Francis Vidil — Maestro of improvisation

The last article (so far) reviewing the concert of Francis Vidil in Saratov, Russia in 2010. Original of this article can be found here.

Maestro of improvisation

by Svetlana Tenetko

September is the month when new concerts and theatrical seasons begin. The leader of it is The XIX International organ festival, which well deserves its popularity among Saratov music lovers. Festival organizers gave a truly royal present to the audience this year: for the first time ever professor of Versailles conservatoire, talented organist, pianist and incomparable improvisator Francis Vidil has performed on the Saratov stage with his self-explaining program “Classics and improvisations”.

Our newspaper did its best in covering organ festival last season: we introduced reader not only to the new names, sometimes unknown for us, but also with new plays rarely performed on Russian stage. Besides playing the good old classic, almost every musician brought a bit of their own countries by playing pieces of some little-known to us foreign composers.

The first act of Francis Vidil’s concert was entirely classical, he played pieces of Louis Marchand “Le Grand Dialogue”, who was a contemporary of Bach, and François Couperin “Cromorne” and “Tierce”, named after the organ registers. Monsieur Vidil has finished his classical part of the performance with “Nocturne”, “Polonaise” and “Prelude” of Frédéric Chopin, who became almost native in France. Saratov’s sophisticated public witnessed these pieces performed by Miroslav Kultyshev during X Heinrich Neuhaus festival (we wrote about it in issue No.10 (524) from 18.03.2010), but you don’t hear that quite often as an organ performance. Organ gives more grandeur to it, fills well-known masterpieces with new colours and textures.

According to the maestro Vidil’s words, classical compositions are some kind of a presentation, an opportunity for the audience to meet the performer, but the second act is a pure improvisation, which is born right here, in front of viewers’ eyes.
The day before the concert we asked Francis Vidil how can he manage to play such a vast variety of musical instruments? “Well, you can easily write something with your right hand, take a cup with your left one, for example, and push a dog with your leg meanwhile… A man is capable of doing several things simultaneously. So why can’t he play the same way? It is possible.” — assures us Francis.

The audience has seen that with its own eyes during the second act of the concert. Prior to the concert Francis said that improvisation “unites us with God, because it lets to change something at any moment of time”. Maestro Vidil offered his viewers to take a little trip, walking from one instrument to another, adopting the language of known instruments, changing it and creating the new music. Many surprises have been born out of mixing contemporary and antique music, as the journey progressed. One little world appeared first around the organ, then piano, trumpet, celesta (which was especially brought on stage from the city opera theatre), chimes, tibetian gong, the second piano, which gave us the opportunity to appreciate Vidil’s performance not only as a organist, but also as a magnificent pianist, when he played grand piano solo. It’s really hard to choose anything single best in this incredible mix – the sound of miniature concert or the piano solo. In the end of the concert a kind of Russian trademark melody took place – “Dark Eyes”, commenced on piano, and continued on organ by “one-man band”.

Francis visits Russia not for the first time. He used to play in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and Petrozavodsk. Finally, Saratov took its chance to meet such a great musician and a person. Besides the evening concert on September 1st, Francis Vidil had performed with massed choir of children arts school No. 8 during the X charitable concert for orphans “France by children’s eyes”.

According to our guest, the level of attainment of local musical school students yields to none compare to the European, but the relationships between professors and pupils resemble relationships between elder and younger brothers and sisters, unlike European “strict parents and children” model, which brings more opportunities to develop an creative personality. Unfortunately, maestro didn’t have an opportunity to witness the classes of piano students. But he saw several rehearsals of various faculties’ students while he was visiting the conservatory, and can tell the high professional level of attainment or Russian musical school. Vidil, the maestro of improvisation, thinks that it originates in a depth of Russian soul, because Russians can react and express their feelings of joy, love, fear very emotionally, very acutely and sudden. Improvisation is just intended for Russians, sums up Francis.

As a true French and gentleman, who appreciate feminine beauty, Francis noted that all the Russian ladies he met were dressed so very much neatly and beautifully in everyday life, unlike European and American women. Francis liked Saratov’s beauties so mush, that he, according to his own words, was ready to take one of them with him to France.