An illustrated talk of Charles Tournemire’s life and L’Orgue Mystique

Saturday 25th January 2020

Worcester Cathedral Song School 10.30am till 12.00pm.

An illustrated talk of Charles Tournemire’s life and L’Orgue Mystique, followed by a recital on the Cathedral Quire organ at 1pm by Adrian Gunning.


L’Orgue Mystique by Charles Tournemire 1870-1939


TOURNEMIRE began work on l’Orgue Mystique in 1927 when he was 57 years old. As organist of the Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde for almost thirty years, and successor of the legendary César Franck, he was universally recognised as a towering presence in the Parisian organ world, and the greatest living master of the art of improvisation. L’Orgue Mystique represented a turning-point in Tournemire’s artistic career; “All my previous works,” he said, “for the orchestra, for the stage, and so on, were a preparation for the creation of L’Orgue Mystique”. For this special new work (cette nouvelle musique d’orgue, as he called it), he developed a new musical language, combining the modality of mediaeval and early baroque music with the modern resources of chromaticism and polytonality. There is no other music from this period that conveys a message of eternal, transcendent spirituality with such immediacy – apart, of course, from the work of Tournemire’s young protégé Messiaen.


ADRIAN GUNNING has been organist at the Roman Catholic Church of St John the Evangelist, Duncan Terrace, Islington for 33 years. Prior to his appointment at Islington he was organist at the celebrated Roman Catholic Church of St James’s, Spanish Place in Westminster, London from 1977-1985 and during this time he discovered the impressionistic and unmistakable sound world of Charles Tournemire’s plainsong inspired organ music. Since then he has made a particular study of this music having performed, recorded and broadcast it over the world. He is known by many as a leading interpreter of Tournemire’s organ music and especially of his famous cycle L’Orgue Mystique.


“These persuasive performances range from “unbridled ecstasy” at the conclusion of Verrière (stained-glass window) via piquant harmonic colouring of the mutations and transcendent spirituality in the Christmas Offertoire; grandeur and serenity – among much else – in Triptyque; infinitely mysterious stringy effects in Communion for All Saints; an Advent Toccata with a difference”. Michael Bell Organists’ Review