The eminent Swiss organist, harpsichordist, pedagogue, and composer, Lionel Rogg, showed exceptional musical gifts at an early age. At 15 he took charge of the Geneva St Boniface organ. Later he studied at the Geneva Conservatory with Charles Chaix (harmony, counterpoint, and composition), Pierre Segond (a pupil of Marcel Dupre) (organ; 1st prize, 1956), and Andre Perret and Nikita Magaloff (piano; 1st prize, 1957), and then with André Marchal in Paris. He obtained degrees in Harmony, Counterpoint and Fugue, and won scholarships, organ and piano prizes, and a First Prize for sight-reading. In 1959 he won second prize for organ at the International Music Competition of Munich.
After three years of intensive study, Lionel Rogg's career was launched with the works of J.S.Bach. In 1961 he gave a series of ten recitals at the Victoria Hall, Geneva, performing the complete organ works of J.S. Bach. These recitals were very enthusiastically received, and were followed by organ recitals in France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and in England at St Albans and at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He gave two recitals devoted to Bach's Orgelbuchlein at the 1962 International Festival of Montreux, and participated in Festivals and organ weeks at Bayreuth and Nuremberg.
Soon after his Geneva recitals, Lionel Rogg was invited to record the complete organ works of Bach on the new mechanical-action, electro-pneumatic registration 67-stop organ built in the Zürich Grossmunster built by Metzler & Sohne Orgelbau (Dietikon ZH), 1958-1960. This programme was begun in September 1961 and completed in September 1964, in ten sessions of three evenings each. The recording was made by the technical service of Radio Zürich using three microphones, two for the Positifs and one for the Great and Pedals, but were processed and mastered in England for Oryx Records. The resulting recordings were issued on the Bach Recordings label.
Since that time, Lionel Rogg has travelled the world, giving countless organ and harpsichord recitals in Europe East and West, the Americas, Australia, Korea and Japan. His exhaustive repertoire ranges from Bach and Dietrich Buxtehude to Paul Hindemith and Ligeti. He is especially known for his virtuoso technique and mastery of improvisation.
From 1960 to 2001 (or 2002) Lionel Rogg was a professor of organ at the Geneva Conservatory. In this post he has welcomed students from all over the world. He frequently gives master-classes in keyboard interpretation in universities and music-schools. He teaches now improvisation and also performance at the Royal Academy of Music in London on a regular basis. He also published a course on organ improvisation and wrote a Manual on Counterpoint.
Lionel Rogg made organ, harpsichord and piano recordings for the Swiss Broadcasting Company, including a performance of the 6 Trio Sonatas played on his own Wittmayer pedal-harpsichord. His recordings include three versions of the J.S. Bach's organ works (on Oryx, EMI and Harmonia Mundi France labels), Die Kunst der Fuge (BWV 1080) (Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros 1970), the complete organ works of Dietrich Buxtehude (Deutscher Schallplattenpreis 1980), François Couperin, Clérambault, Nicolas de Grigny and Johannes Brahms, and recordings of Franz Liszt, Max Reger, etc. He has also made recordings with chamber groups. More recently, he made a recording for BIS of his own transcription of the complete Eighth Symphony by Bruckner. Rogg's 1969 recording of J S Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080, issued on HMV, includes a form of the Contrapunctus XVIII with Rogg's own conjectural completion, in addition to the performance of the original (incomplete) Fugue. This performance was given on the organ of St Peter's Cathedral, Geneva.
As a composer, Lionel Rogg started out in the early 1950's writing in the serial style favored at that time. His activities as composer broke off as his career as an organist picked up, and Rogg resumed writing only in the 1980's. Casting off the doctrine of serialism in these later works, Rogg's music incorporates a broad number of stylistic elements, adding up to a result that defies distinct categorization. Rogg favors the term "free" in describing his music and these newer compositions have gained wide acceptance in Europe. In his attitude towards serialism, Rogg seems to have been a bit ahead of younger composers working within the post-modern era. His catalogue contains numerous works for organ, piano, for choir and orchestra and for chamber music. He was commissioned by the city of Geneva to write a concerto for organ and orchestra to mark the 1993 inauguration of the new organ (built by Van den Heuvel) in the Victoria Hall, Geneva. He is now organist in charge of this instrument. Among his notable compositions are the Organ Concerto (1992), the piano duet Face à Face, the Pièce for oboe and synthesizer, the Cantata Laudes organi, Missa Breves for Chorus and orchestra and the organ work Arcature. A disc of Rogg playing his organ music was released on Wergo in August 2000.
In 1989, Lionel Rogg received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Geneva. He is also Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, London. Rogg is married and has three children; his son, Olivier, is a jazz pianist.