The works premiered on the instrument

Toccata de la 5e Symphonie de Widor

In almost a century and a half of existence, the organ now housed in the Lyon Auditorium has been used for numerous first performances. In addition to the list below, already quite long, there is another, much longer list of works that, though not strictly speaking premieres, have a close historical connection with the instrument. This is true, for example, of the numerous transcriptions of early works made by Alexandre Guilmant for the Trocadero’s historical concerts. Or the many pieces by Thierry Escaich that he performed himself during his artist’s residency from 2007 to 2010. There are also the works whose first recordings were made on this organ: the Symphonie concertante by Joseph Jongen, recorded in 1961 by the legendary American organist Virgil Fox with the Orchestre de l’Opéra de Paris and Georges Prêtre: or La Barque solaire by Thierry Escaich, which is on the program of the CD recorded by the Orchestre national de Lyon to crown his residency.

And let’s not forget all of the “second performances” that were actually the true launches of famous pieces of the organ repertoire. Jehan Alain’s Litanies, for one. The composer had given the first performance of his work in the Église de la Trinité in Paris on 17 February 1938, but to a small audience. The composer’s sister, the famous organist Marie-Claire Alain, believed that the work’s true launch had been its performance at the Palais de Chaillot by Gaston Litaize in 1940, at a tribute concert for Alain just after his death at the front. The Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain, composed by Maurice Duruflé as a tribute to the organist who died so tragically young, quotes the theme of this work, and was premiered at Chaillot.

Another major work linked to the Chaillot organ is Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto. Duruflé premiered it on 21 June 1939 in the Salle Gaveau. It was soon adopted abroad, in particular in the United States. But in France, it went largely unnoticed – a fact that greatly pained Poulenc, according to Duruflé. Duruflé considered the organ in the Salle Gaveau unsuited to the work and refused to play the concerto again until there was an organ that could do it justice.

He was finally able to give the work its second performance in France on 21 December 1941: accompanied by the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire and Charles Munch, he played the concerto on the Palais du Chaillot organ, which he had inaugurated 10 months earlier.

– C. D.



WP = world premiere
EP = European premiere
FP = French premiere
FPP = first public performance


Marcel Dupré

Symphonie-Passion: FP, 30 April 1925, Marcel Dupré (organ)

Le Chemin de la Croix: WP, 18 March 1932, Marcel Dupré (organ)

Gabriel Fauré

Requiem, final version for soloists, choir, organ and orchestra: WP, 12 July 1900, Eugène Gigout (organ), Choir and Orchestra of the Conservatoire, Paul Taffanel (conductor)

César Franck

Trois Pièces (Fantaisie en la, Cantabile, Pièce héroïque): WP, 1 October 1878, César Franck (organ)

– Trois Chorals (whole cycle) : WP, 28 April1898, Albert Mahaut (organ).

Charles Gounod

La Rédemption, oratorio for narrators, soloists, chorus, organ and orchestra: FP, 3 April 1884

Mors et Vita, oratorio for soloists, chorus, organ and orchestra: FP, 2 May 1886

Alexandre Guilmant

First Symphony for organ and orchestra: WP, 22 August 1878, Alexandre Guilmant (organ)

Second Symphony for organ and orchestra: WP, 31 December 1911, Joseph Bonnet (organ), Orchestre Lamoureux, Camille Chevillard (conductor)

Franz Liszt

Fantasy and Fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam”: FP, 28 September 1878, Camille Saint-Saëns (organ)

Saint François d’Assise prêchant aux oiseaux (arr. for organ by Saint-Saëns): WP, 28 September 1878, Camille Saint-Saëns (organ)

Camille Saint-Saëns

Cyprès et Lauriers, Op. 156, for organ and orchestra: FP, 24 October 1920, Eugène Gigout (organ), Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Jules Garcin (conductor)

Charles-Marie Widor

Grave in C minor: WP, 29 April 1926, Marcel Dupré (organ)

Fifth Symphony, for solo organ: FPP, 19 October 1879, Charles-Marie Widor (organ) (a private performance may have taken place earlier)

Sixth Symphony, for solo organ: WP, 24 August 1878, Charles-Marie Widor (organ)

Eighth Symphony, for solo organ: WP, 3 July 1889, Charles-Marie Widor (organ)


Maurice Duruflé

Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain: WP, 26 December 1942, Maurice Duruflé (organ)

– Transcriptions for solo organ of the chorales from Cantatas BWV 22 and 147 by J. S. Bach: WP, 26 December 1942, Maurice Duruflé (organ)

Requiem, initial version for organ, orchestra and choir: FPP, 28 December 1947, Hélène Bouvier (mezzo-soprano), Charles Cambon (bass), Henriette Puig-Roget (organ), Chorale Yvonne Gouverné, Orchestre Colonne, Paul Paray (conductor) (a radio broadcast performance had taken place in Salle Gaveau in Paris on 2 November of the year before)

Jean Langlais

First Symphony, for solo organ: WP, 1941

Olivier Messiaen

Les Corps glorieux: WP, 15 April 1945, Olivier Messiaen (organ)

Charles Tournemire

 – Petite Rhapsodie improvisée, transcribed by Duruflé: WP, 22 January 1957, Maurice Duruflé (organ)


Édith Canat de Chizy

Pour une âme errante: WP, 5 April 2011, Loïc Mallié (organ)

 Jonathan Dove

The Dancing Pipes: FP, 19 January 2020, Thomas Trotter (organ)

Thierry Escaich

La Barque solaire, for organ and orchestra: FP, 23 April 2009, Thierry Escaich (organ), Orchestre national de Lyon, Jun Märkl (conductor)

Ground V: FP, 30 November 2014, Vincent Warnier (organ), Guillaume Tétu (French horn)

Third Organ Concerto, “Quatre Visages du temps”: EP, 25 November 2017, Thierry Escaich (organ), Orchestre national de Lyon, Leonard Slatkin (conductor)

Philippe Hersant

In exitu Israel: WP, 22 June 2019, finalists in the Concours international Olivier-Messiaen: Fanny Cousseau, Yanis Dubois, Thomas Kientz, Eszter Szedmák (organ)

Rafihavanana Ratovondrahety

Gratitude: WP, 21 April 2016, Olivier Vernet and Cédric Meckler (organ)

Kaija Saariaho

Maan varjot, for organ and orchestra: EP, 19 June 2014, Orchestre national de Lyon, Olivier Latry (organ), Orchestre national de Lyon, Kent Nagano (conductor)

Tal Zilber

Salsa all’ungarese: WP, 21 April 2016, Olivier Vernet and Cédric Meckler (organ)

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