The weather was absolutely gorgeous when we woke up this morning with clear blue skies and a light breeze — just perfect. We had quite a long metro ride into town, including two transfers, but emerged from the subway to see the vaulted back of St Eustache straight ahead. It, like many of the churches we have seen here, is in the process of renovation and its high gothic architecture is truly stunning. We were most impressed by the ambulatory (walk-through passageway) which completely surrounded the clerestory. They have also restored several of the chapels, with elaborate painted vaulting and ceiling, very colorful and brilliant.
We stayed for the 11 am service especially to hear the organ and we were not disappointed. The assistant organist (we think) played the Liszt “Introduction, fugue et Magnificat” and it was truly magnificent. This is the parish of the legendary Jean Guillou and we noticed a poster advertising one of his recitals last week, so he’s still playing, even though he may be in his 80s.
The organist improvised during communion and for the postlude, and they were both wildly dissonant, in the Guillou style. There was a choir organ downstairs which accompanied the cantor, along with four soloists. Unfortunately the soprano sang consistently under the pitch. This quartet sang a mass by F. Cosset, which was not terribly remarkable. I’m afraid that the state of choral music in the churches here will not approach the level of superiority which we heard in the music festival at Saintes.
The rest of the afternoon we spent at Cité de la Musique, a music instrument museum of mostly historic instruments. We have been to these kind of museums before, but what was nice about this one was that there was an audio guide which allowed you to hear many of the unusual instruments on display. It is obvious that these instruments are very well-cared for.
I took many pictures inside the museum and can probably develop a slideshow of just these instruments. A gigantic double bass caught our attention — it was more than twice the size, maybe even three times the height of a normal bass.
There were also many gorgeous decorated harpsichords on display, in addition to other unusual keyboard and stringed instruments.