Born in Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais), Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911) was not only a remarkable organist, but also a French composer and a talented teacher. He contributed to the constitution of the French organ school, founded the Schola Cantorum in 1894 with Charles Bordes and Vincent d'Indy, and exerted a great influence on the generations of organists of the 20th century.
In 1853, at sixteen, he was appointed organist at the Saint-Joseph church in his hometown. He replaces his father at the rostrum of Saint-Nicolas de Boulogne-Sur-Mer and creates his First Solemn Mass in F major dedicated to his father (1855).
He is the student of Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels (1860). He encouraged him to practice Bach, still little known in France, and shared with him his passion for harmonium.
In 1871, he was appointed holder of the Cavaillé Coll great organ at the Trinity church in Paris. He inaugurates the organ of the Palais du Trocadéro that Cavaillé Coll built for the universal exhibition of 1878. He organized historic concerts there until 1906, while conducting numerous tours around the world (including in the United States and Canada).
In 1896, He succeeded Charles-Marie Vidor as holder of the organ class at the Paris Conservatory of Music. It was Eugène Gigout who succeeded him when he died in 1911.
His vocal pieces are numerous, mainly religious and include many hymns. He often offers compositions with different possibilities depending on the means of the churches (equal voices, three or four voices ...).
Guilmant has dedicated different compositions to religious figures from Pas-de-Calais.:
Ave Verum, for 4-part choir and organ, dedicated to Father E. Van Drival, canon, director of the major seminary of Arras. 1856, op. 7
Third Solemn Mass, in E flat major, 4-voice choir, orchestra or organ, premiered April 12, 1857, op. 11, in Saint-Nicolas de Boulogne-sur-Mer "Respectful tribute to His Grandeur Monseigneur Pierre Louis Parisisi, bishop of Arras, Boulogne and Saint-Omer".
© Didier Chagnas
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