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Organist Christopher Houlihan to Release New Album 'FIRST AND LAST' on Azica

The album will be released on February 3, 2023.

Organist Christopher Houlihan to Release New Album 'FIRST AND LAST' on Azica

On Friday, February 3, 2023, organist Christopher Houlihan, described as "the next big organ talent" by the Los Angeles Times, will release his next solo album, First and Last, on Azica Records. The album features César Franck's "Grande Pièce Symphonique," Op. 17, from Six pièces d'orgue (1860-62) and Louis Vierne's Symphonie No. 6, op. 39 (1930).

Sharing his inspiration behind the album, Houlihan says, "Within this genre, there are no two pieces that better represent the trajectory of this style than Franck's Grande pièce symphonique and Vierne's Symphony No. 6- essentially the first and the last French Romantic organ symphonies."

As a young musician, Vierne (1870-1937) idolized the famous César Franck (1822-1890) and by the time he was 16, had earned a coveted spot in Franck's organ class at the Paris Conservatoire. In one of the many cruel twists of fate that would follow Vierne throughout his life, their work together would be short-lived and Franck died about a month later. Houlihan shares, "It is tempting to see a parallel between Vierne's musical style and his difficult life. And in fact, it is true that particularly poignant personal events occasionally sparked his creativity."

First and Last was recorded in 2019 on the Manton Memorial Organ "Pascal Quoirin" (2011) at the Church of the Ascension, the only French-built organ in New York. He shares, "Among organ music, the successful performance of French repertoire is especially dependent on the particular sonorities available on a given instrument. The Quoirin organ is a very good fit for the colorful demands of Franck and Vierne's music, and it was an honor to return to Ascension Church for this recording."

Houlihan has steeped himself in Louis Vierne's music, having performed all six of the French composer's organ symphonies in critically acclaimed marathon concerts across North America. He launched the tour at the Church of the Ascension on the 75th anniversary of Vierne's death, followed by a summer-long tour to Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Dallas. Of these symphonies, Houlihan reveals, "Ever since the marathon tour, I am often asked if I have a favorite among Vierne's symphonies. It's hard (and unnecessary) to pick, but the sixth just might be my favorite. It has all the characteristics that make Vierne's music so appealing, and perfectly in proportion. And, with Vierne at the height of his artistry, it also marks the apex of the French symphonic organ tradition -a fitting culmination of the style enshrined with Franck's Grande pièce symphonique."

About Christopher Houlihan

The organist Christopher Houlihan has established an international reputation as an "intelligently virtuoso musician" (Gramophone), hailed for his "glowing, miraculously life-affirming performances" (Los Angeles Times). Houlihan has performed at Disney Hall with the principal brass of the LA Philharmonic; the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, presented by the Philadelphia Orchestra; and at the Kennedy Center in D.C., presented by the National Symphony Orchestra.

He has appeared in recitals at celebrated venues across North America and Europe including the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and San Francisco's Grace Cathedral and Davies Symphony Hall, as well as at numerous conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society. In 2017, he performed the world premiere of Hannah Lash's Ludus (written specifically for Houlihan) at Jacoby Symphony Hall in Jacksonville. Houlihan's discography includes Christopher Houlihan plays Bach (Azica 2017) as well as music by Maurice Duruflé and Jehan Alain, and Organ Symphony No. 2 by Louis Vierne, both on Towerhill Records.

Houlihan is the John Rose Distinguished College Organist and Director of Chapel Music and an Artist-in-Residence at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., succeeding his former teacher, John Rose. Houlihan also studied with Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs at The Juilliard School, where he earned a master's degree, and with Jean-Baptiste Robin at the French National Regional Conservatory in Versailles. Learn more at

First and Last Track List

César Franck (1822 -1890) - Grande Pièce Symphonique, Op. 17 from Six pièces d'orgue (1860-1862)
1. Andantino serioso [4:03]
2. Allegro non troppo e maestoso [7:00]
3. Andante - Allegro - Andante [8:16]
4. Allegro non troppo c maestoso [2:49]
5. Beaucoup plus largement [4:10]

Louis Vierne (1870-1937) - 24 Pièces en style libre, Op. 31
6. Berceuse, no. 19 [4:13]

Louis Vierne - Symphonic No. 6, Op. 59 (1930)
7. I. Introduction et Allegro [10:13]
8. II. Aria [7:27]
9. III. Scherzo [4:26]
10. IV. Adagio [9:51]
11. V. Final [7:31]

Total Time: 69:59

Producer and Digital Editor: Alan Bise
Recording Engineer: Bruce Egre
Assistant to Mr. Houlihan: William Hughes
Organ Technical: Peter Batchelder
Cover Illustration: Sam Kalda
Graphic Design: Monica Mussulin
Azica Records ACD-71356

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