In his lifetime, Eugène Gigout was a better known organist than composer. Indeed, and not least because he held the prestigious organist post at Saint-Austin Church in Paris from 1863 until his death in 1925, a span of 62 years! Gigout wrote a large body of music for solo organ, and his reputation as a composer largely rests on it. But his output also included piano and harmonium works, as well as a sizable number of sacred choral pieces and some orchestral works. Gigout was known not only for his virtuoso organ playing, but for his imaginative improvisations. As a composer his style embraced several elements, from the lean manner of Bach to the late-Romantic movement, with Saint-Saëns perhaps not an identifiable influence, but a spiritual relative. There are moments, too, in his music that hearken back to the Classical period. Gigout was also one of the most influential teachers of his day, founding an organ school and counting among his students such luminaries as Fauré, Roussel, Boëllmann, and Messager.
Gigout was born in Nancy, France, on March 23, 1844. In his youth he began his music training at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Annonciation de Nancy. From 1857 he studied under Saint-Saëns and Clément Loret at the Ecole Niedermeyer.
After graduation he joined the faculty at Ecole Niedermeyer and held the post concurrently when he began serving as organist at Saint-Austin in 1863. By the mid-1880s, Gigout was regularly producing organ and vocal works of merit, with the 6 Pieces for organ (1881), the Ave Verum (ca. 1884), and other works fattening his already sizable output.
In 1885 Gigout founded his organ (and improvisation) school. This would be a fertile period for the composer, with the 10 Pieces for organ coming in 1890, a set containing some of his most popular pieces, including the imaginative Toccata in B minor. When the great composer/organist Felix Alexandre Guilmant died in 1911, Gigout was appointed to succeed him at the Paris Conservatory as professor of organ and composition. It was a coveted post, to be sure, and speaks volumes to the reputation then held by Gigout. In his later years Gigout remained active as a composer right up to his final days. Among his late compositions of significance are the collection of organ works, 10 Pieces (1923), and his piano work Aux Escaldes (1925). Gigout died in Paris on December 9, 1925.