André Marchal (1894-1980) was born blind. He studied organ under Eugène Gigout at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1913, he won the First Prize in organ-playing and four years later he also won the prix d’excellence for fugue and counterpoint. Marchal taught organ at the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles in Paris, in addition to serving as titular organist of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (1915–1945) and Saint-Eustache (1945–1963). He was an unparalleled improviser and was recognized as such by Fauré. Among his students are many brilliant musicians such as Peter Hurford, Louis Thiry and Jean-Pierre Leguay.
There is now a Concours André Marchal held every other year in Biarritz, France offering prizes for interpretation and improvisation. Previous winners of the improvisation prizes include: David Cassan, David Maw, Noël Hazbroucq, Martin Bacot, Olivier Perin, Alexandre Mason, Torsten Laux, and Frederik Malmberg.
André Marchal – Improvisation on theme of George Dyson – Royal Festival Hall, London