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Born with an eyesight defect that rendered him virtually sightless, Louis Vierne (1870 - 1937) was sent away at the age of 11 from his hometown of Poitiers to Paris and the National School for the Young Blind. He spent nine years there, during which time he excelled in grammar, mathematics, philosophy, theology, and history. He also showed prodigious musical gifts on both the piano and violin. In 1900 Vierne was appointed organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, in which post he remained for the rest of his life, actually dying at the organ during a recital there.

Vierne's Symphony No. 5 is dedicated to his friend and pupil Joseph Bonnet and was published in 1925. Bonnet was to have given the first performance in 1928, but he fell ill on the eve of the recital. It was finally Georges Ibos, another Vierne pupil, who played the complete work in Paris for the first time; this was in 1934, more than ten years after it was written. Before that, Guy Weitz had played the first, fourth, and fifth movements in London for the Organ Music Society. The Final is a brilliant and scintillating carillon-toccata with three traditional contrasting sections - all developed with superb, irresistible mastery.

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