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Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély

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Biography

Louis James Alfred Lefebure-Wely is historically associated with the development of French organ music, as well as with organ technique. As a composer he was instrumental in the evolution of the French symphonic organ style and his works include many pieces for church use, and lighter fare like marches and sorties. It is probably in the latter genre that Lefebure-Wely scored his most enduring successes on the organ, with pieces like the sorties in B flat and E flat. But Lefebure-Wely's output also includes works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, piano, harmonium, and for the theater, most notably the opéra comique Les recruteurs (1861), probably the composer's most ambitious work. Lefebure-Wely inaugurated many organs built by his friend, the iconic Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, who had few, if any, peers in the realm of organ building in the nineteenth century. Throughout his life Lefebure-Wely remained active as both an organist and composer: he held some of the most prestigious organ posts in Paris and produced more than 200 compositions. In addition, he often gave harmonium recitals and was also a gifted pianist. While his reputation as a composer faded after his death, Lefebure-Wely was one of the most respected and popular artistic figures on the Parisian scene of his day, with composers like Franck and Alkan dedicating works to his memory. Louis James Alfred Lefebure-Wely was born in Paris on November 13, 1817. His father, Isaac-François, was a talented organist who was the boy's first teacher. Young Louis caught on quickly and began serving as a substitute organist for his father at Saint-Roch in Paris from the age of 11, the time when his father had suffered a stroke. In 1833 young Louis was appointed to replace his father at Saint-Roch. Lefebure-Wely enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire around this time to study organ with François Benoist and composition with Jacques-François Halevy and Henri-Montan Berton. At 17 Lefebure-Wely won first prize in organ performance at the Conservatory. From 1847-1858 Lefebure-Wely served as organist at L'Église de la Madeleine in Paris. He produced many compositions during his decade there, including the Six Offertories and Six Grande Offertories (Opp. 34 & 35, respectively), circa 1857. In 1863 Lefebure-Wely was appointed organist at Saint-Sulpice, also in Paris. He held the post until his death on December 31, 1869. Among his more important later works are Hommage à Mr. l'Abbé Hamon, Curé de St. Sulpice (1867-1869).
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