The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What music would you choose to honor Notre Dame de Paris and the loss from the fire that engulfed the historic cathedral on Monday | April 16, 2019

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By Jacob Stockinger

You’ve seen the heart-rending photos of the raging flames, the collapsed spire and the billowing smoke.

We have yet to learn a lot of details about the interior of the historic cathedral Notre Dame de Paris (below in a photo by Agence France-Presse and Getty Images) and how it fared.

But surely music is a fine way to honor such a world treasure.

Like many of you, The Ear has been to Notre Dame in Paris, several times in fact, both inside and outside. I have seen it and heard it.

While we wait for more news of what survived and what didn’t, here is a moving YouTube video of people in the cathedral listening to an improvisation on the mighty organ that is joined by singers.

One wonders: Did the organ survive? Is it usable?

When will services resume?

When will music once again shake the monumental interior?

Please leave a comment about what music you would play to honor Notre Dame de Paris. It doesn’t have to be French or religious – just suitable to the occasion.


  1. La cathédrale engloutie for sure, preferably in the Stokowski orchestration.
    then Pierne’s L’an M’il.
    Concluding with Tournemeire’s sixth symphony, with its overpowering coda.

    Comment by Alan Dean Foster — April 20, 2019 @ 12:55 pm

  2. [Notre-Dame is ] a vast symphony of stone…A sort of human Creation, in short, mighty and prolific like the Divine Creation….”

    Victor Hugo, Book Three, Chapter 1, “The Cathedral of Notre-Dame” in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”

    Comment by fflambeau — April 16, 2019 @ 11:40 pm

  3. “Every face, every stone, of this venerable monument, is a page not only of the history of the country, but of the history of science and art. ….Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of ages.”

    Victor Hugo, Book Three, Chapter 1, “The Cathedral of Notre-Dame” in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”

    Comment by fflambeau — April 16, 2019 @ 11:27 pm

  4. Marcel Dupré’s Symphonie-Passion, Op. 23 played by Pierre Cochereau. Grand Prix du Disque. 1956

    Comment by Peter Elling johnson — April 16, 2019 @ 4:11 pm

  5. And an update from the second violinist from this morning’s quartet meeting: The Washington Post says the organ was NOT destroyed, but there was no information re water damage to it. And at least one of the rose windows survived.

    Little bits and pieces keep trundling out that proclaim good news (or at least as good as possible news) in the midst of tragedy.

    Hopefully, even more will be forthcoming.

    Comment by bratschespeilerin — April 16, 2019 @ 2:30 pm

  6. At quartet this morning, the cellist said that the organ was destroyed.

    I would agree with the Debussy “La cathédrale engloutie” (preferably the orchestrated version), and both the Fauré Requiem and Cantique de Jean Racine.

    Stephanie Elkins played the Machaut Messe de Notre Dame this morning on WERN, as her memory piece.

    Comment by bratschespeilerin — April 16, 2019 @ 2:24 pm

  7. “La cathédrale engloutie” for sure! Debussy envisioned a cathedral engulfed by water but it is such a powerful, beautiful and evocative piece that one could imagine a cathedral engulfed by flames, especially if the pianist interpreted it that way.
    Great discussion idea, Jake.
    Here’s another cultural connection. We’re as grateful for water at Notre Dame as Quasimodo was! (posted on Facebook)

    Comment by Kevin Lynch — April 16, 2019 @ 2:08 pm

  8. Cantique de Jean Racine by Faure came to mind immediately. It blends both pathos and glory in its
    memorable and beautiful melody.

    Comment by Susan Udell — April 16, 2019 @ 1:56 pm

  9. For this Holy Week, The Seven Last Words of Christ by Franz Joseph Haydn

    Comment by Robert Graebner — April 16, 2019 @ 12:24 pm

  10. I would choose the Faure’ Requiem to honor Notre Dame Cathedral.

    Comment by Melinda Certain — April 16, 2019 @ 10:34 am

  11. Saint Saens’ Organ Symphony. He was organist at La Madeleine. César Franck was organist at Saint Sulpice. He composed several pieces for organ. And why not JS Bach, and other international composers as befits this very international cathedral.

    Comment by Ronnie — April 16, 2019 @ 10:32 am

  12. blog with info on organ history and samples of music played on their organs:

    Comment by Lynn Gilchrist — April 16, 2019 @ 9:54 am

  13. Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Nostr Dame?

    Comment by Ann Boyer — April 16, 2019 @ 8:17 am

  14. I’ll go with Maurice Durufle’s Requiem — one of the most beautiful 20th Century pieces. That, and Durufle, like Messaien, was organist for many years at one of the Paris churches.

    Comment by Tim Adrianson — April 16, 2019 @ 7:49 am

  15. can’t think of anything closer to home than perotin’s sederunt principes.

    Comment by john h callan — April 16, 2019 @ 7:38 am

  16. Claude Debussy – La cathédrale engloutie for solo piano.

    Comment by Tom — April 16, 2019 @ 6:17 am

  17. Some good news coming out of Paris, it appears the organ for ND has been spared.

    Comment by fflambeau — April 16, 2019 @ 6:13 am

  18. Faure Requiem

    Comment by Margaret Irwin — April 16, 2019 @ 6:11 am

  19. It’s good that much of the cathedral still remains.

    I remember about a decade ago visiting Dresden’s cathedral, which had been completely destroyed in the WWII bombings of that city (almost all of the historic center was destroyed and rebuilt). To their credit, the Germans painstakingly reconstructed it using photographs and designs that remained. It was a triumph of the day, and I suspect and hope, the same will be done for Notre Dame. It will be hugely expensive, of course, but there are so many people internationally who love that cathedral that money should be the least of problems.

    Yes, it is a tragedy, but out of it may come something great.

    Comment by fflambeau — April 16, 2019 @ 1:54 am

    • I also thought of the Dresden Cathedral, which we visited during its reconstruction. They purposely used stones of a different shade in their reconstruction so that people could see what was original.

      Comment by Ann Boyer — April 16, 2019 @ 8:34 am

  20. Alan Hovhaness, Prayer of St. Gregory

    Comment by fflambeau — April 16, 2019 @ 1:32 am

  21. Fauré’s Requiem. One of the most beautiful lieces of music of all time, for the ruin of one of the most beautiful places of all time.

    Comment by Dory — April 16, 2019 @ 1:09 am

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