Rolande Falcinelli is the next subject of our Famous Organists series. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the life of this fabulous female organist and discuss what she contributed to the culture of organ music.

An Artistic Existence

Heralding from Paris, France, Falcinelli was born on February 20, 1920. Although she was the first career musician in her family, she was born into a family of visual artists. 

Like most famous French organists, Falcinelli began her musical endeavors at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1932, at the age of twelve. During her time there she studied organ and improvisation under the famous Marcel Dupré in addition to composition, harmony, counterpoint, and piano. 

Interestingly enough, she initially wanted to focus her efforts on the piano, but during the Second World War, her instructors at the Conservatoire de Paris suggested that she take up the organ. She decided to do so, and at that point was paired with Dupré as her instructor. 

In 1942, she received some of her more prolific achievements from her education, those being the first prize in organ and improvisation at the Conservatoire de Paris, and the Second Grand Prix de Rome for composition.

Upon completing her education at the Conservatoire de Paris, Falcinelli took the position of titulaire at Paris’ Basilica of the Sacred Heart in 1946, a position she maintained until 1973!

An Important Educator

During her time as titulaire for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Falcinelli began what is potentially her most important contribution to the world of organ music — she began teaching. 

From 1948-1955, she taught the organ at two different institutions: the École Normale de Musique, a Parisian institution focused on producing music educators and performers, and Fontainebleau’s American Conservatory, an institution dedicated to providing an elite French musical education. 

In 1955, she finished teaching at the École Normale de Musique and the American Conservatory to work at the Conservatoire de Paris. Here, she took over the teaching of organ and improvisation for her original teacher, Marcel Dupré. She held this post until 1987.

During her time as an organ educator, Falcinelli taught many a famous, important organist. We’ve listed (just a few) of her notable students below. 

  • Xavier Darasse
  • Odile Pierre
  • Daniel Roth
  • Francis Chapelet
  • Yves Devernay
  • Louis Thiry
  • Sophie-Veronique Cauchefer-Choplin

Organ Accomplishments

Perhaps the most remembered accomplishment of Falcinelli’s was her off-book performance of Dupré’s (then) complete works for the organ in 1948. She did this for the French Radio as well as the Paris’ Salle Pleyel concert hall. It takes quite a high skill level to master the entirety of an artist like Dupré’s work to the point where one can play it from memory! 

In addition to the amazing feat of performing Dupré’s complete works, Facinelli also amassed an impressive collection of compositions for the organ, orchestras, and choirs, many of which are still revered today. During her time as a performer, Facinelli also participated in world tours where she performed works written by Dupré, César Franck, and compositions that she had created herself. 

A Remarkable Legacy

Facinelli is definitely a major contributor to organ culture. Although she passed away on June 11, 2006, we are still able to experience her prestigious skill through her extensive discography of musical recordings. 

Her teacher and inspiration, Marcel Dupré is quoted as saying that Fainelli was an “exceptional personality in the French music,” a compliment that carries quite a bit of weight considering Dupré’s own reputation and his importance to Facinelli and her musical career. 

In truth, we could reference a plethora of distinguished musicians who admired Facinelli’s prowess and influence on the world of organ playing. That being said, we think it’d be better for you to admire her for yourself by experiencing some of her discography and compositions.

At Viscount Organs, we believe it’s important to remember the incredible legacies of organ players who shaped the instrument and its music as we know it. That’s why we’ve created this blog series, and that’s why we’re committed to continuing the production and evolution of amazing organs. 

If you’re interested in trying one of our instruments for yourself, contact us today! We’d be happy to hear from you.