2012-11-25 Notes from the Bench

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James Gerber, Music Associate

“Carillon-Sortie” by Henri Mulet

This Sunday we celebrate the feast, Christ the King, the last Sunday after Pentecost and the conclusion of the liturgical year.  We “ring out” the year with the festive “Carillon-Sortie” by Henri Mulet.  This work was written by Mulet c. 1912, and is moto-perpetuo work utilizing the full resources of the organ, similar to the toccata and carillon pieces written by Widor, Vierne, Gigout and Boëllmann.  The jubliant theme is set against figurative patterns that call to mind the joyous ringing of bells.

Henri Mulet was regarded as a “brilliant musical personality, a solid virtuoso and very fine improviser;” Charles Tournemire described him as a “strange and great artist, seized by a mystical ideal.”  Mulet displayed great musical abilities as a child and at the age of twelve began his music studies at the Paris Conservatory where he studied a range of musical disciplines, including organ, violoncello, harmony, composition, improvisation and solfège.  He frequently performed organ recitals and dedication concerts.  Mulet held a variety of church organist positions and teaching positions at the École Niedermeyer from 1897 to 1937.  In an act of frustration, Mulet resigned from the Niedermeyer School and as the organist for the church of Saint-Phillippe-du-Roule, and destroyed numerous manuscripts of his compositions.  

He retired to a small home in Draguignan, located between Marseille and Nice in southern France, with his wife, Isabelle, and lived an isolated lifestyle.  Mulet became the organist for the Cathedral of Draguignan, holding this position until 1956.  Mulet’s final years were plagued with poverty and poor health, suffering from dizzy spells.  From late 1959 to his death, Mulet and his wife were in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor and lived in their convent in Draquine.  Today, Henri Mulet’s compositions for organ are among his best known works, strongly rooted in the nineteenth century symphonic style.  

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