Opening Voluntary: Verset – Antoine Édouarde Batiste (1820-1876)
At Communion: Antienne – Antoine Édouarde Batiste (1820-1876)
Final Voluntary: Ite missa est – Antoine Édouarde Batiste (1820-1876)
Antoine Édouarde Batiste was born in Paris in 1820 and was the son of Jean Batiste, a baritone singer and composer in the Imperial Chapel of Napoleon III. He entered the Conservatory of Paris at the young age of 8 and remained at that institution for the rest of his life, being elevated to the status of full professor in 1839, when only 19 years old. Batiste was the organ student of François Benoist (1794-1878) and studied composition with Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) and Jacques Fromenthal d’ Halévy (1799-1862). In his student years, he won many prizes at the conservatory including those in solfeggio, harmony, accompaniment, counterpoint, fugue and organ. In the year of 1842, he became the organist at Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs in Paris, where he remained for 12 years. In 1854, a new four-manual organ was installed in the church of St. Eustache and inaugurated by a number of famous organists of the time, including César Franck (1822-1890). This organ, built by the firm of Ducroquet, was felt to be one of the most important in modern Paris. That same year, Batiste became the principal organist at St. Eustache and remained in that position until his death in 1876. Batiste was a well-regarded recitalist and performer of his day. Eulogizing his playing after his death, Joseph G. Lennon, an American who had studied privately with Batiste wrote, “Batiste’s organ playing was one of the chief attractions for foreign musicians visiting Paris. On his programmes were always found compositions from the greatest masters of this noble instrument…His improvisations will never be forgotten by organists who were fortunate enough to hear him extemporize preludes, fugues, offertoires, communions or elevations, while his treatment of the organ in accompanying voices was simply marvelous.” In that role as accompanist, Batiste was the organist for the premier performance of Hector Berlioz’ (1803-1869) Te Deum, which was conducted by the composer himself and performed at St. Eustache for the opening of the Exposition Universelle of 1855.
Batiste composed literally hundreds of pieces for the organ that became popular both in America and in England. English organist, William Spark (1823-1897), himself the organist at Town Hall in Leeds and the editor of Batiste’s works for their English publication, wrote about Batiste’s compositions in his 1888 book, Musical Memories. He particularly admired his Andante movements which he described as “not only very melodious but also very skillfully constructed.” “Batiste’s organ music,” he opined, “ is sometimes noisy, always brilliant and not so sacred and dignified as English church music is expected to be.” Unfortunately, Batiste’s music fell rapidly into disfavor not long after his death. Only a short number of years after Spark, American organist, Clarence Eddy (1851-1937) wrote in 1897 that, “Batiste was a prolific composer, but his compositions are played very little now even in France and not highly esteemed.”
Today’s organ pieces are from Batiste’s Opus 24 and 25 collection published as Cinquante Pièces and consisting of some 50 compositions for liturgical use.