The Organ

The Organ in France

Wallace Goodrich: The Organ in France
Wayne Leopold Editions (The Organist’s Library). WL800020
ISBN 978-1-881162-18-6

Rollin Smith provides a short but excellent introduction to this reprint of Goodrich’s 1917 work. Written for an American audience that was much attracted to French organs and organ music, Goodrich’s monograph was designed to explain the French instrument so that the music written for it could be better interpreted on organs in the United States. As Smith points out, the North American organ is now much closer to European models that it was at the start of the 20th century, though there are still differences and Goodrich’s work still has a value in explaining the philosophy behind organ building and design – and of composing for, and playing the instrument – in France. In addition, Goodrich was writing at a time when many of the great 19th and 20th century French organists were still alive, and the instruments on which they played little altered from when they were originally constructed – mainly, of course, by Cavaillé-Coll. Particularly useful in this respect are the sections devoted to the use of the organ in France, and the way in which the instrument was registered and the various playing aids used. Goodrich gives many examples from music of the period and style. The second half of the book talks about the adaptation of French organ compositions to the North American organ. There is still much of use in this section of the work, as many of us still play on instruments designed and built at the time this book was written! There are a number of specifications of important organs included, along with a valuable glossary, a list of works cited, a bibliography and a detailed index, as well as a number of black-and-white illustrations (which have not reproduced very well, but which are historically interesting). This book is well worth acquiring, for it tells us much about an important school of organ building and organ music composition.