Philippe Lefebvre discovered the organ of Notre-Dame de Paris at the age of 16. On the advice of Pierre Cochereau, organist of Notre-Dame de Paris, he began studying organ, improvisation and writing at the conservatoire de Lille and then at the conservatoire national supérieur de Paris. At 19, he was appointed tenured organist at Arras cathedral and several months later, gave his first concert at Notre-Dame de Paris. In 1971, he won the premiers prix for organ and improvisation from the conservatoire national supérieur de musique de Paris, and then the first prizes for counterpoint and fugue.
Winner of the Prix de la Fondation de la Vocation, then premier prix for improvisation at the international Lyon competition in 1972, he went on to win the grand prix for improvisation at the international Chartres competition and, in 1976, became tenured organist at Chartres cathedral.
In 1985, he was appointed tenured organist of the Great Organs of Notre-Dame de Paris.
For over twenty years, Philippe Lefebvre was director at the conservatoire de Lille (1980-2003). Under his leadership, this great school of music, theatre and dance (the oldest in France) became one of the most important and renowned conservatories in France, drawing some 1,700 pupils and students.
He continued his teaching career at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris where he was professor of improvisation and where he had responsibility for the “Musique Sacrée à Notre-Dame de Paris” (Sacred Music at Notre-Dame de Paris) and with it, the task of running the choir school, the training of professional singers and the running of the cathedral’s musical activities.
His career as a concert organist has taken him across the world where he has been the guest at major festivals, both as a soloist and accompanied by an orchestra. He is constantly in demand in Europe, the US, Eastern Europe and Japan for concert tours and masterclasses.
Philippe Lefebvre has made a number of recordings (F. Couperin, N. de Grigny, M. Dupré, M. Duruflé, C. Franck, F. Liszt, R. Schumann, C. Tournemire, the Francis Poulenc concerto, etc.).
He is considered to be one of the most archetypal performers and improvisers in French organ playing, an art through which he has brought fame across the globe to a tradition in constant renewal.
To listen to Philippe Lefebvre improvising verses from the Wandering Tone Magnificat on the Great Organ of Notre-Dame, click here.
Louis VIERNE : Messe solennelle pour deux orgues et choeur opus 16
Choeurs de la Maîtrise de Notre-Dame de Paris
Yves Castagnet : orgue de chœur
Philippe Lefebvre : grand orgue
Nicole Corti : direction