From his classes at the Mulhouse conservatory to the Parisian church of Saint-Sulpice, passing through five first prizes at the National Superior Conservatory of Paris and an appointment in 1963 at the Sacré-Coeur basilica, Daniel Roth’s career is that of of an ultra-gifted artist, completely devoted to the influence of his instrument.
As he celebrates, this Monday, October 31, his 80th birthday, the musician willingly expresses his feelings on the place reserved for the organ today. “I feel animated by a great hope but I admit that some concerns torment me at the same timehe confides in a dynamic voice. Hope is nourished by the talent of a young generation of sensational instrumentalists who spread the great French school of the organ throughout the world. At my age, I know that the succession is perfectly and brilliantly assured! »
And the worries? “They are due to the considerable instrumental heritage we have in France and to the insufficiency, for financial reasons, of its maintenance in playing condition. For the city of Paris alone, the observation is dizzying…” And if Daniel Roth is delighted that, since the 1970s, 19th century instruments “receive the interest they deserve after a period of relative contempt”he is alarmed by the scale of the task to restore their luster to so many organs that deserve it.
Big bursts and “mysterious” sounds
From the great organs or the choir organ of Saint-Sulpice where he has officiated since 1985, the performer and improviser makes liturgical music and the concert repertoire resonate: “Think of Claudel at Notre-Dame or Poulenc at Rocamadour: music, when it makes sacred buildings vibrate, has an incredible power of conversion. With great artists as in each of us. » And don’t talk to him about the temptation of omnipotence that can seize the demiurge organist capable of unleashing storms of sound from his rostrum. “Of course, the tutti are terribly impressive, but let’s not forget that we can produce soft and mysterious sounds just as well. It is precisely this palette that makes the organ so precious. »
From one of his masters, the organist and composer Maurice Duruflé, Daniel Roth takes up the adage that his games and keyboards combine perfectly with the timbre of the brass, trumpet or horn. “But, unlike him, I think other rapprochements are possible. Organ and flute come together in a very poetic way. »
Ambassador of the organ abroad
To his young colleagues entering the profession, their eldest wishes first and foremost ” good luck ! ». Aware that, nowadays, it is impossible – “with the exception of the choir organist of Notre-Dame de Paris who plays every day” – to live from the position of liturgical instrumentalist. “To the church post, you have to be able to add a career as a concert performer and/or, if you feel the fiber, teaching”, he assures. Daniel Roth shows them the example: a few days ago, he gave concerts and a master-class in Katowice in Poland. He is soon leaving for Empoli in Tuscany, before the Netherlands and London…
“As soon as I can, I comment on and explain the works on my program because it is important to share with the public some secrets of the instrument and the close relationship between the organs – baroque, classical, romantic or modern – and the repertoire. specifically written for them. » Within the church as well as the concert hall, the organ which still intimidates needs eloquent and generous ambassadors. At 80, Daniel Roth is working on it more passionately than ever.