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Gifted with a phenomenal memory that allowed her to perform substantial scores from memory, Marie-Claire Alain had a wide repertoire of music, from the Baroque to works by her contemporaries. A respected teacher, she also found time for the ‘studio’ leaving behind a legacy of several hundred recordings.
Marie-Claire Alain was the youngest in a family of highly distinguished musicians. Her father, Albert Alain had been a pupil of Guilmant, Vierne and Fauré, while her oldest brother was the composer and organist Jehan Alain. The loss of her brother in combat during WWII affected Marie-Claire profoundly.
Alain made her debut in Saint-Germain-en-Laye at the age of 11. She went on to study at the Paris Conservatoire from 1944 with Marcel Dupré as her organ teacher and Maurice Duruflé teaching her harmony. While at the Conservatoire she carried off four Premier Prix. She made her formal debut in Paris in 1950, going on to win the Geneva International Competition and the Bach Prize from the Amis de Orgue.
During a distinguished career she gave more than 2,000 recitals worldwide. She was a prolific touring artist, both in Europe and the USA. Her repertoire embraced music of the Baroque, including Couperin, Vivaldi, Buxtehude, Pachelbel and Handel. Her classical repertoire included CPE Bach, Haydn and Mozart while from the romantic period she was a noted interpreter of Mendelssohn, Franck, Liszt and Widor. Her more contemporary repertoire embraced Vierne, Poulenc and her late brother, Jehan Alain.
A renowned teacher, her impressive list of pupils includes Thomas Trotter. She also gave master-classes worldwide and had a long, fruitful association with the St Albans International Organ Festival.
Alain recorded the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach on three separate occasions, one of only two organists ever to achieve this feat (the other was the Swiss organist Lionel Rogg). Her legacy also includes complete cycles by over a dozen other major composers as well as individual important works. As of a few years ago she could lay claim to being the most-recorded organist in the world.
Marie-Claire Alain was born on August 10, 1926. She died on February 26, 2013, aged 86.