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Eugène Gigout and Grand Choeur Dialogue

Gigout Portrait

Eugène Gigout (March 23, 1844–December 9, 1925) was a French organist and a composer, mostly of music for his own instrument.  Gigout was born in Nancy, France, on March 23, 1844.   In his youth he began his music training at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Annonciation de Nancy. From 1857 he studied under Camille Saint-Saëns and Clément Loret at the Ecole Niedermeyer.  After graduation he joined the faculty at Ecole Niedermeyer and held the post concurrently when he began serving as organist at the French capital’s Saint-Augustin Church in 1863, where he continued for 62 years.  He became widely known as a teacher and his output as a composer was considerable.

By the mid-1880s, Gigout was regularly producing organ and vocal works of merit, with the 6 Pieces for organ (1881), the Ave Verum (ca. 1884), and other works fattening his already sizable output, including the Grand chœur dialogué, which dates from 1881, and Marche religieuse..  In 1885 Gigout, renowned as an expert improviser, founded his own music school for organ and improvisation. This would be a fertile period for the composer, with the 10 Pieces for organ coming in 1890, a set containing some of his most popular pieces, including the imaginative Toccata in B minor, Gigout’s best-known creation, which turns up as a frequent encore at organ recitals. Also fairly often played, and to be found in the same collection, is a Scherzo in E major.

When the great composer/organist Felix Alexandre Guilmant died in 1911, Gigout was appointed to succeed him at the Paris Conservatory as professor of organ and composition. It was a coveted post, to be sure, and speaks volumes to the reputation then held by Gigout. His nephew by marriage was Léon Boëllmann, another distinguished French composer and organist. His pupils included Boëllmann, Gabriel Fauré, André Fleury, Henri Gagnon, André Marchal, André Messager, and Albert Roussel.  In his later years Gigout remained active as a composer right up to his final days. Among his late compositions of significance are the collection of organ works, 10 Pieces (1923), and his piano work Aux Escaldes (1925). Gigout died in Paris, France, on December 9, 1925.

In his lifetime, Eugène Gigout was a better known virtuoso organist than composer.  Gigout wrote a large body of music for solo organ, and his reputation as a composer largely rests on it. But his output also included piano and harmonium works, as well as a sizable number of sacred choral pieces and some orchestral works.  As a composer his style embraced several elements, from the lean manner of Bach to the late-Romantic movement. There are moments, too, in his music that hearken back to the Classical period.

The following work by Eugène Gigout is contained in my collection:

Grand Choeur Dialogue (Grand Chorus in Dialogue)

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources


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