Biography[ edit ] Alain was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the western suburbs of Paris, into a family of musicians. His father, Albert Alain — was an organist, composer and organ builder who had studied with Alexandre Guilmant and Louis Vierne. His younger brother was the composer, organist and pianist Olivier Alain — , and his youngest sister the organist Marie-Claire Alain — He also played regularly at the Rue Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth synagogue. His short career as a composer began in , when Alain was 18, and lasted until the outbreak of the Second World War 10 years later. Alain described Le jardin suspendu "The Hanging Garden" as a portrayal of "the ideal, perpetual pursuit and escape of the artist, an inaccessible and inviolable refuge".
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Germain-en-Laye to a musical family headed by his father Albert, who was an organist, composer and organ builder. The elder Alain had built an organ into his own living room and home schooled three of his children Jehan, Olivier, and Marie-Claire in the art of playing the "King of Instruments.
Alain studied at the Conservatoire for the next 12 years, taking First Prize in Harmony and Fugue in , and following it with a First Prize in Organ and Improvisation in In he married, and from that time on he made his living playing at two places of worship: the Church of Saint-Nicolas de Maisons-Lafitte, and the synagogue at the Rue Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth. It was on this instrument that he conceived his major mature works: the Trois Danses, Le Jardin suspendu, Litanies, and the Fantasies.
He served in the French Army in and , during which time he contracted a near-fatal case of pneumonia. His sister Odile was killed in a mountain climbing accident in At the end of , Alain was mobilized again -- this time in the Eighth Motorized Armored Division -- and he died fighting the Germans in Petit-puy outside Saumur on June 20, , at age The manuscript pages of his final work, a full symphonic orchestration of the Trois Danses, were sucked out of the window of a moving train as Alain rode on to his final rendezvous.
In spite of the brevity of his life, Alain produced approximately works. His works sound with one voice, varied, but mature. A somewhat rhapsodic approach to rhythm creates an ecstatic building up of bold, colorful and phantasmagoric sections in the Litanies and the Trois Danses that can be tremendously exciting to hear.
In Le Jardin suspendu and short works such as the lovely Choral dorien he created smooth, mysterious textures that suggest an otherworldly, even divine, presence.
Litanies, JA 119 (Alain, Jehan)
Litanies, for organ, JA 119 (AWV 100)