Pierre Cochereau

Pierre Cochereau

Organist of Notre-Dame

Anthony Hammond


University of Rochester Press



Noted organist and scholar Anthony Hammond tells the full story, for the first time, of one of the great organists of the twentieth century.
Described by his teacher Marcel Dupré as "a phenomenon without equal in the history of the contemporary organ," Pierre Cochereau is considered one of the twentieth century's greatest French organists.This book tells, for the first time, the full story of of his extraordinary life and glittering, worldwide career.

In 1955 Cochereau was appointed Organiste Titulaire at Notre-Dame de Paris, where he restored the cathedral's musical glory and oversaw a far-reaching and controversial transformation of its organ.

As a recitalist, he toured South America, Australia, Asia, Canada, and Europe in addition to twenty-five tours of the United States. He was the first western organist to perform in the former Soviet Union., played with many major orchestras under the batons of distinguished conductors, participated in numerous music festivals in Europe, made over eighty recordings, and was one of the founders of the Chartres International Organ Competition. He was honored several times for his achievements, including being named an Officer of the Legion of Honor (1978).

A tireless campaigner for standards in music education, Cochereau also served as director at many of France's prominent conservatories, including Le Mans, Lyons, and Nice, which under his directorhsip became one of the leading music schools in France.

Biographer Anthony Hammond draws from a variety of of prominent primary sources, notably Marcel Dupré's papers in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, but also from Cochereau's surviving family and friends, and uses recordings and previously overlooked archive films in the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel, France to construct this definitive account and critical appraisal of one of France's most distinguished organists.

Anthony Hammond is an English concert organist, improviser, and musicologist who specializes in French Romantic and twentieth-century organ music.


December 2012
36 black and white, 101 line illustrations
372 pages
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580464055
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS050000, BIO004000
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Table of Contents

Cochereau: The Life and Career of the Organist of Notre-Dame
An Apostolic Succession?-Studies with Marcel Dupré
Pierre Cochereau as Interpreter
The Musical Language of Pierre Cochereau
The Improvisations of Pierre Cochereau
In Conclusion: The Legacy of Pierre Cochereau


A layered and affectionate portrait. . . Figure 4.4, modestly described as "summariz(ing) the essential features of Cochereau's style, is in fact a tiny masterpiece. . . . Hammond's manner of discussing improvisation is readable and practical. . . . His writing is sharp and deeply knowledgeable, (with) inspiring originality and enormous energy. Anthony Hammond makes me think of a young Charles Rosen, enthusiastic and sincere, . . . an advocate for performance as an intellectual act. MUSIC LIBRARY ASSOCIATION NOTES (Christina Linklater)

A compelling read for all organists and, especially today, for the new breed of improvisers. . . . . In the discussions of Cochereau the improviser the story really comes to life. . . . A fine tribute to one of the 20th century's true musical geniuses--and a great read. THE AMERICAN ORGANIST (Rollin Smith)

Fascinating and welcome. . . . Daring, brave, and brilliant. . . . Defines and reintroduces us to a spectacular church musician, organist, educator, and "Premier Prix" in all his accomplishments. . . . Be sure to read this charming and intelligent book. PASTORAL MUSIC (William Tortolano)

Fascinating. . . . A most respectful account of his compositions, at a length and thoroughness to satisfy anyone as keen on the French conception of organ-music and organ-playing as he clearly is. MUSICAL TIMES (Peter Williams)

Hammond here offers a thorough account of the work of this passionate, attractive, and generous artist, . . . showi(ng) how Pierre Cochereau's legacy would inspire generations to come. . . . Can be consulted with great interest even by non-English-speakers. ORGUES NOUVELLES (Carolyn Shuster Fournier)

In this most welcome first biography of Pierre Cochereau, Anthony Hammond gives us just what one would hope for: a detailed account of Cochereau's life, a thorough look at the influences that shaped his work, a valuable assessment of his craft as an interpreter, and new understanding of his art as an improviser. --Lawrence Archbold, Carleton College

"A model of scholarly research, Pierre Cochereau's legendary career is extensively recounted and the influence forming his mature style as an improviser and composer expertly documented. The post-1955 history of the Notre-Dame organ is by far the most accurate account in print today."--Jesse Eschbach, University of North Texas

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