Louis Vierne

French organist, pedagogue and composer (Poitiers, 1870 – Paris, 1937)

Louis Vierne, who was a prodigy child and a cursed poet, settled the organ in the modernity of the recital and perfected the new forms he had learnt from his teachers. He contributed to the standing of the French organ school throughout the world.

Louis Vierne was born almost completely blind but a surgery at the age of 6 slightly improved his sight. Thanks to a natural gift for music, he was admitted National Institute for Blind Children in Paris in 1881 and then to enter the Conservatoire in César Franck's class in 1890. When the master died, Charles-Marie Widor became Vierne's new teacher. The young Louis would win his first prize in 1894. In the meantime, he had become Widor's deputy at the Saint-Sulpice Church and later, was  appointed main organist of the great organs of Notre-Dame de Paris. He would hold that tenure from 1900 until his death.

He started to teach at the Conservatoire the same year he received his prize and changed schools in 1911 and joinded the Schola Cantorum of Basel. Nadia Boulanger, Marcel Dupré, Maurice Duruflé or Albert Schweitzer were among his many students.

With his elder Alexandre Guilmant Louis Vierne was one of the first organists to give true recitals. Inspired by the new possibilities of expression of the organs Cavaillé-Coll, he neglected the traditional forms like the prelude, the fugue or the choral and liked better the modernity of the symphony initiated by Widor or the free piece of a poetic nature that was dear to César Franck. Invited to give concerts all over Europe, he left a successful tour of four months to North America in 1927. After his brother and his son, the dedicatees of his Quintet, died, he passed away of a cardiac embolism, while he was at the Notre-Dame's rostrum giving his 1750th tenured recital

Six dates in the life of Louis Vierne
1892: became Widor's deputy in Saint-Sulpice
1894: won his prize from the Conservatoire and starts to teach there
1900: was given the tenure of Notre-Dame de Paris
1911: taught at the Schola Cantorum
1927: did a remarkable tour in North America
1932: inaugurated the freshly restored organ of Notre-Dame

Six key pieces by Louis Vierne
1910 : Sonata in B minor
1911 : Organ symphony No. 3
1914 : 24 pieces in free style
1918 : Piano Quintet in C minor
1918 : Children's silhouettes, for piano
1925 : Fantasy pieces for piano and orchestra

Radio France musical documentation biography, June 2014