(Born; Angers, 18 Apr 1930) Jean Guillou is one of the most
individual figures in contemporary French music. In the years after the second World War
he studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Dupré, Duruflé and Messiaen, and then spent
some time working in Portugal and Germany before returning to Paris in 1963, when he was
appointed organist of the church of Saint-Eustache. Ever since the publication of his
first organ works in the early 1960s, Guillou has pursued a colourful career as a teacher,
as a composer, and as a sensational performer with a special flair for imaginative
improvisation. He has strong and often idiosyncratic ideas about interpretation and organ
design, which have often aroused controversy, but many of the instruments he has designed
have won universal acclaim, particularly the monumental new organs in the Tonhalle, Zurich
(1988) and in Saint-Eustache (1989). Guillou is devoted to the promotion of the organ as a
living concert instrument, and in addition to his own compositions, he has transcribed
many works from the mainstream repertoire, including pieces by Vivaldi, Liszt, Mussorgsky,
Prokofiev, and Stravinsky.
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