Paris

   The capital of France became the center of innovation in Roman Catholic liturgical music from the mid-12th to the early 14th century, when the so-called school of Notre Dame produced the first large body of polyphony for the mass and divine office, the composers Leoninus and Perotinus, the first system of rhythmic notation, and the new genres of organum and both polyphonic and monophonic conductus. The cathedral acquired a pipe organ in 1332. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the city, while not always at the cutting edge, remained an important locus for liturgical music. The chapel of King Francis I in the 1530s had three dozen adult singers plus boy singers distributed over two choirs, one for chant and one for polyphony. Another choir could be heard at the Sainte Chapelle at the same time.
   In the 17th century Parisian liturgical music generally followed the wishes of the Council of Trent. The organ was the only instrument officially permitted, and by the 1660s the four-manual French organ was standardized. But by the 1680s, concerted liturgical music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier could be heard at the church of St. Louis, and Italian operatic influence was also strong at the chapel of the Théatins. Most churches provided only plainchant until the French Revolution, although from 1725–1790 the public could hear Baroque sacred music at the Concert Spirituel, a concert series founded by Anne Danican Philidor for that purpose. A new organ installed there in 1748 encouraged organ renditions of Noëls, the Te Deum, and other canticles that made the virtuosi popular. Parisian sacred music recovered only very slowly after the revolution. In 1853, the Swiss Louis Niedermeyer (1802–1861) opened L’École Niedermeyer for the training of church musicians. Camille Saint-Saëns taught there, and Gabriel Fauré studied there. The installation of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll’s (1811–1899) first organ at St. Denis in 1841 and the publication of César Franck’s Six Pièces (1860–1862) did much to revive organ playing.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

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