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 Louis Marchand

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Louis Marchand

Organist, Composer. Called "Marchand the Grand", he was France's most famous organ virtuoso of his time. As organist of the Royal Chapel from 1706, he rivalled Francois Couperin as a keyboard artist and influenced Rameau. But he is best remembered today as the subject of an amusing anecdote in the life of Johann Sebastian Bach. Marchand was born into a musical family in Lyon. At 15 he became organist of the Nevers Cathedral and created a sensation with his Paris debut in 1789, subsequently assuming posts at several Parisian churches. Most of his compositions, including two books of harpsichord pieces (1699, 1702), an opera, and several organ works, show a preoccupation with color over form. Marchand's skills gained him the admiration of the French public and the personal friendship of King Louis XIV, but his prickly character made him a controversial figure in the local music scene. His behavior following his 1713 divorce from his first wife was apparently typical. While performing a mass before the King at the court of Versailles, Marchand stopped halfway through and announced that since his ex-wife was entitled to half his earnings, she could perform the rest of the service. Not surprisingly, he spent the next four years touring Europe. In September 1717 he visited Dresden, where he agreed to participate in a duel of organ improvisation with J.S. Bach, and the announced contest drew thousands to the venue. But at the zero hour Marchand failed to appear and Bach was declared the winner by default. Legend has it that the French musician had heard Bach practicing the night before and thought it prudent to skip town. He returned to Paris and rather quietly resumed his career. He was buried at the ancient Cimetiere des Innocents in Paris. This cemetery was closed in 1780, and six years later the remains of its inhabitants were exhumed and transferred to a newly established underground ossuary near Montparnasse, now known as The Catacombs. Today Marchand's bones reside anonymously there with those of two million fellow Parisians.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 21 Mar 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 87134093
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Louis Marchand (2 Feb 1669–17 Feb 1732), Find A Grave Memorial no. 87134093, citing Cimetiere des Innocents (Defunct), Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France ; Maintained by Find A Grave .