MAURICE CLERC, FOURTY YEARS AT THE SERVICE OF THE ORGAN
THE CONCERT ORGANIST
Maurice Clerc for nearly thirty years has been travelling all over the world in the pursuit of an outstanding international career as a concert organist with a total of more than 1300 concerts and recitals. Today, he ranks among the French organists and among those known for their defense and illustration of the French organ music representative of the repertoire, transcriptions and improvisations. From the beginning of his career and especially in his musical activities abroad he took great care to present the « Grand Répertoire » ranging from classical to contemporaneous music works next to french transcriptions, improvisations, and with a particular attention to the symphonic style of which he is an outstanding specialist according to his peers.
Maurice Clerc has visited four continents and his concert tours took him to famous places as well as to somewhat unexpected spots. Europe is his main anchorage and he is regularly welcome in the main capitals, concert centres and festivals in countries such as Spain (Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona) Portugal (Lisbon, Oporto) Germany (Frankfurt, Mainz, Munich) Poland (Warsaw, Oliwa) Hungary (Budapest) England, Italy, the Benelux and the countries of Northern Europe.
In France he was invited in Paris to give three recitals at Notre-Dame, two at Saint-Eustache Festival. He also played the organ at Summer Festival at Saint-Germain des Prés, Saint Augustin and regularly goes on tour across the French regions from Rennes to Monaco and from Strasbourg to Saint-Jean de Luz.
North America plays a significant part in his concert activities. To date Maurice Clerc has undertaken 28 concert tours in the USA and Canada totalling several hundreds of concerts often ending with some improvisations whether in Texas (Houston), New-York (St Patrick), Los Angeles (Cristal cathedral), Philadelphia or Chicago. He received numerous invitations from the AGO to give regularly master-classes and lectures at universities on various topics dealing with French music, transcriptions and improvisation.
As a guest in South America he also took part in various international gatherings either as a concertist or a lecturer at Buenos-Aires, Montevidéo, Sao Paulo and Mexico (Morelia Festival). In Asia, he went three times to Hong-Kong and, in 2003, he was a guest at the prestigious Cultural Centre. At the Taipeh Concert Hall he played twice for the opening of the new Flentrop organ. He went several times to Japan giving concerts at Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo (Mushashino Academia, ICU and he presented a concert programme at the well-known NHK radio-television station. In Korea, he took part in the Seoul Festival through master-classes and lectures. Lastly, in 1981, he went on an important concert tour in Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia with a total of 32 concerts. In 2019, I will be in New Zealand and Australia. In 2020, he will go to Japan, Singapour and Hong-kong for master-class and recitals.
In numerous articles the world press praises Maurice Clerc’s brilliant technique, his faultless virtuosity and the emotion stirred by his way of playing. His style quality is enhanced by a careful approach of his repertoire, a strict study of the works and a perfect knowledge of the registration so that the organ may sound and the music sing as they should.
From the very beginning of his career, Maurice Clerc aimed at the setting up of an unconventional discography in various fields and to date he has produced 13 recording out of which 10 CDs.
The selection of the instruments and the organ works testifies to his eclecticism such as the Great Organ at the Dijon Cathedral, the well-know Cavaillé-Coll at Saint-Sernin in Toulouse, the organ at Kempten (Germany) and the impressive Kuhn organ at the Hofkirche in Lucerne (Switzerland). Maurice Clerc work with CD’s producing international labels such as Festivo (Netherlands) or IFO (Germany), Hortus (France) and he is keen on recording programs on composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, André Fleury, César Franck, Louis Vierne, Marcel Dupré, Pierre Cochereau (with a CD of reconstituted improvisations) or highlighting a specific musical form like the Toccata or a period of time such « The Organ in Europe around 1700 ». He recorded two CD’s of recitals, one at the opening session of the restored organ at the Dijon Cathedral in 1996 “Prestige of the Grand Organ” and the second in 1998, at a live recital, finally, for Festivo, a CD of transcriptions of French works from Berlioz to Ravel, with personnal transcriptions of Fauré/Dolly Suite. International record reviewers unanimously hold. These recordings as historical evidences and reference versions in these fields according to their laudatory comments in Diapason, the American Organist or the Organist’s Reviews.
THE ORGANIST OF THE CATHEDRAL OF DIJON
Maurice Clerc his Emeritus organist of the cathedral in Dijon. He was titular organist during fourty six years from 1972 until 2018. At the time of his nomination, Roland Falcinelli, organ teacher at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris and Grand Prix de Rome declared with respect to this nomination "Maurice Clerc an authority worthy of that noble instrument".
Undoubtedly this is an example of an outstanding faithfulness to a commitment both liturgical and cultural. The active participation of the organ to ceremonies of all kinds whether parrochial or pontifical regularly gives the organist an opportunity to express himself while interpreting the repertoire or improvising in front of thousands of listeners who visit the church premises. In the cultural field Maurice Clerc is the President and prime mover of the Association “Les Amis de l’Orgue de la Cathédrale”; as such he can draw on his vast potential as a promoter of ideas and organizer of events aimed at enhancing the value of such historical instrument. Between 1977 and 1988, date of the start of the organ restauration, 150 concerts were organized. Besides the yearly season “Organ Festival of the Cathedral” offering 12 concerts one may also mention a few key events in the organ international world of which he was the promoter such as The Organ Night, The Open Doors Day, The International Organ Week, The Pierre Cochereau’s days, Jean Guillou, Marie-Claire Alain, Riepp’s days. the Opening Session on the organ in march 1996 with 10 concerts in 3 days welcoming 7000 participants! Thus for the last thirty years this loft has been wide open to the qualified organists, french or not, coming to Dijon with the wish to highlight the impressive repertoire of every time and origin. Lastly there is an ongoing and lively promotion around this instrument with the welcoming of many groups and foreign students (from Ann Arbor University, Germany, Italy, FFAO etc...) some by-products are available such as CD’s, books, pamphlets, postal cards, videos. In other words the Dijon instrument has a radiating capability exceeding by far the limits of our borders and under Maurice Clerc’s impulse has become a site which counts and is spoken of through the whole word.
THE ORGAN TEACHER
On several accounts Maurice Clerc has actively involved himself as a teacher firstly at the Consevatory of Dijon where he was appointed in 1974 following his outstanding graduation with a Musical Training Diploma. Since than he has trained hundred of students who in turn chose the musical’s carear, some even becoming teachers. In 1977 within the musicology section at the University of Dijon, Maurice Clerc took part in the setting up of the Musical Training Section where he taught during twenty years at the various levels of the unit. The organ teaching represents a large part of Maurice Clerc’s activities as he holds as a basic responsibility the extension of our national organ music so that it is better known, understood and valued. Besides numerous private lessons to pupils from France and abroad, he plans regular master-classes in the course of the international travels in Europ, USA, Canada and Asia, both throught private and public classes. The interpretation and the art of improvisation as he was taught by Pierre Cochereau himself are the main tenets of this activity. The knowledge and the understanding of the resources of the French organ music required by its appropriate performance and its registration upon organs more or less distant from its original sound are the tasks to which he has dedicated himself for several decades. He is the author of a Hanbook on the art of improvisation which he endeavours to implement with reference to the teaching of the Master Pierre Cochereau who taught him during four years and remains the outstanding authority in this field. His main goal is to give an answer to the students who do not know how to approach the improvisation and achieve a coherently shaped and structured work in a musical language. Lastly Maurice Clerc has been lecturer on diverse topics like Marcel Dupré, Karl-Joseph Riepp and the organ of Dijon, the neo-classical organ music, the history of the improvisation, the transcription for organ. Thus he is regular guest at the major American Universities (Ann Arbor, Curtis) Montreal (Canada), Mushashino/Tokyo, (Japan), Seoul (Korea) Sao Paulo/University (Brazil) and Italy.
THE CONSULTANT ORGANIST
Here is another area where maurice Clerc has also given proof of his own worth and displayed his sense of responsability. During his thirty year stay at Dijon he significantly contributed to the activities of his adopted town, department and region, associated to the development of organ restorations especially of the unclassified ones. As early as in the eighties he succeeded in sharing his concern to undertake a wide ranging policy in this respect and to convince the appropriate authorities, Mayors and Presidents of the Départemental and Regional Councils of the need to think together about an overall blueprint for the restoration and modernisation of organs. Consequently he initiated numerous works whose success is now a reality but which required countless hours of meetings with elected officials and various authorities, survey aimed at outlining programs together with the selection of organ builders, and exchanges of views with the organists. In this respect he can be proud of the coherent policy whose development led to some achievements to he viewed as reference works. Through two decades the department of Côte-d’Or and the town of Dijon equipped themselves with organs whose diverse characters are suited to the highlighting of a broad section of the musical literature within a particularly appropriate aesthetics. Moreover from 1988 to 1996 Maurice Clerc was one of the essential actors of the restoration of the Grand Organ at the Cathedral of Dijon. Hundred of hours were dedicated to historical and technical surveys and reflexions, to the setting up of records and the sensitization of the concerned authorities through meetings and exchanges of views, not to mention the almost daily presence at the loft near the organ builder such was his life during almost ten years! His longterm investment and his sound approach made possible the implementation of this huge undertaking, one of the most significant achivied in the eighties in our country.