Louis Vierne


Louis Vierne, a pupil of Franck and Widor , was the organist at Notre Dame cathederal from 1900 untill his death. He wrote numerous works for the organ, and was famous both for his technical skill and his improvisation.

Blind from birth, Vierne’s sight was partially restored when he was six years old. He was then able to read large text and see objects at close range. He began studying the piano almost immediately, and when his family moved to Paris in 1901, he was enrolled as a boarding student at the Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles.

César Franck heard him play at school, and recommended that he studied the organ. In 1886, Vierne began lessons with Loius Lebel, and two years later began lessons in harmony with Franck, attending his organ classes at the Paris Conservatoire.

Vierne became a full time student at the Paris conservatoire in 1890/1891. Franck died in November 1891, and was succeeded by Widor. Within a year, Vierne was working as Widor's assistant, and a few years later began teaching at the conservatoire. He taught many great french organists including Joseph Bonnet, Henri Mulet, Marcel Dupré and Nadia Boulanger.

In May 1900, Vierne won the post of titular organist at Notre Dame. No one had held this honoured position since 1772.

Vierne’s professional career was frequently held back by the betrayal of those around him. He was never appointed Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatoire, even though he had worked there unpaid for 19 years. The director of the conservatoire, Gabriel Fauré, repeatedly appointed his friends to the post. Instead, Vierne taught at the Schola Cantorum and the Ecole César Franck.

He continued playing the organ for the rest of his life, and suffered a fatal heart attack at the keyboard during a performance a Notre Dame. In spite of a petition from the leading organists of Paris, Vierne was succeeded by his suppléant, a talentless amateur.

Vierne was a great organist, and although he suffered badly from stagefright, became a very well respected performer. Towards the end of his life his technique deteriorated (as did the condition of the organ at Notre Dame), and it is unfortunately during this time his only recordings were made.

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