Posted by: rbbadger | November 12, 2010

Vierne, Carillon de Westminster

The late French composer and organist Louis Vierne wrote quite a bit of music.  However, it is chiefly for his organ music that he is remembered.  He was born in 1870 near Poitiers, France.  Due to cataracts, he was legally blind from birth.  Nevertheless, he managed to go to the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris where he ended up as an assistant to the great French organist and composer Charles-Marie Widor.  When the post of organist of Notre-Dame Cathedral opened up, Widor encouraged his protegé to audition for it.  He did and got the job.  From 1900 until 1937, he served as organist of that great French Cathedral.  The organ there was built by the famed French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll whose organs are now considered national treasures. 

Vierne had hoped to die in the harness, as it were.  According the memories of those present, he had played an electrifying recital on June 2, 1937 and had given no sign that he was ill.  As he prepared to launch into an improvisation, he collapsed at the console and fell off the bench.  As he fell, his foot hit the low E of the pedals and by the time that note died away, he was gone. 

One of his most popular pieces is the Carillon de Westminster, based entirely off of the Westminster chimes heard at the Houses of Parliament in London and in clocks all over the world.  Here is Philippe Delacour performing on the organ of the Church of Saint-Martin de Dedulange.



  1. That was interesting the way they filmed that. He’s good. I sure wish you had access to an organ!

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