Jean Langlais 1907 – 1991

Langlais with his familyJean Langlais was born at La Fontenelle on 15th February, 1907 and went blind at the age of two. Despite this handicap, he became one of the most respected organists and composers of the 20th century. He studied piano, violin, composition and organ in Paris at the National Institute for the Young Blind and at the Conservatoire de Musique, where he obtained a First Prize in Marcel Dupre’s class of 1930 and a composition Prize in Paul Dukas’ class of 1934. He also studied improvisation with Charles Tournemire, receiving in 1931 the Prix des Amis de l’Orgue.

Professor for forty years at the National Institute for the Young Blind, he also taught at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, where between 1961 and 1976 he helped both French and foreign students. His reputation as a pedagogue, important composer and concert artist drew pupils and audiences of many nationalities, especially from the USA, where he gave 300 recitals and countless master classes.

At the console of Sainte ClotildeIn 1945 he became organist at the Church of Sainte-Clothilde in Paris, the successor of Cesar Franck and Charles Tournemire. He left that position at the age of 80, having been titular for 42 years.

A prolific composer, his catalogue of works comprises 254 opus numbers, including vocal and instrumental sacred music (among them the famous Missa Salve Regina and the Messe Solennelle and the Missa in Simplicitate, very often performed in concert), secular music and numerous organ pieces, some of which are already considered 20th century classics.

Jean Langlais died in Paris on 8th May, 1991 at the age of 84.

For further information, see also Marie-Louise Langlais’ website: