Saratov’s local newspaper “Sartovskie Vesti” published an article right after Francis’ concert. Here is the English translation.
The Sun King in Saratov
It was very sunny in Saratov these days, but in the Big Hall of Conservatory it was even sunnier during the closing event of The XX International Organ Festival. Our guest, the brilliant organist from beautiful France came on stage in an atlas shirt, color of sunrays, devoted fans brought him yellow roses on long stems — in tone with his shirt and with the major spirit that the musician can create with his virtuous play. One lady from the audience gave him a chick symbol of french royal house – white lilies. Finale of the concert sank in long ovations.
Vidil is not the first time in Saratov, here everybody knows and loves maestro. He is a well-recognised master of organ. For 10 years studied various disciplines in Paris and Versailles conservatories. While studing in Versailles, received three main piano prizes, at the age of 35 was appointed a professor of local conservatory. Have studied musical improvisation, harpsichord, strings, tube, percussions and jazz piano in Paris, Francis is a true man-orchestra, but there’s more to him that that. Had received practically all the first prizes in major international organ improvisation competitions, he is considered a king of concert improvisations in whole Europe.
Apart from that, experts see a lot of similarities between him and the great Amadeus, visually as well as in musical style. Thanks to this, playing Mozart in cinema and in theatre has become common for Francis. I think, they also share temperaments. A precise performer of classics and top-class improviser in various styles, even jazz, he gets addicted easily, and gets his listener addicted to freefloating sounds of music.
This is what it was that night. Our guest didn’t leave the stage for two hours, filling the hall with manly sound of Bach (performing for the first time in Russia “Toccata In C-min”), enchanting preludes of Chopin (rarely performed on anything but piano) and accompaning opera excerpts of young vocalists (mezzo Yulia Maximova and bass Ilya Ivanov).
Second part of the concert was entirely an improvisation, Vidil let himself free on musical waves, marring such a difficult instrument as organ with a calling solo of a tube and resounding bell chimes. He played two pianos, glockenspiel, also helped himself with percussions. Sometimes he weaved in a russian melody (as a compliment for us saratovians), but mostly it was a positive, straight and light flow of musical mastermind.
After the concert we talked a bit with our guest in English. To be more precise, I “talked”. It was reassuring to have help of beautiful Lyubov’ Mikhailova of Saratov’s Russian-French Society: the musician sometimes lost himself because of my English and switched to his native language (it’s worth to mention that the French are quite good in English, after all, they are only separated from England by a tiny channel). But between three of us it was a great chat, I found out that Vidil is the second time in Saratov, he was here with a concert in september 2009. And he first got to Russia in the 90s with an european theatre – role of Mozart in a play. Played his music and improvised — just like his famous prototype.
French organist has an entire program based on Chopin which he showed at home not too long ago. Considers Chopin a great organist but not among his favorites. Father of Francis was a very known organist, too, perhaps this is why the organ became the first boy’s instrument ( he can’t even recall now why it happened ). Especially considering that the son often made a company to the father in his trips. However, it could have been a piano that was standing by his bed, and he could have been crawling to it in the night when mom wasn’t looking. A talented boy first learned how to play and then got professional education in two conservatories.
Now he plays all instruments that, as he humorously says, “can be hit”, meaning not only keaboards but also percussions. For 30 years teaches classes of percussionists, inclusing students outside of France, too. These days professor Vidil stages an interesting experiment, trying to combine chimes with an organ. So far in the world there’s only a carillion, in which the bells are connected to a piano-like console.
At home (and he lives in a magnificent town of royals – Versailles, whose views we were enjoying during the concert) he doesn’t own an organ, only a harmonica. This is a strong position, Francis is one of those musicians that don’t rehearse at home.
– For me a contact with people is important, and it happens in the concert, not when I’m playing by myself. Energy of music and of the listeners feeds me. The main event is the concert, a meeting with my audience. Communication through music is both a rest and a recreation, – says he.
– Everybody thinks that heaven is something extraordinary, – continues maestro, – but for me what has happened at the concert in Saratov is heaven.
– So, heaven is labor? – I’m confirming just in case.
– Yes, but labor not for labor’s sake but for the sake of pleasure. Being useful, needed, brings joy, gives a certain spin in life.
To have a rest “like everybody else” he doesn’t have neither time not desire. Indeed, Vidil is a great organizer, arranges multiple european, american and cuban festivals of organ improvisation. As an outstanding musician, he also gives lots of concerts, plays in Europe and America. However, never goes deep into Asia. Like he says, the sun for him arises here, in our country. He is interested in Russia. Here he saw for the first time the endless spaces of steppes and understood, why balalaika only has three strings. And started to “understand something about Russia”.
This was a inspired and warm conversation with a man who knows a lot about russian culture, respects and it and understands our respect of french culture as well. Finally we shared our goodbyes: Vidil in russian, and I mumbled “merci”.
– Come again, – said I in unison with our interpreter.
– Sure, if you want so, – replied the musician. And it was not just a mere formality from his side.
Author: Irina Kraynova.