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Born in 1850 in Uffholtz (Upper-Rhine), Aloÿs Claussmann studied in Eugène
Gigout’s class at the Niedermeyer school, where he won the first prizes in
organ and piano. In 1872, he was awarded a honorary prize from the French
ministry of fine arts. The following year, he was appointed organist of the
cathedral in Clermont-Ferrand, a city where he was to spend his whole career
as a composer and musician. In 1909, he founded the music conservatory
there, which he directed until his death in 1926.
Although he composed extensively for the piano (he was an excellent
pianist), as well as chamber and vocal music, the major part of Claussmann’s
work was devoted to the organ. He left a repertory of about 350 pieces, all
belonging to the post-romantic period which he celebrated with luminosity
and sensivity. His work is a tribute to the instrument crafted by
Cavaillé-Coll, from which he was able to draw out the ample, warm foundation
stops, the powerful, generous reeds, and the dark, dense romantic mixtures.
Claussmann succeeded in creating a perfect synthesis of German and French
organ music, an achievement likely rooted in his alsacian background.
Although the influence of Franck and Schumann is clear, the originality of
his music is beyond question. Whether it is meditative, even verging on the
nostalgic, heroic, or harmonically audacious, Claussmann’s music is always
perfectly crafted, with opposing keyboards that are like echoes of the
orchestra’s different sections.
The pieces recorded here were composed over a thirty-year period. There is
little evolution in the musical language. Claussmann was above all faithful
to a school and a style, preferring not to follow fads and trends, not to be
original at all costs. He was a man who liked a job well done, whether it be
in major pieces, or in more modest ones composed for liturgy. He cherished
strongly architectured writing, which did not prevent him from discarding
certain rules and occasionally using subtle modulations or unusual
harmonies, nor to forsake modesty now and them to indulge in a wave of
romanticism. Claussmann could have easily enjoyed a Parisian career but
instead, chose to contribute to the musical flourishing of a provincial
town, as both a musician and a teacher.
As is it written in the Proverbs, "who goes rightfully goes safely, who
follows a tortuous path will be unmasked".
His works, along with those of other composers like Marie-Joseph Erb in
Strasbourg, Emile Bourdon in Monaco, Edouard Commette in Lyon, Canon
Fauchard in Laval to name but a few, helped to forge a missing link between
Parisian organ music, which was renown and praised, and the more discreet
yet undeniable contribution of provincial masters. This led to the
development of a language that has made the reputation of the French organ