This work is a collection of scientific and artistic research that I initiated in 2016 while working as the main organist at the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Licheń Stary, Poland which culminated in the defense of my doctoral dissertation on February 19, 2019, under the title of The Organ as a Source of Inspiration in the Art of Improvisation and Performance Practice at the Białystok Department of Instruments and Pedagogy at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw. Thanks to cooperation with Professor Andrzej Chorosiński, the creator of the tonal concept of the Licheń instrumentarium and the promoter of the above-mentioned dissertation, the phenomenon of inspiration in a multidimensional way accompanied me throughout the entire period of my scientific and artistic work. As a result, these studies went far beyond the framework specified for the doctoral dissertation, which meant that material that did not fit into the dissertation was regularly published in international journals devoted to the organ and organ music: in the British “The Organ”, in the American “The Diapason” and “The Vox Humana” as well as the Canadian “Organ Canada”. My interests in the field of aesthetics, and especially in the phenomena focused around the theory of the “aesthetic situation” developed by Maria Gołaszewska (on the basis of phenomenology by Roman Ingarden), resulted in subsequent articles dealing with the perception of organ music, and even the boundaries between art and kitsch in relation to the area of interest to us. Thus, a great deal of material was gathered around the phenomenon of inspiration, which eventually took shape in this book.
In my doctoral dissertation, I dealt with the role of the instrument as a source of inspiration for an organist both in the art of stylistic improvisation and in the historically oriented practice of performing symphonic organ music from the French cultural circle of the second half of the 19th century. The dissertation was a theoretical development of my own artistic interpretations presented on the CD French inspirations: the second half of the 19th century, recorded during a one-night session in June 2018 on the organ of the Licheń Basilica for the needs of the doctoral process started in February 2018. The dissertation consisted of an introduction, four chapters, a conclusion and a bibliography.
In the first chapter of this book, which was the first chapter of my dissertation, I described the socio-cultural context that characterized the 19th century, in order to present the development of romantic ideas and currents in music, with particular emphasis on changes in European organ construction that took place over the period. The presentation of the figure of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811–1899), as a key figure of symphonic organ construction in France, is an introduction to the description of the characteristics, features and evolution of symphonic organs on the basis of selected works by this organ builder. These features and the variability of these features over time constitute the basic field in which I consider the notion of inspiration flowing from the instrument at the disposal of the performer in the further course of my work. I then describe Cavaillé-Coll’s instruments that were a source of inspiration for the composers of the pieces presented on the CD, i.e. the Paris organs in the churches of La Madeleine, Sainte-Clotilde, Saint-Sulpice and La Trinité, the cathedral of Notre-Dame and the Trocadéro Palace.
In the second chapter, I present Cavaillé-Coll’s project of an unrealized giant for the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter, trying to collect all available material on this topic. I omit here the knowledge available – especially thanks to the work of Ronald Ebrecht – about the activities of the organ builder and the people from the world of art, culture and business and personalities of the committee aimed at the implementation of this extraordinary instrument.
In the third chapter of this publication (and the second chapter of my dissertation), I analyze the instrumentarium of the Licheń Basilica, on which the artistic work was recorded among others in terms of the phenomena described in the first chapter. The organ of the Licheń Basilica was built according to the idea of French symphonism, with technical improvements brought by the 20th century in the years 2002-2007 by the company Zakłady Organowe Zych according to the sound concept of A. Chorosiński. The choice of an instrument for the recording of the artistic work described here was not accidental. While performing the duties of organist at the Licheń Basilica in 2011-2018, I had the opportunity to get to know this extraordinary instrumentarium both from the artistic side, by improvising and interpreting organ literature during the liturgy and concerts, but also from the technical side, by supervising the full concert capabilities of this giant. Contact with this instrument stimulated me to deepen my knowledge and conduct organological research, especially in the field of great symphonic organs. The second part of the third chapter is devoted to a very detailed comparative analysis of the Licheń instrumentarium and Cavaillé-Coll’s project for the Vatican Basilica.
Chapter four, which did not appear in the dissertation, but was described, inter alia, in a separate book published by the Licheń publishing house, is devoted to the author’s methodology of comparing organs in terms of size and, on this basis, placing the Licheń instrumentarium among the giants of Poland, Europe and the whole world. Cooperation with organ magazines from the USA and Canada resulted in research on the giants of the North American continent, the results of which are also published here.
Chapter five (the third in the dissertation), beginning with the description of the basic theories of sound in relation to the mutual determination of the instrument and the musical work, is devoted to the phenomenon of inspiration in general, its definition and an analysis of its sources. I distinguish and describe the features of the organ as a musical instrument that can inspire an organist. Then I discuss the phenomenon of style improvisation (definitions, types, methods of learning, role in 19th-century liturgical practice) and the art of interpreting organ literature, characterizing the performance styles of the composers whose works are presented on the CD.
Chapter six (the fourth in the dissertation) is a description of the artistic work in the form of my own interpretations of Louis-James-Alfred Lefébure-Wély’s Sortie Grand-Chœur from Op. 122 No. 8, Prière et Berceuse Op. 27 by Alexandre Guilmant, Marche Pontificale from the 1st Sonata in D minor by Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens and the 3rd Chorale in A minor, Op. 40 by César Franck and a cycle of improvisations in the form of a five-part Organ Symphony in the spirit of that era. In this chapter, I carry out a formal analysis of the recorded literature in terms of the character and dynamics of sound achieved through a registration compromise between the (more or less precisely defined) sound ideal by composers and my own inspirations coming from the Licheń organ, as well as the means of expression, dynamics, agogics and articulation. On the other hand, I discuss improvisations from a formal point of view, and, above all, from the point of view of the inspiration that led me to create these works, emphasizing the relationship between ideas and the potential and used methods of their implementation on a Licheń instrument.
The seventh chapter (absent from the dissertation, but constituting partially separate published articles) deals with the perception of organ music, with particular emphasis on the multi-spectral phenomenon of inspiration.
The book ends with a synthesis of conclusions from all the chapters, a bibliography containing books along with scientific articles, recordings and Internet sources that I used during the preparation of this work, and a list of photos, figures and tables.
I hope that this work will bring the reader closer to the problem of the phenomenon of inspiration, which – depending on the chosen context and perspective – may concern many dimensions of musical reality: from the organ builder’s idea to a specific instrument, trends in culture and art determining the directions of organ construction, through organ building and organ creativity, to the internal features of the musician, the circumstances of the performance of the music, historical figures associated with a given instrument or place, or different levels of perception of a musical work by recipients.