French Organ Music
French organ music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was dominated by two currents: classicist and symphonic. Alexandre Guilmant, influenced by Bach, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, introduced the sonate pour orgue into the French repertoire. He thereby stands in the same classicist tradition as Léon Boëllmann, whose organ music immediately captures the ear with its grace and clarity. Both composers reveal the influence of Wagnerian harmony.
Théodore Dubois was heavily influenced by the father of symphonic organ music, César Franck. Nonetheless, his works are noteworthy for their classical poise and simplicity, the two guiding principles of his alma mater, the Paris Conservatoire.
The symphonic tradition founded by César Franck continued in the hands of Louis Vierne, a pupil of Franck and Charles-Marie Widor. His organ music, especially the organ symphonies, is closely associated with the organs built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and often exploits the sound and technical potential of his instruments.