Louis-James-Alfred Lefébure-Wély (1817 – 1869) was a French organist and composer. He played a major role in the development of the French symphonic organ style and was closely associated with the organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, inaugurating many new Cavaillé-Coll organs.
Lefébure-Wély was a prolific composer for organ and with over 200 compositions for choir, piano, chamber ensemble, symphony orchestra. His Office Catholique Modern (186) comprises 120 pieces and The Organiste Moderne is in 12 volumes (1867-69). He was organist at La Madéleine and then St Sulpice.
The organ pieces of Lefébure-Wély have a tendency to be extremely extraverted to the point of sounding as if they might be appropriate to accompany the acts in a circus! However, we see a more docile side of this exuberant composer. In fact, this charming work is a transcription by Alfred Whittingham. The O Salutaris Hostia - Latin for ‘O saving Victim’ – is a Catholic Eucharistic hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas. It consists of two verses. Here, Lefébure-Wély, uses this form: a short introduction, verse 1, bridge, verse 2 and a short coda.
The organ I am playing upon was built by the Australian organ builder, Charles Richardson in 1912. Its specification with an abundance of unison registers is ideal for this music. The swell pedal is an old-fashioned level swell which is hitched down at the right, not unlike what was found on 19th century French organs. The specification is typical of the Edwardian period where upper work was less common and unison registers were more prominent. Apologies for the tuning of the Oboe. The Sydney weather is very warm and dry and the has been unkind to organs. On a humorous note, I like to refer to this as “French tuning” as French organs can be notoriously out of tune at the best of times!