 25th, at 3.15 p.m.,
Matre Tournemire will lecture at the Institut Franais on LOrgue et son
dveloppement travers les sicles, sa littrature, et lart de limprovisation.
The lecture will be illustrated by records made by Tournemire at Sainte-
Clotilde, and will be open to members of the Organ Music Society.

Aprahamians letter (no.23) mentioned the impact an account of

Tournemires Carillon-Paraphrase by Lynnwood Farnam had
made on him, and Tournemire reacted affectionately to this
mention of his old friend, whose name is not as well known
today as it was in the 1920s. Farnam was a Canadian organist,
born on 13 January 1885, whose greatest success as a player
came in New York and, in the last few years of his life, as
director of the organ department at the Curtis Institute in
Philadelphia (from 1927). His friendships, like his musical
interests, were thoroughly international, and as well as no.21 of
LOrgue mystique, other works by French composers dedicated
to him include Viernes Symphony no.6, and Duprs Souvenir
from op.27. Farnam died of liver cancer in New York City on
November 23, 1930 at the age of forty-five. Only a few months
earlier he had been giving recitals in Paris: one at Tournemires
Sainte-Clotilde on 16 July included two pieces from LOrgue
mystique, and two days later, on 18 July, he played at Saint-
Germain-des-Prs. Aprahamian still recalls Farnam, over
seventy years after his death, as a player of great virtuosity and
musical sensitivity. Tournemires response also included an
interesting comment on the kind of material he needed for his
improvisation. The article for The Listener mentioned in this
letter is reprinted as Appendix 1.

24. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 3 February 1936
Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Je suis sr que vous obtiendrez le maximum pour la traduction de
ma confrence destine Music and Letters. Faites pour le mieux.
Quant limprovisation de la Symphonie-Choral, voulez-vous
demander Sir W. Davies quil devra me communiquer, au moment
mme, un thme de Choral, et deux autres lments accessoires.
Remerciez-le de ma part, par avance. Trs prochainement, je vous
enverrai une petite liste des personnes susceptibles dassister au concert
de la Socit.
Jai bien reu les quatre exemplaires de votre petite tude sur moi
qui a paru dans Musical Opinion. Si vous pouvez men rserver dautres
exemplaires, vous me ferez plaisir.
Vous me demandez si la Cantilne est publie: elle ne saurait ltre,
car, ce nest quune improvisation
Vous voquez le souvenir de mon cher ami Farnam. Je lai vraiment
aim car il tait bon, et il avait un immense talent: il jouait beaucoup de
mon Orgue mystique.
Jtais loin de me douter de votre ge en juger par la formation
de votre esprit. Cette circonstance ne vous rend mes yeux que plus
sympathique. Cest donc avec un plaisir rel que je vous connatrai
autrement que par correspondance. Ds que vous le pourrez, envoyez-
moi les heures et les jours des rptitions St. Alban.
A bientt. Bien cordialement vous.
Charles Tournemire.
Le BBC (journal: The Listener) me demande: 800 mots sur
limprovisation. Je leur ai fait une nouvelle version elle na quun
rapport lointain avec celle que figure dans ma confrence.

I am sure that you will make the most of the translation of my lecture, destined for
Music and Letters. Do as you think best. As for the improvisation of the Symphonie-
Choral, could you please ask Sir W. Davies to give me, at the time, a Chorale theme
and two other elements of secondary character. Please thank him on my behalf in
advance. Very soon, I will send you a short list of people who would like to come to
the Societys concert. I have received the four copies of your short article about me
which appeared in Musical Opinion. I would be very pleased if you were able to put
aside some more copies. You ask me if the Cantilne is published. But it never could
be, since it was only an improvisation You bring back memories of my dear friend
Farnam. I truly loved him, since he was a good man and he had immense talent. He
played a great deal of my Orgue mystique. I was very far from guessing your ageto
judge solely by your intellectual maturity. In my eyes, this makes you still more
likeable. So it is with real pleasure that I look forward to meeting you other than by
correspondence. As soon as you can, please send me the dates and times of
rehearsals at St Albans. [] The BBC (its magazine The Listener) has asked me for
800 words about improvisation. I have done a new version for them: it is only
distantly related to what I am saying in my lecture.

Aprahamian replied with information about the organ, and a
request that members of the OMS be admitted to the BBC
recital. He also mentioned that he was hoping to arrange a
dinner in Tournemires honour.

25. Aprahamian to Tournemire, 6 February 1936

Dear Matre Tournemire,
Thank you for your kind letter of the 3rd February. I note all that
you say. As yet I have not been able to procure the exact times suitable
for practice at St Albans, but as soon as I can I will let you know. In the
meantime, I am enclosing a guide to the fixed combination pedals of the
St Albans organ. Those on the left command the Swell organ and those
on the right command the Great and Pedal organs together. In each case
the succeeding pedal adds stops corresponding to the letters or numbers,
and vice versa.
We are to hold a committee meeting next Tuesday and I would
greatly appreciate a reply to the following points which I could then
present to the meeting:
Provided you agree, the BBC are willing to admit a number of
members of the OMS to the Concert Hall at the time of the broadcast.
Their permission has been officially given subject to your agreement.
Have you any objection to this?
It has been decided that the best time for the little supper would be
after your broadcast on the Monday evening. The recital is timed to
finish at 8.30. Everybody could reach the restaurant by 9.0. Is this
convenient for you?
As, of course, members of the OMS committee will meet you on
your arrival, could you let me know as soon as you know the time and
station of your arrival and the hotel that you will be proceeding to.
I enclose also a copy of the notice that the Institut Franais has
prepared and is distributing. I am overjoyed to hear about The Listener.
An article commissioned from them is considered a great honour by
writers here.
Always sincerely yours,
Felix Aprahamian

The reply was swift and enthusiastic. Tournemire also asked for
the photograph back, as it was needed in Clermont-Ferrand. It
may seem curious that the composer had only one suitable
photograph of himself, but perhaps this indicates the rather
sporadic nature of his work as a travelling recitalist by 1936.

26. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 7 February 1936

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian,
Je rponds aux aimables questions que vous me posez aujourdhui:
Naturellement, les membres de The Organ Music Society pourront
assister laudition du BBC. Dites-le leur de ma part. Lide de se voir
aprs le concert du BBC, et daller au restaurant ensemble, est une
charmante ide que jaccepte avec plaisir.
Comme cest gentil aux membres du comit et vous de vouloir
venir larrive du train pour me souhaiter la bienvenue dans votre
pays. Nous comptons prendre le train de 10h du matin St Lazare
(DieppeNewhaven) qui arrive, je crois, vers 6h du soir Londres (le 20
fvrier). Nous avons retenu notre appartement Cumberland Htel
(Marble Arch, Lond. W.1.)
Ds que vous aurez les heures des rptitions St Alban, vous
voudrez bien me les communiquer. Au BBC je devrai rpter 10h 15
du soir jusqu 12h, le soir de mon arrive!
Quand vous aurez loccasion, vous voudrez bien me retourner la
photo: Jen aurai besoin pour lenvoyer Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-
Dme) o je dois, au retour de Londres, inaugurer lorgue de la
Au grand plaisir de vous connatre. Mes bonnes et sincres amitis.
Charles Tournemire.
N.B. Ma femme a t opre avant-hier de lappendicite! Jespre
nanmoins quelle pourra maccompagner Londres.

I am replying to the kind questions you asked me today: Of course the members of
the Organ Music Society can attend the broadcast at the BBC. Please tell them so on
my behalf. The idea of seeing each other after the concert and going to a restaurant
together is a charming idea which I accept with pleasure. How kind it is of the
members of the committee and of you to come to meet the train and bid me welcome
to your country. We are expecting to be on the 10 a.m. from St Lazare (Dieppe
Newhaven) which arrives, I think, around 6 p.m. in London (on 20 February). We
have booked our rooms at the Cumberland Hotel (Marble Arch, London W.1.) As
soon as you have rehearsal times at St Albans, please send them to me. I need to
rehearse at the BBC from 10.15 p.m. until midnight on the evening of my arrival!
When you have a chance, please return the photo to me: I need it to send to
Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dme) where I will be giving the inaugural recital on the
organ in the Cathedral after my return from London. [] N.B. My wife had an
operation the day before yesterday for appendicitis! I hope even so that she will be
able to come with me to London.

The next letter is concerned largely with matters related to the
Tournemire iconography: the sought-after photograph (which
Aprahamian wished to have copied), and the possibility of
arranging a session when Tournemire could be drawn by
Russell Reeve for Musical Times. Of more pressing importance,
the programme was printed, and a copy enclosed; and
rehearsal times had been arranged for Tournemire at St Albans

27. Aprahamian to Tournemire, 12 February 1936

Dear Matre Tournemire,
Many thanks for your letter. I was distressed to hear of Madame
Tournemires indisposition: I trust she will make a speedy recovery and
that we shall have the pleasure of meeting her in London. Arrangements
are progressing well. Musical Opinion has returned the photo and I am
sending it back to you as you request. If, perchance, it should come back
from Clermont-Ferrand before you leave for London, could you possibly
bring it to London with you, as I very much wish to have a good
reproduction made of it. Incidentally, Mr Farmer asks me to tell you that
Russell Reeve, the artist, wishes to make a drawing of you during your
visit. We all hope that you will allow this, as there is a possibility of the
drawing being reproduced in next months Musical Times.
I enclose a copy of this series handbill, also a copy of your
programme. Of course you will be able to have the remaining
programmes after the recital. Suitable times for rehearsal at St Alban's
are as follows: Friday Feb 21st: 9.3010.40 a.m., 3.05.0 p.m. []

Two friendly notes from Tournemire, sent on consecutive days,

appeared to finalise the arrangements for his arrival: he was
happy with everything that had been planned, his wife was
better (and would be coming with him), and his train would be
arriving at around 6 oclock the following Thursday.

28. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 13 February 1936
Cher Monsieur Aprahamian et ami,
Voici une petite liste de personnes auxquelles, si cela vous est possible,
vous pourriez adresser quelques programmesentres pour mon concert
du 22.
Je partirai donc avec ma femme jeudi prochain 20. Nous arriverons
Victoria vers 6h.
Bien heureux de vous serrer les mains cordialement.
Ch. Tournemire
Jattends les jours et heures des rptitions St Alban.

Here is a short list of people to whom if this is possible you might send some
programmes for entry to my concert on 22 February. I will be leaving with my wife
next Thursday, the 20th. We will arrive at Victoria around 6 p.m. [] I await the
dates and times of the rehearsals at St Albans.

29. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 14 February 1936

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian et ami,
Nos lettres se sont croises. Merci pour lenvoi du programme; pour
les heures des rptitions St Alban qui sarrangent trs bien avec celles
du BBC; et aussi pour ce que vous me dites de la photo. Je vous la
remettrai afin que vous en fassiez faire une bonne reproduction.
Cest une ide excellente qua eu Mr. Russell Reeve, et jautorise bien
volontiers cet artiste faire mon portrait en vue du Musical Times,
daprs ce que vous me dites.
Madame Tournemire est rentre de la clinique. Le Docteur ma
promis quelle pourra maccompagner Londres. Je vous dis Jeudi,
avec grand plaisir.
Toujours bien affectueusement vous.
Charles Tournemire

Our letters have crossed in the post. Thank you for sending me the programme, and
for the rehearsal times in St Albans, which fit in very well with those of the BBC; and
also for what you have told me about the photo. I will send it back to you so that you
can have a good copy made. It is an excellent idea of Mr. Russell Reeves, and I am
very willing to allow this artist to do my portrait for the Musical Times after what you
have told me. Mme Tournemire is back from the clinic. The doctor has promised me
that she will be able to come to London with me. I look forward with great pleasure
to seeing you on Thursday. []

Two small matters necessitated a last-minute letter from Paris.
First, Tournemire needed to report a change in his travel
arrangements, bringing him into Victoria a little earlier than
planned. Second, he had noticed that the programme gave two
of his pieces in the wrong order. The origins of the confusion
are easy to find: Tournemires manuscript list of the recital
programme gave the works in the order he wanted to play
them; however, his notes on each work, sent a little later, are in
the order given on the printed programme. Understandably,
Aprahamian followed this later version, believing it to be the
order the composer wanted.

30. Tournemire to Aprahamian, 17 February 1936

Cher Monsieur Aprahamian et ami,
Un mot pour vous dire que je prendrai, avec ma femme, le train la
gare du Nord et que jemprunterai la ligne Boulogne-Folkestone pour
arriver Londres 5h 20 de laprs-midi, Victoria, jeudi.
Bien enchant de vous connatre.
Une petite remarque au sujet du programme: Le Pome-Choral de ma
composition doit tre jou avant LAlleluia. Ce doit tre limprimeur qui a
fait cette erreur; en relisant la copie de loriginale, cet ordre est observ!
Ne croyez-vous pas quune petite annonce par vous-mme, le soir du
concert, ne serait pas ce quil y aurait de mieux?
A moins que vous ne prfriez faire imprimer ce que nous appelons
en France des papillons, cest--dire de toutes petites feuilles trs lgres
sur lesquelles se trouverait la rectification? Je serais dsol que cette
petite erreur soit de moi! Ne vous tourmentez pas, en tout cas. Bien
affectueusement toujours vous.
Charles Tournemire

A quick word to say that my wife and I will be taking the train from the Gare du
Nord, and that I will be following the route from Boulogne to Folkestone due to arrive
in London at 5.20 p.m. at Victoria, on Thursday. I will be delighted to meet you then. A
little comment on the matter of the programme. The Pome-Chorale composed by me
will be played before the Alleluia. It must have been the printer who made this
mistake; reading a copy of the original order again, this order is there given correctly!
Do you think you could make a short announcement on the evening of the concert to
put this right? Unless you would prefer to print what we call papillons in France:
tiny little slips of paper on which the correction is announced? I would be very sorry
if this little error were to have been mine! Dont you worry about it anyway. []

Tournemires Itinerary in London
According to Aprahamians pocket diary for 1936, Tournemire
and his wife were met at Victoria Station on the evening of
Thursday, 20 February, as planned, and Aprahamian took him
to Broadcasting House for a rehearsal later that same evening.
On Friday, 21 February, there is a further note: 5.0 p.m.
onwards, R.R. for C.T. free, presumably a reference to Russell
Reeve, who was to draw Tournemires portrait for Musical
The concert on Saturday, 22 February is duly noted: OMS
8.45: Charles Tournemire), as is a rehearsal earlier in the day:
3.30 Tournemire, St. As. An entry for Sunday (simply
Tournemire) suggests that Aprahamian met the composer
again that day. The BBC broadcast and the visit to Stumpys
Restaurant are noted on Monday, 24 February, as is the talk at
the Institut Franais at 3.15 the following afternoon. Finally, on
Wednesday 26 February, Aprahamian wrote Tournemire
Adieu! he saw the couple onto the boat train back to Paris.

The BBC Broadcast

Tournemire had struggled with the mechanics of the Father
Willis instrument at St Albans, Holborn, but his difficulties
there were as nothing to those he encountered on the Concert
Hall organ at the BBC. This was an instrument built on the
extension principle which had few admirers, but Tournemire
struggled with it to an extent which seriously hampered the
quality of his playing. The broadcast on 24 February was an
event which his admirers would prefer to forget, not least
because the standard of performance was such that the
transmission was abandoned about half way through: those
listening on the radio heard only the first twenty-five minutes
or so and the broadcast was stopped before Tournemires
improvisation (on a theme by Anthony Lewis) was heard. It is
not clear whether the composer was ever told this, but
Aprahamian was acutely conscious of the poor standard of
playing, and Lewis was reprimanded for allowing Tournemire
to perform without first auditioning him. As far as the BBC
were concerned, this pupil of Csar Francks turned out to be
something of a liability. After this dbcle, it is not surprising

that Tournemire never returned to London, since only an
organisation like the BBC was able to pay a large enough fee to
cover travel and other expenses from Paris to London.

Dinner at Stumpys Restaurant

The meal which followed the broadcast was at 9 p.m. in
Stumpys Restaurant (5 Upper James Street, Golden Square,
W.1), and an invitation was circulated by Aprahamian to
members of the OMS. He recalls that despite the earlier
problems with the broadcast, of which Tournemire was
perhaps not fully aware, the evening was a convivial one, and
the menu card printed for the occasion is a charming memento,
complete with quaint orthographic slips: the Diner lhoneur
de Maitre Charles Tournemire, for which OMS members paid
2/6 (12.5p) per head, comprised the following:

Crme St Germain
Truite Belle Meunire
Ris de Veau Tournemire
Glace Suchard

Aprahamian has preserved his copy of the menu card, with its
affectionate inscriptions on the verso: A son ami Felix
Aprahamian. Bon souvenir sympathique pour sa tenacit et
son dvouement soutenu. En cordialit, Ch. Tournemire, 24
Fv. 36. Mme Tournemire has added: Pour Monsieur
Aprahamian, le remerciant trs sincrement de son accueil trs
chaleureux et sympathique. Alice Ch. Tournemire.

The Lecture at the Institut Franais

On Tuesday 25 February, at 3.15 p.m., Tournemire gave his
lecture at the Institut Franais at 17 Cromwell Gardens in
South Kensington. The title was announced as LOrgue et son
dveloppement travers les sicles: sa littrature et lart
dimprovisation (avec auditions de disques). On the invitation
to the event, this is followed by a brief biographical sketch of
the composer, which emphasises his special place in French
musical history by 1936, as one of the few surviving pupils of
Csar Franck. The text of this lecture (and indeed its title) was

adapted from the introduction to the Prcis d'excution, de
registration et d'improvisation, a copy of which the composer
inscribed to Aprahamian during this visit. However, what
Tournemire sent to Aprahamian for translation and possible
publication in an English journal, was a manuscript, written in
blue ink, entirely in the neat hand of Alice Tournemire (cf.
p.33), and signed by the composer at the foot of the last page. It
consists of 18 leaves of unlined paper, numbered IXVIII and
survives in Felix Aprahamians archives. During the Congrs
international de musique sacre held in Paris in 1937 as part of the
Exposition internationale des arts et techniques, Tournemire spoke
on a similar subject: his lecture at Sainte-Clotilde on 22 July
1937 was entitled LOrgue travers les sicles.

Tournemires concert for the OMS was only a moderate success,
and he was well below his best for the BBC broadcast.
Nevertheless, a visit by one of Frances leading organist-
composers, especially one who had been taught by Franck
himself, was a significant event for lovers of of organ music in
Britain. Tournemire was nearing the end of his life, and pieces
from his greatest organ work, LOrgue mystique, made a
considerable impact on London audiences during the 1930s. It
was a touching act of homage to invite the composer of this
extraordinary work to perform in London, and Tournemires
accounts of his own pieces were certainly the highlights of his
recital for the Organ Music Society. His improvisations during
this visit, at St Albans Holborn and in the Concert Hall of
Broadcasting House, perhaps lacked the extraordinary power
of what he could sometimes achieve at Sainte-Clotilde, but for
Tournemire, improvisation could only be truly inspired in the
context of the liturgy of the church. It was Olivier Messiaen
who wrote to Aprahamian on 15 December 1983 with these
perceptive comments on Tournemires improvisations:

Il mest arriv parfois dcouter les improvisations de Charles

Tournemire (compositeur de gnie, et merveilleux improvisateur). Or,
Tournemire improvisait quelquefois en concert, et ctait bien. Mais les
improvisations taient beaucoup plus belles pendant les messes de
Sainte-Clotilde, quand il avait le Saint Sacrement devant lui. Il me
semble que je lui ressemble un peu sur ce point.

I occasionally went to hear the improvisations of Charles Tournemire (a composer of

genius, and a marvellous improviser). Now, Tournemire sometimes improvised in
concerts, and this was good. But his improvisations were much more beautiful
during Masses at Sainte Clotilde, when he had the Blessed Sacrament in front of him.
I think I resemble him somewhat in this respect (Bien Cher Flix, p.51).

Appendix 1

Tournemire in The Listener, 19 February 1936

LArt de lImprovisation was published originally, as now, in
French. The composers quasi-mystical account of
improvisation (like a prose-poem according to Aprahamian) is
an eloquent document, particularly when discussing Franck. It
is derived to some extent from Tournermires earlier chapter on
Csar Franck improvisateur, in his book Csar Franck (Paris,

LArt de lImprovisation
Cet art est, par excellence, le domaine du mystre; cest une facult
curieuse et surprenante qui se manifeste de manire spontane, soit dans
ltablissement immdiat dun discours, dune oeuvre musicale, voire
dun plan de bataille: cest ainsi que se rvlrent avec clat les Frier, les
Napolon et les Bach, pour ne citer que trois exemples typiques.
Cest donc la spontanit, le mcanisme rapide, au moment mme,
qui prside lclosion doeuvres, et quelquefois mme de chefs-
doeuvre. On peut donc affirmer que toute prparation est radicalement
oppose cet art spcial; mais que lon ne simagine pas que le
dsordre soit la base dune semblable manifestation! Bien, au
contraire; et voici o le raisonnement na que faire, chez celui qui est en
possession de cette facult tonnante, se construit tout un mcanisme
touchant lordonnance, tout en se compltant dans les minutes
heureuses par un tat motif.
Il stablit de lui-mme; il se dveloppe, en sappuyant sur les
dductions logiques et libres la fois, de manire si satisfaisante dans les
bons jours, que lauditeur cependant averti peut croire quil sagit de la
chose crite. Il y a mme plus: la cration spontane contient en elle
dans les minutes sublimes quelque chose de direct, des clairs qui
nappartiennent qu ce tmoignange probant de la puissance du
cerveau et du coeur.
Limprovisateur du premier ordre prouve parfois, dans les
moments les plus pathtiques, une singulire impression: il lui semble
quil coute (sil sagit de limprovisation musicale) un autre que lui-
mme difier un monument sonore.
Cest alors que le subconscient, au fond de ltre, agit. Il semble que
lon soit comme visit par lange inspirateur. Moments vritablement
extraordinaires, rares videmment!
Cependant, il faut tout avouer, honntement: nous avons mis, plus
haut, lide suivante: parvenir donner lillusion de lcrit. Nous osons
maintenir cette opinion; mais, sauf les moments o le subconscient se

substitue au conscient, il est presque impossible, de faon soutenue,
datteindre la puret dcriture de loeuvre longuement mrie et
Nanmoins, et cela touche au miracle certaines imperfections,
certaines ngligences dans la marche des parties, disparaissent et ne se
peroivent pas, non seulement chez une oreille peu rceptive, mais,
aussi, chez celle affine par la frquentation journalire de la musique.
Limprovisation est vritablement un don. Sil est port, ce don, un
minent degr, on est en droit den attendre de sensationnels rsultats.
Mais, pour quil soit ainsi, il ne faut pas chercher se donner le change; il
faut, au contraire, courageusement, envisager la ncessit absolue
dabsorber tout ce qui se rapporte la technicit de lart musical:
harmonie, contrepoint, fugue, composition et orchestration. De plus, il
importe de lire beaucoup, principalement danalyser les chefs-doeuvre
de toutes les poques, den pntrer les formes.
Et pourquoi nimiterait-on pas J.S. Bach lui-mme, qui, pour mieux
connatre les oeuvres dorgue de lorganiste franais Nicolas de Grigny,
les transcrivit intgralement? Car, ne loublions pas; celui qui crit, lit
deux fois. Quis scribit, bis legit.
Que lon nous permette, nous qui en fmes tmoin, et qui par la
suite, nous efformes den tirer parti en y ajoutant les apports
daujourdhui, que lon nous permette de citer en exemple un grand
improvisateur: Csar Franck. Il fut, deux annes avant sa mort, notre
matre. Ce clair et vibrant artiste avait un degr minent le don de
limprovisation. Nous pouvons en tmoigner, nous, qui furent ses
disciples. Durant trente annes, il construisit des monuments sonores
remarquables, bien souvent. Ils sont jamais perdus. Mais ces
paraphrases ailes ont, selon toute vraisemblance, t recueillies par la
hirarchie des anges
Dans lordre spirituel, pourquoi en serait-il autrement que dans
celui de la matrialit? Et, comment ne pas admettre que la pense
glorificatrice ne trouve en un lieu privilgi [un] havre divin et
Ceux qui, comme nous, suivrent ce grand musicien, purent retenir
les impressions suivantes: style lev, impeccable ordonnance de la
construction. Franck exploitait, en ces improvisations, les principales
formes musicales: Allegro de Sonate, Lied, etc. Le plus souvent, il
adoptait le plan de la grande fantaisie; et, en cela, il se rapprochait de
Beethoven. Au demeurant, il tait un grand improvisateur.
Avant que de terminer ce petit article, rendons hommage lart de
la cration spontane, limprovisation: cest un trsor que lon porte en
soi; cest comme un flamboiement qui jamais ne consume lme et qui la
prpare la vie dfinitiveA labri, comme par une grce den haut, des
tourmentes, des bouleversents sans issue des tristesses humaines, ne
peut-on considrer comme un refuge sparer idal de cet art qui

resplendit comme le rayon de lumire de lavant dernier chapitre de
lApocalypse de Jean:
LEternel me montra la ville sainte qui descendait du ciel dauprs
de lEternel, brillante de sa gloire, et lastre qui lclaire est semblable
une pierre trs prcieuse, une pierre de jaspe transparente comme le

Appendix 2

Tournemire reviewed in The Musical Times

In the issue of The Musical Times for April 1936, a long review of
Tournemires recital for the Organ Music Society appeared as
part of Organ Recital Notes (pp.3436). The review is signed
A.F. Archibald Farmer: as well as being President of the
OMS, he was also the regular reviewer of organ events for MT.
It is a thoughtful and extremely detailed review, with valuable
information about Tournemires improvisation, some very
frank criticisms of his Bach playing, and an intelligent if
inconclusive discussion of his own compositions. Incidentally,
the whole article includes reviews of several recitals, including
one by Fernando Germani. It is his portrait (by Russell Reeve)
which appears here. The drawing of Tournemire discussed by
Aprahamian and the composer was not used by The Musical
Times in 1936.

Tournemire the composer, the pupil of Franck and his successor at Ste
Clotilde, is a person of note to all organists; and it was therefore with
interest that his first recital in this country, for the Organ Music Society
on February 22, was anticipated. As the event proved, a good many
things conspired to hinder its entire success. The organ at St Albans,
Holborn, is no longer in its first youth; it was probably never so easy to
play as our modern instruments, and of late it seems to have been
getting more difficult still. If an English organist like Sir Walter Alcock
can joke about going into training with Sandow [a celebrated
bodybuilder of the time] before giving his recital on it, we can
sympathise with a foreign visitor who, whatever faults he may be used
to in French organs, is not at home with our particular failings, and
modestly described the organ as excessivement dur. Moreover, M.
Tournemire is not a big man, however great he may be, and the question
of mere size must have added to his labours. Finally, the engine
developed a greater reluctance than ever before to sustain the wind, and
the part of the organ on the north side of the church appeared to be
speaking at a different pitch from the rest. These, of course, are typical of
the difficulties that an organist perennially wrestles with; and with so
huge a machine as the organ, it is in a way part of the fun to overcome
them. The supreme organist does contrive to overcome them; but it is
scarcely fair to judge a foreign visitor on the results he achieves under
such conditions.
M. Tournemire himself, like the organ, is no longer in his first

youth, and there is no need to compare him with the greatest technicians
of the day. What we look for, above all, is bigness of mind and breadth
of understanding. Of these there was plenty of evidence. At the
beginning of the recital, things did not promise well. The first work, the
G minor Fantasia and Fugue, sounded strange indeed to English ears,
brought up (in this generation at least) on the gospel of exactitude in
time-keeping. The Fantasia, although ponderous, was impressive in its
way; but the Fugue and one of the most rhythmical of Bachs Fugues
too can only be described a laboured and halting; and it was in this
movement that the Pedal Mixture, whose out-of-tuneness the player was
not able to hear, added a constant jangling, strangely like the effect of a
piano played with the organ. After Bach, M. Tournemire gave two pieces
of old Spanish music, which have not, I think, been heard before here.
The Tiento by Cabanilles, perhaps a little too long to be perfect, was a
serenely beautiful work in the manner of Frescobaldis Elevations. The
other, a Paso by Casanoves, a jeu desprit in comparison, was charmingly
played on light flute combinations with a Swell reed for contrast.
The principal work in the first half of the programme was Francks
Choral in B minor. Discounting at the outset all that militated against it
the shortness of wind, the laboriousness, the strops thrown only half on
by the composition pedals it remains nevertheless something that I for
one feel glad to have heard. The speed was something for us to mark.
The work is of course in a nature of a solemn and even sombre
Passacaglia, or perhaps Melodia Ostinata: its pace should be akin to that
we set for the Bach Passacaglia if anything, slower, on account of the
amount of detail that appears in some of the middle variations. M.
Tournemires dignified tempo was a deserved corrective to the waltz
rhythm that many English players including some of our best known
have imparted to this epic of the organ literature. It is impossible to play
it to play it, with all its meaning of chord and phrase at such speeds,
let alone listen to it; and if people begin to feel impatient the moment a
slow tempo is heard, they had better give up music. Whether we should
take all M. Tournemires performance as the pure milk of the Franckian
word, I cannot say; probably not. But it is to be hoped that those who
were present will in future feel themselves free to play the passages
preceding the resumption of the Choral theme in G minor in a style con
fantasia. It is easy to be misled by the values of the notes. The section is,
as M. Tournemire has told us in his book on Francks organ music, a
recitative; and the rests in particular must not be shorn of their
In the second half of the programme, which consisted of his own
works and an improvisation, M. Tournemire was seen at his best
technically. He displayed a pretty sense for colour, much finger
dexterity, and a real grip of musical thought. The difficult Alleluia from
Suite 33 was very honestly played, if not so brilliantly as it might have

been had the organ been more tractable. In a different way, the delicate,
flower-like Pome-Choral No.2 was equally good and in fact even more
convincing. At the close, M. Tournemire improvised for twenty minutes
on a theme which had been specially composed by Sir Walford Davies.
In accordance with the players desire, this theme took the form of a
choral-like tune with two small secondary motives. From the
improvisation which ensued, as indeed form the whole of this second
part, several interesting facts emerged. In the first place, Sir Walford had
done a very characteristic, a very charming thing. The subject he
submitted, although self-complete, was in fact, as he pointed out to me
and I pointed out to M. Tournemire, a four-phrase theme condensed to
three phrases, and we expected that the player would take pleasure in
expanding it to four as the needs of the moment appeared to him. Not so
out literal-minded neighbour: on only two occasions did he subjoin some
kind of fourth limb. Moreover he made far lass use of the choral than he
did of the lments accessoires, and he added a good deal of unrelated
material. This again was as one might have expected. The whole
improvisation was a revealing sidelight on the published compositions. I
fear that I have been among those who sit on the fence concerning the
ultimate value of Tournemires pieces, even though I have had an
inclination to turn one way rather than the other. In some respects this
inclination now seems confirmed. The improvisation, like the
composition, showed immense facility in the handling of small musical
motives, a sense of organ tone, a sense of the architecture involved in
setting climax against repose, a trick of polytonality, and a whole bagful
of mannerisms. Of actual form, as we understand it in music, of
relatedness to the matter in hand, there was very little. The
improvisation was in fact very like the published pieces: and it showed
just how good they are and just how easy they are to write how much
of them is the composer plus a distinctive idea and how much is the
composer alone. M. Tournemire, like other organists of his race, has
achieved great facility in treating the plainsong themes which he handles
daily, and he has in addition developed a polytonal technique. Granted
there, there is no end to the admirable music he can produce; and
conversely, in all he produces we find the same materials. The weakness
of the Tournemire pieces, it seems to me, is their alikeness. It is true that
examination reveals the consistent use of a theme; but the themes
themselves are alike, having first been flattened out to the same degree
of timelessness. The improvisation confirmed the impression that it is
only upon these conditions, with a certain type of theme, that M.
Tournemire chooses to work. To me his pieces are indistinguishable
from one another, and they might be taken as expressing almost
anything equally as well as their accredited programme. The delightful
Pome-Choral No.2, for instance, purported to illustrate the saying,
This day shallot thou be with Me in Paradise; but I should have liked it

as much had it been named simply Andante, or even Narcissus of
which unauspicious title, by the way, I was reminded by the frank
sweetness of the piece, in spite of the change in popular mannerisms
since those days of long ago. May the future prove me wrong! But one
cannot be wrong in saying that M. Tournemire is a charming improviser,
a valuable link with 19th-century France, and a figure whom one will
always respect.

Appendix 3

The Programme for Tournemires Recital at St Albans,

Holborn, on 22 February 1936


I. Sources in the Archives of Felix Aprahamian

Autograph letters from Charles (22 letters) and Alice Tournemire (3

letters) to Felix Aprahamian, 19336.

Carbon copies of four typed letters and fragment of one autograph draft
from Felix Aprahamian to Charles Tournemire, 19336.

Two typed letters from Heugel et Cie to Aprahamian, 1933.

Felix Aprahamians pocket diary for 1936.

Menu for dinner in honour of Charles Tournemire at Stumpys

Restaurant, London, 24 February 1936, with inscriptions to Aprahamian
from Charles and Alice Tournemire.

Printed programmes for the concerts of the Organ Music Society, 19319
and other Organ Music Society documents.

II. Other Sources

Felix Aprahamian: The Visit of Charles Tournemire, Musical Opinion

(February 1936), p.439.

Charles Tournemire, LOrgue: cahiers et mmoires, no.41 (1989).

A[rchibald] F[armer]: Organ Recital Notes, The Musical Times (April

1936), pp.3436.

Jol-Marie Fauquet: Catalogue de loeuvre de Charles Tournemire (Genve,


Nigel Simeone, ed. and trans.: Bien Cher Flix: Letters from Olivier Messiaen
and Yvonne Loriod to Felix Aprahamian (Cambridge, 1998). Letter of 15
December 1983 (mentioning Tournemire) on p.51.

Charles Tournemire: Csar Franck (Paris, 1931), especially chapter 7,

Csar Franck improvisateur, pp.4957.