Michel Chapuis

Organist Michel Chapuis has died at the age of 87.

As a teenager, I heard my first Bach via Chapuis’ recordings, especially Clavierübung III. The Telefunken Bach series, “Das Alte Werk,” volume 9, copyright 1975, contained scores and stoplists, both of which I pored over at the Port Washington Public Library while listening intently.

I own my own copies now, and they are frequently on my turntable.

The name of Michel Chapuis is one that I still conjure by. In professional honesty, I do not seek to emulate him, but I do very much admire him.

Back in those halcyon days, the main reading room of the PW library offered a panoramic view of lower Main Street and Manhasset Bay–a view now hogged by the administrators who rebuilt the 1970 Mies van der Rohe building about a dozen years ago. Patrons are now relegated to the cementy darkness that is the natural habitat of the administrator. Administrators bask in the sunlight.

Van der Rohe’s brutalism, no longer a metaphor, is now truly brutal.

When I went to the University of Chicago, I took a photo of that old view with me and put it over my desk, to keep me, at least spiritually, in one of the best places to read and think I’ve ever seen. Anyhow, that view is gone forever.

There was a respectable LP collection, and at one time a large number of turntables. Headphones were available with your library card. Besides Chapuis, I encountered Fischer-Dieskau, the piano music of Schumann and Haydn, the sound of siglo de oro Spanish organs,  and of course Richard Morrison’s album of American organ music. The name of Dudley Buck entered my vocabulary around the time of the Bicentennial.

Most distinctive detail of all: the concrete walls along the massive windows were hung with at least a dozen original Fernando Botero paintings.

Michel Chapuis, Dudley Buck, Fernando Botero, and Manhasset Bay.

I was probably spoiled for life.

About Jon

Keyboard artist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and State. Many interests include music theory and history, literature, astronomy, genealogy, philosophy and theology, gardening, and good food.

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