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Henri Messerer

Marseille 1838 - Marseille 1923

Organist, Cavaillé-Coll great organ in Saint-Charles Cathedral, Marseilles (1873-1923).

Messerer was one of the innumerable church musicians of Alsatian origin who occupied the Parisian and provincial organ lofts and chapels in the XIXth Century. He came from a family whose business was the manufacture and sale of pianos. Educated in Marseilles, he occupied various posts before succeeding to the Saint-Charles organ loft where he presided over the 24 stops of the "little brother" of the Saint-Clotilde organ.

He made a good reputation for himself including with his Parisian colleagues. His activities went far beyond the scope of the ecclesiastical and he taught the organ and harmony and even became head of the Conservatory.

He was no doubt less closely linked to Cavaillé-Coll than Collin or Tournaillon, particularly since there were excellent organ builders in the South of France, amongst whom were Mader, Puget, Magen…who were in a position to compete with that other Southerner who had "gone up" to Paris. Messerer's aesthetics, however, like those of the organ builders' could not help but be affected by Cavaillé-Coll's style.

Two of his "Trois Pièces" are dedicated respectively to Charles Collin and his son Charles-Augustin Collin (a Cavaille-Coll organist at Rennes Cathedral), concrete proof that the master organ builder had, through his style, managed to create, beyond provincial borders, an artistic bond of sensitivity and tone that made the French school perhaps the most powerful in the world.

(This note is based on Patrick Geel's excellent study in La lettre de l'orgue en sud-est, no 1, November 1988; pp. 1-8.)

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