Obituary, André Isoir (1935-2016)
The French organist André Isoir died yesterday, on his 81st birthday.
Born in Saint-Dizier, north-eastern France, in 1935, Isoir studied piano and organ at the École César-Franck and the Conservatoire de Paris under Rolande Falcinelli, Édouard Souberbielle and Germaine Mounier. Having won numerous awards for performance and improvisation whilst at college, he went on to take first prize in the St Albans International Organ Competition in 1965, and brought off a hat-trick at the Haarlem Competition over the next three years (an achievement which won him the ‘Prix du Challenge’, an award not bestowed on any competitor since the competition’s inception).
Isoir was based in Paris throughout his career, working at L'église Saint-Médard as a student and in the years immediately after graduation, followed by several years at Saint-Séverin on the Left Bank; in 1973 he was appointed Head Organist at the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where he remained for the rest of his career. He was also very active as a teacher and mentor: the year after taking on the job at Saint-Germain, he joined the faculty of the Conservatoire d'Orsay, where he taught for a decade before taking up a position at the Conservatoire National de Région de Boulogne-Billancourt.
Isoir leaves a significant recorded legacy, including a comprehensive survey of the organ works of Nicolas de Grigny, an acclaimed César Franck series on the organ of Luçon Cathedral, and the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony with the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo. But it is as an interpreter of the works of JS Bach that he will be primarily remembered: his recordings on the Calliope label (recently reissued on La dolce vita) are widely regarded as some of the finest interpretations of these works on disc, winning numerous prestigious awards including the ‘Choc de l’année’ prize in 2000 and many ‘Grands Prix du Disque’ throughout the 1970s and 80s.
André Isoir's complete available discography is listed here.
Recorded on the Gerhard-Grenzig organ of Saint-Cyprien en Périgord
'combines technical perfection with a deeply reflective approach. His interpretation is transcended by a rhythmic impetus, a dynamism, a splendour of touch that are quite simply staggering'.
Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC
Recorded between1975 and 1991 on a variety of organs in France, Germany and Luxembourg
'Isoir’s performance here is beautifully lucid…these are absorbing, purposive and featherlight readings' (Organists Review).
Available Formats: 15 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC
Includes works by Clérambault, Couperin, Grigny and Dandrieu
'I enjoyed his fluent ornamentation, the clarity of his choice of registration and the sheer delight he obviously feels is some of the sounds he’s discovered on these eight instruments' (BBC Music Magazine).
Available Format: 6 CDs