Composers Datebook®

Vierne and Alain meet their ends

Louis Vierne (1870 - 1937) — Carillon de Longpont (Richard Proulx, organ) Sacred Heart 101 Jehan Alain (1911 - 1940) — Litanies (Carlo Curley, organ) Argo 430 200

Composer's Datebook - June 2, 2021


June 02, 2021


Today we remember two famous French composers, both organists, who came to dramatic ends in the month of June. On June 2nd, 1937, while playing his 1,750th recital at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, Louis Vierne suffered a sudden and fatal stroke, dying in the organ loft in the presence of one of his most promising pupils, Maurice Duruflé.

Vierne was born nearly blind, but his exceptional musical ability eventually led to studies with the two greatest French organ composers of the 19th century, César Franck and Charles-Marie Widor. The piece that the 66-year-old Vierne was playing when he collapsed at Notre-Dame had the morbidly apt title “Memorial for a Dead Child.”

Three years later, on June 20, 1940, another talented French organist and composer, Jehan Alain, was killed in action during the Second World War.

Alain’s compositions were considered experimental in both rhythm and modes. Even so, he had just won the French Premier Prix for organ in 1939 when the War broke out, and he was called up for active service. Following the Battle of Saumur, Jehan Alain’s body was found by the roadside, with some of his music manuscripts scattered in the wind.

Music Played in Today's Program

Louis Vierne (1870 - 1937) — Carillon de Longpont (Richard Proulx, organ) Sacred Heart 101

Jehan Alain (1911 - 1940) — Litanies (Carlo Curley, organ) Argo 430 200

On This Day


  • 1835 - Russian composer, pianist and conductor Nicolai Rubinstein (brother of Anton), in Moscow (Gregorian date: June 14);

  • 1857 - English composer Sir Edward Elgar, in Broadheath (near Worcester);

  • 1863 - German composer and conductor Felix Weingartner, in Zara, Dalmatia (now Zadar, Croatia);


  • 1937 - French composer and organist Louis Vierne, age 66, in Paris at Notre Dame Cathedral while playing an organ recital;


  • 1914 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 1, in Pavlovsk (Gregorian date: June 15);

  • 1937 - Berg: opera "Lulu" (Acts 1 & 2 only), in Zürich at the Stadtstheater; The first complete performance of the 3-act version of this opera with Berg's unfinished Act 3 (arranged by Friedrich Cerha) premiered in Paris on February 24, 1979;

  • 1953 - Bliss: "Processional" in London, at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II;

  • 1953 - Ginastera: "Variaciones Concertantes" in Buenos Aires;

  • 1953 - Walton: "Coronation Te Deum" and "Orb and Sceptre" March, in London, at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II;

  • 1954 - Leroy Anderson: "Bugler's Holiday" at a Decca recording session in New York City, with the composer conducting; The three cornet soloist for this classic recording were Robert Cusamann, Carl Poole and Melven Solomon;

  • 1983 - Henze: opera "The English Cat," in Schwetzingen at the Schlosstheater;


  • 1711 - The opera season at the Queen's Theater in London ends with a production of Handel's opera, "Rinaldo," (Gregorian date: June 13) which had opened there on February 24 (Gregorian date: March 7) the same year; This was the first Handel opera produced in London, and the first Italian opera written specifically composed for the London stage, and proved extremely popular;

  • 1938 - At the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H., Amy Beach begins work on a Piano Trio based on some of her earlier works; She would finish the trio fifteen days later (June 18th) and publish it as her Op. 150.