Jacques Berthier (1923-1994)

Jacques Berthier, composer and organist, was born in Auxerre, Burgundy, on 27 June 1923; he died in Paris on his seventy-first birthday in 1994. He belonged to a family of musicians from Auxerre.

His father, Paul Berthier, and his mother, Geneviève Parquin, were both composers and organists at Auxerre Cathedral, where together they founded and directed the Schola Saint-Étienne and trained their son in piano and organ practice, harmony and counterpoint. After the war Jacques Berthier studied at the École César-Franck in Paris and followed courses in plainchant, organ with Édouard Souberbielle, and composition with Guy de Lioncourt, whose daughter Germaine he married in November 1946. He succeeded his father as organist and choirmaster of Auxerre Cathedral in 1953 and continued to work there until 1960. After almost forty years spent in his native city, he moved permanently to Paris in 1961, and for the rest of his life he was organist of the Jesuit church of Saint-Ignace-de-Loyola in the capital.

Jacques Berthier composed more than 1,500 works, covering many genres. Sacred works are preponderant, but he also produced secular compositions. He is best known for the liturgical works he composed for the Taizé Community (from 1955), various Catholic parishes, and finally for several monastic communities. His other works deserve greater recognition. They include a Requiem, cantatas, motets, organ pieces, art songs (mélodies), instrumental works, music for a film, and two son-et-lumière compositions, written for the Basilica of Vézelay (1956) and for Auxerre Cathedral (1960). “Dans la Cathédrale d’Auxerre”, for trumpet and organ, is the finale from the latter. A recording of this piece is played each year in the cathedral during the summer months.


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