Esplanade Presents


Pipe Organ Recital – One Hundred Years of French Sacred Music

Maurice Clerc (France)

30 Apr 2023, Sun, 3pm


(Intermission: None)

Esplanade Concert Hall

This event is over.


Soaring, majestic, powerful, stirring—these are the words so often used to describe the sound of music played on an organ, an instrument that dates back to the 3rd century BC. It was at first an instrument of royal patronage, disapproved by medieval church leaders for its worldly and “sensually exciting sound”. Nonetheless, it eventually made its way into monasteries and churches. From the 14th to the 17th centuries, the tonal palette of the organ began to expand, and national styles of organ building also began to develop.  


Through the 18th and well into the 19th centuries, organ-building and performance flourished in France, advancing quicker than adjacent countries. Organ-building competitions encouraged builders to push the boundaries in design and sound – the addition of pipes that imitated orchestral instruments like bassoons, oboes, clarinets and flutes; and constructing the organ to produce a seamless swell of sound from soft to loud, which was previously impossible. The instruments of great organ builders like Aristide Cavaillé-Coll filled the knaves of the most famous churches in Paris, including Notre-Dame (whose organ was thankfully spared from the fire in 2019), L'église de la Madeleine and Église Saint-Sulpice.


Influenced by composers like Liszt and Wagner, organist-composers were drawn to the instrument’s symphonic possibilities, and composer Charles-Marie Widor (1844–1937) had mentioned that “[the] modern organ is essentially symphonic [and] the new instrument needs a new language”. Widor and his successors, such as Louis Vierne (1870–1937) and Maurice Duruflé (1902–1986), thus set about composing “symphonies” for the organ. Dramatic and witty, they made use of the varying colours and timbres that the organ could produce. They brought together the vast and disparate elements of the French pipe organ into an “orchestra”, while staying true to the nobility and spirituality of the instrument.


At the Esplanade Concert Hall, established French organist Maurice Clerc presents a programme covering the last 100 years of French sacred organ works. These pieces are written by some of the most influential organist-composers of the 19th and 20th centuries, and include improvisations by Widor, Vierne and Duruflé that were written for solo organ. One will experience the range, power and capabilities of the organ as a symphonic instrument through their works, while the masterpieces by Tournemire and Dupré showcase their unique blend of liturgical chants with modernist harmonies and techniques.



Charles Tournemire (1870–1939)
Paraphrase on Victimae Paschali Laudes
(reconstructed improvisation by Maurice Duruflé)


Marcel Dupré (1886–1971)
Crucifixion of the Passion-Symphony


Louis Vierne (1870–1937)
(reconstructed improvisation by Maurice Duruflé)


Charles-Marie Widor (1845–1937)
Mattheus-Final of Bach’s Memento


Jean Langlais (1909–1991)
Te Deum


Gaston Litaize (1909–1991)
Liturgical Préludes:
Andantino in A major
Allegretto in B major


Jehan Alain (1911–1940)
Postlude pour l’office des complies


Pierre Cochereau (1924–1984)
Scherzo symphonique (Notre-Dame Cathédral, 1974)
(reconstructed improvisation by Maurice Clerc)

Admission Age:
10 and above
Language: English
Things to Note:
Accessibility Advisory: We provide a range of access services and relaxed performances for patrons with access needs. For wheelchair-accessible seats, please call Esplanade Customer Experience at 6828 8377 for assistance. Concessions for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) and up to one accompanying companion are available. | View our accessibility guide
Artist Information

Maurice Clerc


Maurice Clerc’s playing style is deeply rooted in the French tradition while drawing energy from the dynamism of modern organ playing. He has performed in approximately 1300 recitals in twenty countries consisting of 28 tours in North America (United States and Canada).


With over forty years of performing in four continents, Maurice has played at prestigious places such as Notre-Dame de Paris (France), Saint Patrick's Cathedral (United States), Lübeck Cathedral (Germany), Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (Italy), Saint Joseph's Oratory (Canada), St Paul's Cathedral (Melbourne, Australia), N.H.K. Hall (Japan) and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (Hong Kong).


In 1987, Maurice was invited to play at the inauguration of the Flentrop organ in the National Theatre and Concert Hall, Taipei. In 1999, he attended the organist convention in Seoul. In 2003, he performed in Hong-Kong, China, Mexico and South Africa. In 2019, Maurice Clerc returned to Australia and New Zealand. In 2020, he played concerts and conducted masterclass in Japan and Hong Kong. His international career includes playing at leading festivals in Bruges, Ravenna, Madrid, Morelia, Saint Eustache in Paris, Milstatt, Frankfurt, Budapest, Warsaw, Buenos-Aires and Montevideo.


Born in Lyon in 1946, Maurice studied under the tutelage of Suzanne Chaise at The École Normale de Musique de Paris (France). In 1975, he was awarded the Premier Prix in organ in the class of Rolande Falcinelli at the Conservatoire National Supérieur (France). Under the tutelage of Gaston Litaize, Maurice spent several years deepening his interpretation of 18th century repertoire. From 1972, he had the opportunity to frequent Pierre Cochereau's improvisational course conducted at the Conservatory of Nice (France). Maurice won the improvisation prize in the international organ competition of Lyon in 1977.


Maurice Clerc is the Organist Emeritus of the Dijon Cathedral (France) after being the titular organist for 46 years from 1972 to 2018. He was also a professor at the Conservatory of Dijon (France). Maurice has recorded multiple times with repertoire that consisted of Johann Sebastian Bach and German baroque masters. He is a specialist of French organist music with a reputation for romantic and modern repertoire. He frequently performs the major works of César Franck, Louis Vierne, Marcel Dupré, André Fleury and Jean Langlais. His most recent recordings include Pierre Cochereau and French transcriptions.


Maurice Clerc is a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

Date & Time

30 Apr 2023, Sun


Esplanade Concert Hall

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