Music of Henri Mulet

Henri Mulet (1878-1967) remains an enigmatic composer about whom comparatively little is known. By the time he left Paris in 1937, Mulet had already withdrawn from most social contacts, preferring instead a contemplative lifestyle where he could, if he chose, remain silent for days at a time. By the time he died in a convent in Draguignan in 1967, he was a forgotten man. Not one French newspaper printed an obituary. “Carillon-Sortie” and “Tu Es Petra” are Mulet’s only works which are frequently performed, although even these masterpieces are essentially unknown in France. However, there are other works, including the recently found harmonium works in this collection, composed when Mulet was choir organist at Église Saint-Roch, Paris, and organ professor at L’École Niedermeyer. At least one (“Angélus”) is a transcription of an earlier orchestral work (“San Salvator”), and the others may have similar origins. Given Mulet’s lifelong dislike for the harmonium, the very existence of these works is surprising.

The original works are clearly conceived for harmonium rather than organ. Extensive parts of the “Sortie” are, for example, notated an octave higher than written, and parts of the “Offertoire” are conceived for one keyboard — the right hand on a 16′ register, the left hand on a 4′ register. Optional pedal parts do not always make musical sense, and the “Élévation” contains several obvious engraving errors. Accordingly, the goal of these adaptations is to remain true to the spirit of the original works while at the same time making the pieces idiomatic for organ.

Performance markings are minimal in the harmonium versions, and may have been editorial rather than original. Dynamic suggestions are from the harmonium scores, as is most of the slurring. In the case of “Élévation,” slurs have been deliberately omitted in the interest of clarity. Manual changes and registrations are left to the discretion of the performer, much in the manner of the original harmonium versions. Each of these works is a masterpiece in miniature, written just before Henri Mulet stopped composing about 1911. Accordingly, I have titled this collection “The Final Four.” It is my hope that this edition may serve as a memorial to a man whose achievements were surely greater than those for which he is remembered.

Stephen Best
First Presbyterian Church
1605 Genesee Street
Utica, New York 13501
November 16, 2009

The Final Four

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