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Jean Guillou

About this Artist

JEAN GUILLOU expresses his creativity in multiple facets of his art.

As an interpreter, he has expanded considerably the technical limits of playing the organ. Also a pianist, he brought back to life the Sonata for piano by Julius Reubke, a pupil of Liszt’s who died at the young age of 24, leaving behind two masterworks: the piano sonata, and an organ sonata. Jean Guillou is the only musician to have performed and recorded both works together. In 2002 he inaugurated the Borgato pedal–piano at the Teatro Olimpico de Vicenza and at the Opéra Royal de Versailles.

As a composer, beginning at a young age, he has developed a singular musical world of a strongly individualistic dramatic eloquence. He uncovered a new nature of the organ’s palette, and has sought to show it in confrontation with the piano (Colloques 2, 4, 5, 7) or with other instruments such as the violin, cello, flute, clarinet, percussion, marimba, and the human voice, as well as in the seven concertos for organ and orchestra. His universe is expressed also in three symphonies, two piano concertos, vocal music, chamber music (especially the trio for three cellos, the quartet for oboe and strings, and the trio for percussion), and works for the piano. His music is published by Schott Musik.

As an improvisationist, Jean Guillou has given a new impetus to an authentically creative improvisation, liberated from the schemas of the past.

Inventor of a new way of thinking about the organ, he applied his innovative ideas to various organs, in the Alpe d’Huez, in the Naples Conservatoire, the Zürich Tonhalle, the Tenerife concert hall, the “Chant d’Oiseaux” in Brussels, and in the Portuguese Church in Rome.

The ultimate development of his ideas leads to the “Variable Structure Organ,” described in his book “L’Orgue, Souvenir et Avenir” (The Organ, Remembrance and Future), in its third edition in France, with a second edition in Germany and a first edition in Italy. The book tells the history of the instrument, and develops his ideas about the complex nature of the organ, into which he wants to breathe a greater poetic richness.

As a writer, Jean Guillou has published many texts on music, as well as poems and literary texts. Many of his compositions use his own texts: “Alice au Pays de l’Orgue” for organ and narrator, “Aube” for 12 voices and organ, “Poème de la Main” for soprano and organ, and “Écho” for choir and instrumental ensemble.

Jean Guillou taught from 1970 to 2005 at the Meisterkursus in Zürich, along with Geza Anda, Nathan Milstein, Gregor Piatigorsky, and Vladimir Spivakov, guiding more than 300 young musicians from all over the world.

Universal will release in 2009 the complete recordings he made during the 1960/70s (13 CDs) but has also published, on the Philips label, 7 CDs of his compositions for the organ, other instruments and voice, as well as the complete works of J.S. Bach, a CD on the Borgato double piano, a Mozart CD and 3 CDs recorded at the Naples Conservatoire. Other labels (Dorian, Festivo, Pierre Vérany, Carrara, Augure) complete his discography.

His work is the subject of several scholarly works, by Jean-Philippe Hodant (“Rhetoric and Dramaturgy in the Works of Jean Guillou”, in French), Thomas Dahl (on his concertos), Giampaolo di Rosa (on the art of the registration and its structural role), as well as analytic works by Sylviane Falcinelli.