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Charles Tournemire

Biography

Born: January 22, 1870   Died: November 4, 1939  
A precocious child, Charles Tournemire was appointed organist of the church of St. Pierre in Bordeaux at the age of 11. He studied at the Conservatoire de Paris with César Franck and Charles-Marie Widor, winning in 1891 the first prize in organ; he also studied with d'Indy at the Schola Cantorum. In 1898, Tournemire succeeded Gabriel Pierné as organist in St. Clotilde, a post he held for the rest of his life. As organist, Tournemire toured Read more Germany, Holland, and Russia before the Great War. Between 1900 and 1914 he composed his first five symphonies , all of which were performed at the time. In 1904, Tournemire's cantata Le sang de la sirène won the concours musicale de las ville de Paris.

The Franck-inspired idiom that had sustained Tournemire to that time began to give way to a more complex harmonic texture that incorporated some degree of impressionistic harmony. This style began to deepen in 1908 after Tournemire married the sister of the wife of Josephin "Sâr" Péladan, a French mystic who was the founder of the Ordre de Rose-Croix in Paris. Tournemire also began to read the works of Joris-Karl Huysmans, and through Péladan, took an interest in Madame Blavatsky. Tournemire's music reflected these discoveries through his arrival at a distinct "mystical" organ style, which had a decisive impact on the French organ school exemplified by such figures as Messaien, Jehan Alain, Duruflé and Jean Langlais. As he got older, Tournemire became more inflexible in his views about spiritual matters and later found reason to repudiate every one of his colleagues who expressed admiration for him or depended on his counsel.

The First World War caused a break in Tournemire's creative life. He was mobilized and, although he had projected a Sixth Symphony in 1915, he could only start to work on it in 1917. This symphony, in addition to two more that followed it, were never performed in his lifetime. In 1919, he was appointed a professor at the Paris Conservatoire, but the Great War had brought about a cultural and musical change of ambience; Tournemire found himself out of step with the times of Les Six and Stravinsky.

From 1921 he devoted his best compositional efforts to the church. His great oratorios came after the last of his symphonies: La Quête du Saint-Graal (1926-1927), l'Apocalypse de Saint-Jean (1932-1936), and La douloureuse Passion du Christ (1936-1937). Between 1927 and 1932 he worked on the colossal L'orgue mystique. This work comprises 51 Offices, sets of five pieces for the Holy Mass, for every Sunday of the year. The complete work would last about 15 hours of music, longer than the complete organ works of J.S. Bach. Tournemire was highly valued as an improviser on the organ, and in 1930 recorded five improvisations at St. Clotilde on phonograph records that were later painstakingly transcribed by Maurice Duruflé; these pieces are among Tournemire's best known works. Tournemire's last composition was the opera Il poverello di Assisi (1937-1938), based on a text by Sar Péladan.

The circumstances of Tournemire's death are among the most mysterious and controversial to be found for any classical composer. He left his home to take a walk on October 31, 1939 and never returned; four days later his body was found in a bog outside of Archachon, quite some distance from where he started out. The suggestion that he may have committed suicide seemed impossible for such a staunchly Catholic mystic, and the latest information suggests that Tournemire may have become disoriented, lost his way and drowned by accident. A series of documents that are expected to clear up this matter are sealed until 2015; the long held story that Tournemire's body was found in the street is nothing more than an urban legend. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 76 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    French Organ Music / Petur Sakari
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 1969 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tournemire,  Louis Vierne,  Olivier Messiaen,  Marcel Dupré  ... 
    Performer:  Pétur Sakari
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  • 2.
    Great European Organs No. 86: The 1954 Walker-Downes Organ of the London Oratory
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 1084 Release Date: 08/13/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dietrich Buxtehude,  Pieter Cornet,  Nicolas-Antoine Lebègue,  Nicholas de Grigny  ... 
    Performer:  Matthew Martin
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  • 3.
    100 Best Organ Classics
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 332452 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Jeremiah Clarke,  Dietrich Buxtehude,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Nicolas Kynaston,  Nicholas Kynaston,  Noel Rawsthorne,  Lionel Rogg  ... 
    Conductor:  Michel Plasson,  Yehudi Menuhin,  Georges Prêtre
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra,  Menuhin Festival Orchestra,  Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservato  ... 
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  • 4.
    De Breville, Koechlin, Tournemire: Sonatas & Suite / Steven Dann, James Parker
    Label: Atma Classique   Catalog: 2519 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Pierre de Bréville,  Charles Koechlin,  Charles Tournemire
    Performer:  Steven Dann,  James Parker
    CD: $17.99
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  • 5.
    A Cathedral's Voice / Jonathan Ryan
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 941 Release Date: 01/08/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  William Byrd,  George Oldroyd,  Petr Eben  ... 
    Performer:  Jonathan Ryan
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  • 6.
    Prisme: Olivier Messiaen Et Les Annees 30
    Label: D.e. Versluis   Catalog: 1033 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claire Delbos,  Jean Yves Daniel-Lesur,  Georges Migot,  Arjan Versluis  ... 
    Performer:  Anton Doornhein,  Arjan Versluis
    On sale! $67.98
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  • 7.
    Theodore Dubois: Toccata; Louis Vierne: Etoile Du Soir; Fantomes; Charles Tournemire: Victimae Paschali
    Label: Carthagene   Catalog: 730541 Release Date: 09/11/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Louis Vierne,  Charles Tournemire,  Alexandre Pierre Boëly,  Théodore Dubois  ... 
    Performer:  Marie Ducrot
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  • 8.
    Tournemire: Trinitas / Vincent Boucher
    Label: Atma Classique   Catalog: 2472 Release Date: 02/28/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tournemire
    Performer:  Vincent Boucher
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  • 9.
    Vision At Covenant
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 931 Release Date: 02/14/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Stanley,  Harold Drake,  Charles Tournemire,  Olivier Messiaen  ... 
    Performer:  Murray Forbes Sommerville
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  • 10.
    Liverpool Spectacular!
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 1042 Release Date: 06/14/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Gounod,  Jon Fjellestad,  Daniel Rathbone,  Marian Sawa  ... 
    Performer:  Richard Lea
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  • 11.
    Tournemire: Sagesse, Poeme, Lieder / Michael Bundy, Helen Crayford
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572347 Release Date: 12/14/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tournemire
    Performer:  Michael Bundy,  Helen Crayford,  Claire Seaton
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  • 12.
    Tournemire: Nativitas / Vincent Boucher
    Label: Atma Classique   Catalog: 2471 Release Date: 10/26/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tournemire
    Performer:  Vincent Boucher
    CD: $17.99
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  • 13.
    An Organ Legacy: The Basilica Of The National Shrine
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 915 Release Date: 09/14/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Fernando Germani,  Maurice Duruflé,  Flor Peeters,  Olivier Messiaen  ... 
    Performer:  Jeremy Filsell
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  • 14.
    A Phenomenon Without Equal
    Label: Priory Records   Catalog: 1026 Release Date: 04/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Louis Vierne,  Charles Tournemire,  Pierre Cochereau,  Marcel Dupré
    Performer:  Anthony Hammond
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 15.
    Resurrexit Et Ascendit
    Label: Ars Musici   Catalog: 232339 Release Date: 02/23/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tournemire,  Anonymous
    Performer:  Harald Feller,  Christian Dostal,  Sebastian Schober,  Florian Schmid  ... 
    Conductor:  P. Johannes Berchmans Gos
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  • 16.
    Label: Skarbo   Catalog: 1095 Release Date: 01/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Dietrich Buxtehude,  Carlos Seixas,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Jacques Kauffmann
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  • 17.
    Vidimus Stellam: Weihnachten & Epiphanie / Schola Gregoriana Monacensis
    Label: Ars Musici   Catalog: 232369 Release Date: 10/27/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tournemire,  Anonymous
    Performer:  Harald Feller,  Marcus Sterk,  Sebastian Schober,  Christoph Liebl  ... 
    Conductor:  P. Johannes Berchmans Gos
    CD: $24.99
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  • 18.
    Organ Music & Gregorian Chant
    Label: Ars Musici   Catalog: 232260 Release Date: 09/29/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Nicholas de Grigny,  Charles Tournemire,  Jehan-Ariste Alain,  Jean Langlais
    Performer:  Bernhard Marx
    Conductor:  Bernhard Schmid
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  • 19.
    Dom Zu St. Blasien Orgelmusik Und Gregorianischer Choral
    Label: Ars Musici   Catalog: 232260 Release Date: 01/01/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Nicholas de Grigny,  Charles Tournemire,  Jehan Alain,  Jean Langlais
    Performer:  Bernhard Marx
    Conductor:  Bernhard Schmid
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  • 20.
    Resurrexit / Baker, Westminster Cathedral Choir
    Label: Herald Records   Catalog: 284 Release Date: 10/20/2008  
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Peter Phillips,  Charles Tournemire,  Anonymous
    Performer:  Robert Quinney
    Conductor:  Martin Baker
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
    On sale! $19.98
    CD: $16.99
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  • 21.
    Tournemire: Improvisations, Etc / Sieling, Brommann, Berlin Cathedral Singers Schola
    Label: Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog: 9461514 Release Date: 07/22/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tournemire,  Anonymous
    Performer:  Andreas Sieling,  Tobias Brommann
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Cathedral Singers Schola
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  • 22.
    Charles Tournemire - Complete Recordings
    Label: Arbiter   Catalog: 156 Release Date: 05/27/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Tournemire,  César Franck
    Performer:  Charles Tournemire
    Recommendation
    On sale! $19.98
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  • 23.
    English Cathedral Series Vol 8 - Newcastle / Scott Farrell
    Label: Regent   Catalog: 189 Release Date: 04/08/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Felix Alexandre Guilmant,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Olivier Messiaen,  Charles Tournemire  ... 
    Performer:  Scott Farrell,  Sinfonia Varsovia
    On sale! $18.98
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  • 24.
    L' Orgue Pierre Schyven 1891 / Peter Van De Velde
    Label: Aeolus   Catalog: 10491 Release Date: 02/19/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles-Marie Widor,  César Franck,  Louis Vierne,  Maurice Duruflé  ... 
    Performer:  Peter Van de Velde
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 25.
    A Sacred Romance - Franck, Widor, Et Al / Kevin Clarke
    Label: Pro Organo   Catalog: 7217 Release Date: 11/06/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  César Franck,  Charles-Marie Widor,  Louis Vierne,  Charles Tournemire  ... 
    Performer:  Kevin Clarke
    On sale! $24.98
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