David Briggs


  • The Illusionist’s Art: the Liturgical Improvisations of Pierre Cochereau, Organist of Notre-Dame de Paris
    1217 6th Ave
    July 5 @ 9:00 am
    “A phenomenon without equal in the history of the C20th French organ”.  Such was Marcel Dupré’s commendation of his student Pierre Cochereau, who held the post of Titulaire des Grandes Orgues de Notre-Dame de Paris from 1955 until his premature death in 1984, aged only 59. In this illustrated lecture, David Briggs reveals the secrets behind Cochereau’s greatness as an improviser, performer, and educator, focussing particularly on his transcriptions of many of Cochereau’s most famous improvisations from Notre-Dame. David gives an in-depth survey of his most recent Cochereau project, undertaken during a lockdown:  I’ve been on the Cochereau forensic trail again, after a 20-year gap. 1962 Assumption improvisations - absolutely beautiful, and created in the last months of the 1862 Cavaillé-Coll console. PC absolutely 'on fire', aged only 38. I have the original reel-to-reels (in mono), given me some years ago by Fred Tulan, a well-known Californian organist and great friend of PC, who was in the tribune. Same procedure as 20 years ago (about 4 hours to transcribe one minute's music) except now we have the extremely useful tempo adjust facility on Garageband, which means you can listen at 10% of the original speed, but at the same pitch. That means there is no excuse for getting anything wrong! These improvisations are like gold dust - so beautiful, so inspiring, so energized.


“Mr. Briggs is one of our finest organists, and also a particularly good transcriber of orchestral works for his own instrument. “

The New York Times

David Briggs is an internationally renowned organist whose performances are acclaimed for their musicality, virtuosity, and ability to excite and engage audiences of all ages. Consistently ranked as one of the finest organists of his generation, David’s extensive repertoire spans five centuries. He has also become one of the foremost organ transcribers of symphonic works, thereby giving listeners the opportunity to experience the organ in a new way. He has transcribed orchestral compositions by Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Bruckner, Ravel, and Bach as well as Mahler’s Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth symphonies. 

Described as ‘an intrepid improviser” by Michael Barone, host of American Public Media’s Pipedreams, David also frequently performs improvisations to silent films such as Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Nosferatu, Jeanne d’Arc, Metropolis, King of Kings, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the General, and a variety of Charlie Chaplin films.

At the age of 17, David obtained his FRCO (Fellow of the Royal College of Organists) diploma, winning the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. From 1981-84 he was Organ Scholar at King’s College, Cambridge University, during which time he studied with Jean Langlais in Paris. The first British winner of the Tournemire Prize at the St Albans International Improvisation Competition, he also won the first prize in the International Improvisation Competition at Paisley. Subsequently David held positions at Hereford, Truro and Gloucester Cathedrals.

Deeply committed to ensuring organ music remains relevant and vibrant, David enjoys giving pre-concert lectures and demonstrations that help make organ music more broadly accessible. He teaches performance at Cambridge University, frequently serves on international organ competition juries, and gives master classes at colleges and conservatories across the U.S. and Europe.  

David performs more than 50 concerts a year at such venues as Maison Symphonique, Montreal; Royal Albert Hall, London; Notre -Dame, St Sulpice and St Eustache, Paris; Kimmel Center, Philadelphia; Berlin Philharmonie, Germany; St James Cathedral, Toronto; International Performing Arts Center, Moscow; Valencia Cathedral, Spain; National Auditorium, Madrid; Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria (BC); Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway; Grace Cathedral, San Francisco (CA); and King’s College, Cambridge.

David Briggs is also a prolific composer and his works range from full scale oratorios to works for solo instruments. He has recorded two DVDs, and 37 CDs, many of which include his own compositions and transcriptions.  

David is currently Artist-in-Residence at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City. For more information, Please visit:  www.david-briggs.org.