Born: August 10, 1928 - Salzburg, Austria
Died: January 10, 2013 - Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Franz Lehrndorfer is a contemporary organist and composer steeped in the instrument's venerable traditions. He was born in Salzburg, Austria, of German parents, grew up in Kempten, Bavaria, and received his early musical training from his father, a choir conductor and musicologist. After his graduation from the German gymnasium ("Abitur"), he studied Catholic church music and organ from 1948 to 1951 at the State Music College in Munich. He graduated in 1952 "summa cum laude". In 1957 he won first place at the prestigious International Music Competition of the ARD (German Radio Network).
Franz Lehrndorfer had begun his professional life already during 1951 as an educator with the German boys choir Regensburger Domspatzen. This is when he met his future producer/engineer Ulrich Kraus who was one of the choir's singers at the time. Their friendship and collaboration has thus endured half a century. In 1962 he joined the faculty of the State Music College in Munich where he became department head of Catholic church music and organ in 1969 until his retirement in 1993. He went on to establish a formal organ school under his own direction; its graduates themselves form a veritable school of German organ playing. Since 1968 he taught as visiting professor at the Catholic University in Porto, Portugal. Since 1969 he has also been the dome organist at the Munich dome ("Frauenkirche").
Whilst Franz Lehrndorfer has been known for his many song and choir compositions as well as compositions and arrangements for organ, it is his special gift as an improviser which completes his musical profile. He has performed and recorded much of the standard German organ repertory, from J.S. Bach to Max Reger. His musicianship is equally suited to romantic organ music from 19th century France as it is to J.S. Bach or improvisations over themes from children's and folk songs. His work is most distinctive in its focus on improvisation, for centuries a central aspect of the organist's art and a crucial lost skill for organists even more than for other classical musicians. At this writing Lehrndorfer has been cathedral organist in Munich for over thirty years. His regular concerts there build directly upon those of his long line of predecessors in the post, and for their listeners those concerts are informed by an unbroken musical tradition.
In recognition of his achievements as artist and educator, Franz Lehrndorfer has received numerous awards and decorations from both government and religious institutions, among them an honorary doctorate of the Papal College of Music in Rome and the Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse, a highly prestigious decoration awarded by the German government.