A French composer, organist and improviser born April 18, 1930 in Angers, died January 26, 2019 in Paris.
An organist by training, Jean Guillou studied at the Paris Conservatory, where he was a pupil of Marcel Dupré, Maurice Duruflé and Olivier Messiaen. He went on to teach the organ and composition, organised master classes around the world, particularly on performance and improvisation at the organ, and was titular organist of the church of Saint-Eustache in Paris from 1963 to 2014.
The composer of some 100 works, Jean Guillou has written for solo instrument (Toccata for organ, 1962; La chapelle des abîmes for organ, 1973; Scènes d’enfant for organ, 1974; Augure for piano, 1999; Impulso for flute, 2009; Regard for organ, 2010), for the voice (Andromède for soprano and organ, 1984; Ihr Himmel, Luft und Wind for chorus, 2010), for chamber groupings (Chronique for percussion trio, 2009; Colloque n° 10 for 7 trumpets, organ and percussion, 2016) and for large orchestra (Judith Symphony, 1970; Fantaisie concertante for cello and orchestra, 1991; 8 Concertos for organ and orchestra). With complete independence he developed a singular musical world based on technical precision and an individual style. An occasional writer, the author notably of a volume of poems (Le visiteur, 2014), he sometimes uses his own texts in his compositions (Le poème de la main for soprano and piano, 1975; Aube for 12 voices and organ, 1988; Alice au pays de l’orgue for organ and reciter, 1995; Écho for chorus and instrumental ensemble, 1999).
A virtuoso concert artiste, he has considerably enriched the organ repertory, making many transcriptions of orchestral works (Bach, Handel, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky…). With a rejuvenated playing style stemming from a novel vision of the works, he has extended the technical limits of the instrument. The author of L’orgue, souvenir et avenir, he is also a theoretician and the designer of several innovative instruments. In this regard he has developed, notably, an organ of ‘variable structure’ that can be transported and installed in a few hours in any venue, sacred or secular.