Even in the world of classical music, not many people would have heard of Louis Vierne. Today, I came across his magnificent Messe Sollenelle written for two choirs and an omnipresent organ. I am going to explore all his organ symphonies very soon. I was reading about his life and what hit me most was the moment of his death. Vierne was the principal organist at the Cathedrale de Notre Dame in Paris for most of his sixty seven years in his life. He died while giving his one thousand seven hundred and fiftieth recital on 2nd June, 1937.
Flashback: Despite holding a prestigious post, his personal life was full of turmoil. He had a troubled marriage. His wife left him after few years of marriage. His youngest son passed away from tuberculosis. His brother and his eldest son were killed during the First World War. He suffered with an accident where his leg had to be amputated from the ankle. He had to use wooden supports to retain his pedal technique. He was also born with a congenital cataract problem in one eye. At one point in time, he had to spend six months in a dark room in Switzerland recovering from a surgery which was eventually unsuccessful. In his sixty seventh year, he was a broken and depressed man. While giving his final recital, he felt uneasy and collapsed after playing the last note of the concert and died a few moments later. Vierne had always said to his friends that this is how he hoped he would die, at the keyboard of the pipe organ he loved. The bench that he sat on is on display at the Notre Dame Cathedral to this day.
This episode in Vierne's life reminds me of a tango orchestra leader in Argentina who had told his friends that he would die playing his favourite instrument, the bandoneon. The name of that great musician was Anibal Troilo and he died after giving a concert in Buenos Aires.