The Most Epic Death In Music History: Louis Vierne
Start writing a post
Entertainment

The Most Epic Death In Music History: Louis Vierne

The French musician’s life ended exactly as he wanted — doing what he most loved.

1132
The Most Epic Death In Music History: Louis Vierne
Wikimedia

The art world loves a good death. Whether it’s Millais’s "Ophelia," singing in a river as she drowns, or Mozart’s apocryphal death by requiem (famously depicted in the play and movie "Amadeus"), the end of a fictional life tends to carry more glamour (or tragedy) than a real one. It would be a fair assessment, then, to initially believe that the life and death of French composer Louis Vierne is one of fiction. His story not only reads like one straight out of Hollywood but ends exactly how he wished — even if that wish might have been an exaggeration.

Born in 1870 with cataracts so severe that he’d be legally blind today, Vierne was dealt an unfortunate hand. Though a later operation would grant him a very narrow field of view, he would have to rely on his other senses to guide him through life. The family that raised him was much more nurturing than the world that cursed him. His uncle, an accomplished musician, suggested that Vierne receive an education in music (or at the very least, develop a “broad cultural background”). His father agreed and at an early age, Vierne was exposed to the instrument he instantly fell in love with: the pipe organ.

Vierne was born at the right time, as French organs in the late 1800s were undergoing nothing short of a revolution. With the whole of art and culture being swept up in 19th-century romanticism, not even church instruments were spared. The new “symphonic” organs pioneered in France by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll were big, expressive and cutting edge. They featured a large variety of stops (a term that roughly equates to “instrument” on an organ) that could be played together, on their own, increase or decrease in volume and provide a seemingly endless pallet of sounds, much like a symphony. This was the kind of sound and music Vierne first heard at Église Saint-Maurice in Lille. The relatively modest instrument instantly captivated him with its “magical effects of softness, crescendo and power.” It was obvious from the start: the organ would be the instrument of his expression.

The Vierne family moved to Paris, where he’d receive a top-notch education. Vierne learned from Franck, Widor and Guilmant, masters at the time of both performance and composition. Before he became an organist, however, he was hit with the first of many tragedies — his beloved uncle suddenly died. It was he that Vierne credited with his inspiration and success in life. Despite this and the death of his younger sister and father, Vierne completed his studies with glowing success. He served as an assistant at Saint-Sulpice before earning the coveted position as principal organist at Notre-Dame de Paris.

His career there would ultimately define him as a composer and performer. He’d become world renowned for his improvisation and write a large catalog of pieces, primarily for organ, voice and piano. His personal life was not nearly as successful. It was plagued by injuries, illness, divorce and deaths of family members. Despite all of it, he trucked on with a job that he loved to death: Vierne often stated that it was his wish to die at his console. Whether or not he was serious, Vierne got his wish. He was giving what is claimed to be his 1,750th concert. Age, tragedy, work and drugs to cope had clearly taken a toll on him. Though the audience heard music just as fast and energetic as he always played, Maurice Durufle, one of Vierne’s students up in the loft with him, could tell he was feeling ill. He came to the part in the program where he was scheduled to play two improvisations. Vierne chose the stops he would use and suddenly fell forward, stepping on a pedal as he went down, sending a guttural low tone throughout the cathedral. As the silence grew longer, it became clear — the note was his last.

Vierne’s life and death quickly became Notre-Dame legend. Though the outdated console was replaced, it remains on display at the cathedral, complete with the bench he played on to the very end. The prestigious organ, in disrepair for most of his career, is now a state-of-the-art wonder to behold (mostly with your ears). Though Vierne’s pieces aren’t performed nearly as often as that of Widor or Bach, they still enjoy regular programming and a slew of recordings. It’s music that offers a reflection of his own life — dramatic, at times dark, but often with a big, unforgettable finish.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

That's right, you heard that correctly: Demi Lovato and Max Ehrich called off their engagement after the couple originally announced their engagement in July after beginning to date in March.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

Demi Lovato's Called-Off Engagement Reminds Us Of The Importance Of Taking Our Time In Relationships

While this may be another hardship she sadly has to endure, I know she will find a way to inspire and help others through it.

441

I am heartbroken.

Keep Reading... Show less
digitaltrends.com

Freshly popped buttered popcorn in your lap and a glass full of crisp Coca-Cola is at your side. All the lights are turned off and you are tucked into a cozy blanket. You have the whole day off and no responsibilities besides refilling your popcorn bucket. Now all you have to do is decide on what movie to watch, but you know one movie will not fulfill your need of relaxing all day. A movie marathon is the only answer to your problem. In case you did not know what movie series to start with, try a few of these.

Keep Reading... Show less
A Touch Of Teal

It's the oldest story in the world: one day a new tv show comes on and you fall in love with each character and their story. In 2003, the show "One Tree Hill" was born and stole the hearts of fans of many ages. Torn between the sweet, underdog Lucas and tough, popular boy Nathan, people became hooked through the family and relationship drama the characters went through.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

12 Starbucks Iced Drinks You NEED In Your Life

Must-try beverages brought to you by your local barista.

657862
FoodBeast

Be kind to your baristas, they can make you some pretty great drinks. With the temperature rising and the days getting longer, it's approaching the time to find your summer staple to keep you cool (and caffeinated) over the next few months.

Keep Reading... Show less
E!

"Keeping Up With The Kardashians" is coming to an end after 20 seasons of intense drama, family bonding, and Scott Disick. It's sad for some and a relief for others who find the show way overhyped.

Keep Reading... Show less
www.instagram.com

Starbucks is known for its infamous coffee and espresso drinks, but they're definitely isn't enough love shown for the non-coffee drinks. Being a barista myself, I've come to try all of the following drinks. And let me tell you…they're amazing. So if you aren't a huge fan of coffee or if you're just sick of the same old same old, here are some new drinks to keep your inner white girl alive and thriving.

SEE MORE: Starbucks Has Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cold Brew And OMG It Has Pink Foam

Keep Reading... Show less

What was usually buried at the bottom of my purse has now become a pocket essential — and I know I'm not alone in that.

It used to be something I'd use if I happened to be at a restaurant that ran out of soap in their bathroom, but now it's almost more essential to have on-hand at all times than my cell phone.

Keep Reading... Show less

The decision-makers of Yale's law students have invested in therapy dog sessions in order to reduce stress. In 2011, Yale Law Library had a sign-out sheet for their certified library dog. The 30-minute sessions were equipped with unconditional, stress-busting puppy love.

Law Librarian Blair Kauffman stated that the free, three-day pilot pet therapy program at Yale Law Library launched as "a positive addition to current services offered by the library."

Keep Reading... Show less

I have been working at Dunkin' Donuts for over two years, and during this time, I have progressed from regular crew member to crew coach, and finally, to shift leader. Among my great skills involving the job is my ability to deal with stressful situations, including awful customers. My boss has continuously pointed out the fact that I am able to handle these people with grace and kindness. She herself often finds that she gets snippy with rude customers, but somehow I am able to keep a straight face through these tough times.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments