Pietro Yon

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Biography

Born: August 8, 1886; Settimo Vittone, Italy   Died: November 22, 1943; Huntington, NY  
Pietro Yon made his living largely as an organist and teacher, but is remembered today for his sacred music for the Roman Catholic Church. He is, in fact, among the most important American composers of sacred music for the Catholic Church in the first half of the twentieth century. Yon's organ music, too, much of it religious in nature, has also endured through the years. Overall, Yon's output was substantial and included 21 masses, many motets, Read more and various other sacred works, solo organ and piano pieces, songs, chamber, and orchestral compositions, including several concertos. His best-known work by far is his 1917 Christmas hymn Gesu Bambino (Baby Jesus). As suggested above, a fair number of his organ pieces regularly appear in recitals and on recordings, among them the Humoresque and Toccatina for Flutes from L'organo primitive (1918) and Natalie in Sicilia (1912). Yon was among the most important organ teachers in the New York area during his lifetime: among his students was composer Paul Creston.

Pietro Yon was born in the Italian town of Settimo Vittone (near Turin) on August 8, 1886. His older brother, St. Constantino, was also musically talented and seems to have had an influence on young Pietro. Pietro studied at the music conservatories in Milan and Turin, after which he received his final training at Rome's prestigious Accademia di Santa Cecilia.

After his 1905 graduation Yon served as one of the regular Vatican organists and also played at the San Pietro Basilica under Remigio Renzi. Following the lead of his brother, Yon settled in New York in 1907, where Constantino was organist at St. Vincent Ferrer Church.

That year, Pietro Yon was appointed organist at St. Francis Xavier Church. He held the post until 1926, producing most of his best-known works (including the three mentioned above) and becoming a U.S. citizen (1921). Yon accepted the coveted post of organist at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1927 and held the position up to his death. He would also serve as choir director for much of his time there. While Yon was busy both as an organist and composer during his American years, he also found time to give frequent recitals. Typically, he performed his programs from memory, establishing a precedent in this regard among New York organists active at the time. Yon died in Huntington, NY, on November 22, 1943. Read less