Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Louis Vierne! Roger Sayer, Director of Music, presents six online concerts each featuring one of Vierne’s six symphonies. 

Watch online here:

Sundays at 7pm

18 Oct – Symphony No. 1 – Click HERE for programme notes
25 Oct – Symphony No. 2 – Click HERE for programme notes
1 Nov – Symphony No. 3 – Click HERE for programme notes
8 Nov – Symphony No. 4 – Click HERE for programme notes
15 Nov – Symphony No. 5 – Click HERE for programme notes

22 Nov – Symphony No. 6 – Click HERE for programme notes

Vierne was one of the most significant organ composers since Bach, and was a renowned improviser and organist of Notre Dame for 37 years, famously dying at the console during a concert.

He was composing at the peak of the ‘symphonic’ style of organ writing, a unique and innovative approach to an increasingly ‘orchestral’ instrument. The style began with Cesar Franck’s Grand Piece Symphonique, composed between 1860-62, and includes the famous Toccata in F from Symphony no. 5 by Charles Marie Widor.

Vierne’s life was a catalogue of catastrophes. He was born nearly blind and, although he could make out shapes, he learnt music by Braille. His wife was unfaithful, his younger son committed suicide, and his brother was killed in the First World War. In 1906 Vierne suffered an accident which severely damaged his leg and, although he managed to avoid having it amputated, he had to relearn his pedal technique.

Despite a vast output of music for choir, solo voice, piano, chamber ensemble and orchestra, Vierne remains best remembered for his six Organ Symphonies. They each have a harmonic language, and Vierne used them as a musical medium to portray his life. A simple representation of the Symphonies would begin with No.s 1-3: optimistic although often laced with the darkness of his life. No.s 4-6 are an outpouring of his despair, and yet at times bursting with sudden extremes of joy. The 5th Symphonie is the longest and most challenging, and has been likened to a Mahler Symphony, and the 6th is seen as the culmination of this style of writing, filled with a chromatic dissonance which at times gives the music unbearable angst, and yet creates a catalyst to the incredible final movement with cascades of scales played on the pedals.

These concerts are balanced with some of the finest British organ music all played on the magnificent Organ in Temple Church.