Louis Vierne

1870 - 1937

Personal details

Louis Vierne, who was from birth practically blind with cataracts, received his first piano instruction at the early age of six. His first moving encounter with the sound of a church organ also dates from this time. From October 1880 he studied with the blind piano teacher, Louis Specht, who taught at the Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles (National Institute for Young Blind People) in Paris. When Vierne first heard César Franck (later his teacher at the Conservatoire for a short time) at the organ of Sainte-Clotilde, it was a profound experience for him: “I was left speechless and went into a kind of ecstasy.” Following the death of César Franck, it was Charles-Marie Widor who continued to further his development as an organist. In 1892 he appointed him as his assistant at the great Cavaillé-Coll organ in Saint-Sulpice. Although he was passed over several times when applying for positions as organist, in May 1900 he was unanimously elected by a prominent jury as organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, a position he held until the day he died. Travelling was a burden to him, but despite this in the 1920s he went on concert tours of Europe, Canada and the USA, where he was acclaimed as a composer and organist. He used these trips to collect contributions for the maintenance and rebuilding of his organ at Notre Dame. On 2 June 1937 Vierne presented an organ concert in Notre Dame together with Maurice Duruflé. As he was about to begin an improvisation he suffered a heart attack from which he died soon after. The funeral service was held in Notre Dame Cathedral on 5 June - his organ remained silent. // Complete Organ Works, see Carus 18.150