Frank Taylor plays the Complete Works of Louis Marchand
free download of complete liner notes including in-depth analysis by Owen Jander, complete track listing, and organ specifications.download PDF liner notes
about the composer
excerpts from the original liner notes by Owen Jander (1930-2015), Professor or Music, Wellesley College
Louis Marchand was one of those notorious personages in music
history (rather like Don Carlo Gesualdo or Alessandro Stradella) who
were best known to succeeding generations not for their music, but
for the romantic anecdotes regarding their personal and professional
careers. In the cases of such scandalous figures the anecdotes sometimes
warrant repetition when they help to explain the pattern of
Marchand, born in Lyon on the 2nd of February, 1669, was the
son of an organist (a rather mediocre organist, we are told). The boy
was a prodigy and at the early age of fourteen had already been
taken on as organist at the Cathedral of Nivers, from which post he
later advanced to the similar job at the Cathedral of Auxerre. In
1689 Marchand made the move to Paris. Though he aspired to an
appointment at the Royal Court, none was available, so he settled
for various jobs at the Church of the Jesuits in the Rue Saint-Jacques,
at Saint-Benoit, at Saint-Honore and at the Church of the Franciscans.
In 1706 Marchand, at the age of thirty-seven, finally attained the prestigious appointment to the Chapelle Royale, as successor to Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers, who had retired at the age of seventyfour. Even there, however, problems of temperament continued to pose difficulties for Marchand. Among other things he was a philanderer and grossly neglected his wife, who took suit against him, addressing her appeal to the King, Louis XIV. The King decreed that half of Marchand's salary should be paid to his estranged wife; whereupon the musician in revenge, while performing for the Mass in the Royal Chapel, walked away from the console in the middle of the Mass pronouncing that if the King was paying half of his wages to his wife, his wife could play the rest of the service for the King. For this impudence Marchand not only lost his job but was exiled from France.
Marchand seems to have had an impressive reputation as a teacher, although he had few pupils (among them, however, were
Du Mage and Daquin). He was apparently very demanding, and charged an outrageous fee. Some reports suggest that as a performer he was something of a paradox. While on the one hand he had a wide reputation for his ability to dazzle audiences and to vanquish competitors with the brilliance of his improvisations, he is reported to have had a certain disdain for the public, preferring to play for a handful of discriminating listeners. . It is true that some of the most difficult effects in his surviving organ works are appreciable only to the ear of the connoisseur: e.g., the double pedal in the Dialogue in Book One, or the four-keyboard Quatuor in the same book.