Louis Vierne

Louis Vierne

Poitiers, Departement de la Vienne, Poitou-Charentes, France
Death 2 Jun 1937 (aged 66)
Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Cenotaph Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Memorial ID 19901951 · View Source
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Composer, Organist. He was one of the greatest organ virtuosos of his time, and his music for that instrument marks the culmination of the French Romantic organ tradition. The son of a newspaper editor from Poitiers, France, Louis Victor Jules Vierne was born virtually blind from congenital cataracts. At age six he underwent two operations that partially restored his vision, and he was mentored in music by his uncle, organist Charles Colin. After studying with Cesar Franck and Charles-Marie Widor, he won first prize in organ at the Paris Conservatory in 1894. In 1900 he unanimously won a competition for the post of organist at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which he held until his death. From 1911 he also taught at the Schola Cantorum, where his students included Lili Boulanger and Maurice Durufle. Vierne's musicianship inspired awe among his French contemporaries. After hearing him perform Claude Debussy remarked, "J.S. Bach, the father of us all, would have been well pleased". His masterpieces are his six Organ Symphonies, composed between 1899 and 1930, which reveal a series of moods expressed with unsentimental passion and fervent faith; also notable are the "24 Pieces in Free Style" (1913) and the "24 Fantasy Pieces" (1926 to 1927), featuring his best known single movement, "Carillon of Westminster". Some listeners felt his true genius was revealed in his improvisations, though sadly few of these were written down. Apart from organ music he produced a fine Piano Quintet (1917) and a Symphony in A minor (1908). The breadth and emotional complexity of Vierne's style reflected his often difficult life. In 1906 he nearly lost a leg in a street accident and had to completely re-learn his pedal technique; three years later he divorced his wife for infidelity, with the Catholic Church granting an annullment only on condition that he not remarry. He lost his only surviving son, his brother, and several cherished pupils on the battlefields of World War I. And there was the constant struggle to preserve his minimal eyesight. In the postwar years he had to rely on braille and his memory to make music. Between 1925 and 1927 Vierne made concert tours of England, the United States and Canada to raise funds for the restoration of the Notre Dame organ, which was successfully completed in 1932. On June 2, 1937, Vierne performed his 1750th recital at Notre Dame, with Durufle. He was preparing for an encore when he suffered a fatal heart attack and slumped over the keyboard, his foot bearing down on the low E pedal. Not long before he had expressed the wish to die doing what he loved. Vierne's organ bench was later enshrined at Notre Dame.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 15 Jun 2007
  • Find a Grave Memorial 19901951
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Louis Vierne (8 Oct 1870–2 Jun 1937), Find a Grave Memorial no. 19901951, citing Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France ; Maintained by Find A Grave .