The French organist, Paul Denais, could observe as a young man from very close hold the last two pupils of Alexandre Guilmant as they were playing in Paris: Jean Vadon (1887-1973) and Marcel Dupré (1886-1971). Denais studied at the Institut grégorien in Paris, being a pupil of Philippe de Brémond d’Ars, born 1889, a friend of Widor and pupil of Vierne. Denais was very close to Geneviève de La Salle, born 1905, the best pupil of Joseph Bonnet and also his vicar. Bonnet was himself the best and the most faithful pupil of Guilmant. Denais was also a pupil of André Fleury.
Paul Denais was appointed organist at Saint-Eugène church in Paris from 1970 to 1975, then organist and composer in Norway. He is the last known representant of the traditional French organ school, called the school of Lemmens who was the teacher of Guilmant and Widor).
Paul Denais has no consideration for the modern world, and he plays J.S. Bach exactely the way it used to be done in the 19th century. He is quite sure that his way of playing is very close to Rinck’s, Hesse’s and Lemmens’. Denais would like to stress that the interpretation of Bach made by the Baroquists is in full contradiction with the descriptions of J.S. Bach at the organ given by Forkel (1749-1818), the friend of Bach’s sons. As for the improvisation, Denais got influence and inspiration from his friends Jean Langlais and Gaston Litaize.
Paul Denais has never tried to be famous, so even if he has given a lot of concerts, he never made records. He has recently been discovered by Willy Rustad, producer at the Norwegian national television in Oslo and by Johannes Ricken, director of Motette-Ursina/Psallite. This discovery resulted in two DVD's: "The Traditional French Organ School" - Lectures and concert (Motette); "Bach: 5 Toccatas and 2 Chorals according to Guilmant". These two
DVD's have been filmed on Paul Denais’ personal organ in Norway, an organ he has self put together and which pipes from the romantic period he tuned self according to the principles of Cavaillé-Coll.