Jean Guillou

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Jean Guillou
Jean Guillou 7908.JPG
Guillou in 2014
Jean Victor Arthur Guillou

(1930-04-18)18 April 1930
Angers, France
Died26 January 2019(2019-01-26) (aged 88)
Paris, France
EducationParis Conservatoire
  • Organist
  • Pianist
  • Improviser
  • Composer
  • Academic teacher

Jean Victor Arthur Guillou (18 April 1930 – 26 January 2019) was a French composer, organist, pianist, and pedagogue. Titular Organist at Saint Eustache in Paris, from 1963 to 2015, he was known world wide as a composer of and instrumental and vocal music focused on the organ, improviser, and adviser to organ builders. For several decades, he held regular master classes in Zurich and in Paris.


Guillou was born in Angers. Following his first studies in piano and organ, he became the organist at the church St. Serge in Angers at the age of 12.[1] He studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Marcel Dupré, Maurice Duruflé and Olivier Messiaen.[2] In 1952, while still studying, Guillou played the premiere of his organ transcription of The Musical Offering by Johann Sebastian Bach at Erskine and American United Church in Montreal, Canada.[3] In 1955, he accepted a position as professor of organ and composition at the Institute of Sacred Music in Lisbon.[1] Due to health reasons, Guillou underwent long termin medical treatment in Berlin and relocated to this city in 1958. During the following five years, he composed numerous works and made his first recordings at Lutherkirche and St. Matthias church.[4] In 1963 he returned to Paris, having been appointed Titular Organist at Saint-Eustache in succession to André Marchal.[2] Appointed Organiste Titulaire Emerite at St. Eustache in September 2014, Guillou completed 52 years as organist at Saint-Eustache in March 2015,[2][5] when he was succeeded by two co-titulaires.[6]

He had a worldwide reputation as a concert organist and improviser.[5] Additionally, he often performed as a pianist.[2] He gave the English and French premieres of Julius Reubke's Piano Sonata in B-flat minor.[1]

Guillou's engagement in organ building led to collaborations with several organ builders and the construction of new instruments, including in the Tonhalle of Zurich and in the Auditorio de Tenerife.[7]

He composed over 90 works – for organ, chamber and orchestral music – as well as numerous transcriptions for organ, originally published by Éditions Alphonse Leduc, from 2000 and later by Schott Music, Mainz. In addition, he has issued more than 100 recordings (Philips, Dorian, Festivo, Decca, Augure among others) including the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach, César Franck, Robert Schumann,[4] numerous improvisations (e.g., Visions Cosmiques (December 1968), or Jeux d'orgue (October 20, 1969), both re-edited in 2010 by Universal-Decca), as well as most of his own organ compositions on a series of seven CDs (2010) for the Universal-Decca label.[6]

Some of Guillou's compositions are based upon his own lyrics and poems. He also published several books, which subsequently were translated into German and Italian: L'Orgue – Souvenir et Avenir (1978), La Musique et le Geste (2012), and Le Visiteur, Poèmes (2014).

From 1970 to 2005, Guillou taught organ performance and improvisation at the annual Internationale Meisterkurse Zürich.[1] Beginning in 2007, these masterclasses were held at Saint-Eustache in Paris, France, for several years. Among his pupils are Zsuzsa Elekes, Francesco Filidei, Bernhard Haas, Yanka Hekimova, Leonid Karev, Livia Mazzanti and Jean-Baptiste Monnot. In July 2015, he was appointed honorary professor at the Hochschule für Musik Saar in Saarbrücken. In March 2018, Guillou was honored by the Royal College of Organists at Southwark Cathedral in London with the RCO Medal, in recognition of distinguished achievement in organ playing and composition.[8] In May 2018, he travelled to Koper, Slovenia, where he served as consultant for the former organ at Tonhalle Zürich, to be transferred to Assumption Cathedral, and the re-dedication scheduled for 2020.[9]


Guillou died in Paris on 26 January 2019.[2][4][10] The funeral service took place on February 5, 2019, at Notre-Dame de Paris. He was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

The obituary by his publisher Schott summarized his achievements:

As a performer he revolutionized the art of organ playing, as an improviser he fascinated whole generations of concert-goers, as a composer he opened the repertoire of the 'king of instruments' to areas which had been considered to be unimaginable before.[1]



  • L'Orgue, Souvenir et Avenir. Lyon: Symétrie. 2010.
  • Die Orgel: Erinnerung und Zukunft. St. Augustin, Germany: Dr. Josef Butz Musikverlag. 2005. ISBN 3-928412-01-9.
  • La Musique et le Geste. Paris: Beauchesne. 2012. ISBN 978-2-7010-1999-4.
  • Le Visiteur, Poèmes. Rouen: Christophe Chomant Editeur. 2014. ISBN 978-2-84962-305-3.


  • Abbing, Jörg. Jean Guillou – Colloques – Biografie und Texte. St. Augustin, Germany: Dr. Josef Butz Musikverlag, 2006. ISBN 3-928412-02-7.
  • L'ORGUE n° 281: numéro spécial sur Jean Guillou, sous la direction de Sylviane Falcinelli, 2008.
  • Cantagrel, Gilles. "Jean Guillou", in Guide de la musique d’orgue, edited by Gilles Cantagrel. Paris: Fayard, (1991) 2012, pp. 514–520.
  • Cook, Mary Jean. "Errata in the published organ works of Jean Guillou", in The Diapason 67 (May 1967): 4–5.
  • Hodant, Jean-Philippe. Rhétorique et Dramaturgie dans l'œuvre musicale de Jean Guillou Paris, France: Université Sorbonne, 1993.
  • Orengia, Jean-Louis. Jean Guillou, interprète, compositeur et improvisateur. Mémoire de maîtrise de musicologie. Paris: Sorbonne, 1981/1982.
  • Rhodes, Cherry. "Introducing Jean Guillou", in The A.G.O.R.C.C.O. Magazine (March 1974): 29 and 53.
  • Terry, Mickey Thomas. "An Interview with Jean Guillou" in The American Organist 28, No. 4 (April 1994): 56–59.
  • VV.AA. '"Regards". Hommages à Jean Guillou – Augure éditions, Paris 2014.


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Poet of the Organ / On the death of the organist and composer Jean Guillou". Schott Music. 28 January 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Decalf, Guillaume (27 January 2019). "L'organiste Jean Guillou est mort" (in French). France Musique. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  3. ^ Guillou, Jean. L'Orgue – Souvenir et Avenir. Paris: Buchet/Chastel, 1996, 218–219.
  4. ^ a b c "L'organiste Jean Guillou est mort" (in French). Le Figaro. 27 January 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b Machart, Renaud (27 January 2019). "L'organiste de renommée internationale Jean Guillou est mort" (in French). Le Monde. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Pipings", The American Organist (September, 2015), pp. 16–19
  7. ^ "Jean Guillou". Schott Music. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  8. ^ RCO Medal awarded to distinguished musicians. Accessed February 25, 2019.
  9. ^ Svetovno znani Jean Guillou obiskal Koper (English translation: "The world-famous Jean Guillou visited Koper". Accessed February 25, 2019.
  10. ^ Jean Guillou, Organ Maestro Who Broke Traditions, Dies at 88 on NYT (31 January 2019)

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