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Born: 1886 — Rouen — France
Died: 1971 — Meudon — France
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|Variations on Adeste Fideles||-||Organ||??||Originally performed by Dupré as an improvisation, and reconstructed from a recording, by Rollin Smith.||Warner Brothers Music Publishing|
|Meditation||-||Organ||1966||When approached by Henry and Enid Woodward to compose a piece for their book, Library of Organ Music - this piece was the resultant.|
|3 Pieces||??||Cello and Piano||1916||Masters Music Publications Inc.|
|La France en calvaire||49||Oratorio Leduc||1952-53||Bornemann (1954)|
|Les deux Surs||??||Voice and Piano||Leduc|
|Marquise||??||Baritone and Piano||Leduc|
|Rose dans la Nuit||??||Voice and Piano|
|Sous la Pluie||??||Voice and Piano|
|Annonciation, 2 méditations||Organ||Leduc|
|Sonata||5||Violin and Piano||1909||Leduc|
|2 Mélodies||6||Piano and High Voice||1913||Leduc|
|3 Preludes and Fugues||7||Organ||1912||1. Prelude and Fugue in B major
2. Prelude and Fugue in F minor
3. Prelude and Fugue in G minor
During his final years as a student before the First World War, Dupré was encouraged by Widor, his composition teacher, to enter for the prestigious national composition prize, the Prix de Rome, which he finally won in 1914, after two failed attempts. But the operatic world of the cantata around which the Prix revolved held little attraction for him; immediately after his first attempt in the summer of 1912, Widor suggested that he should spend his holiday composing a new cantata, and Dupré rebelled. He chose instead to refresh his spirits by writing some organ music, and the result was the first major work of his maturity, the set of Three Preludes & Fugues, Op.7; when he finally showed them to Widor, he could not help exclaiming Ah, mon cher Maître, I wrote them in the hope that you would free me, free me from the Prix de Rome! Revolutionary in both conception and technique, these pieces were hardly a commercial proposition at that time - indeed, Dupré himself was probably the only organist in France with the technique to play them - and they were to remain in manuscript for eight years, until Alphonse Leduc finally agreed to publish them in 1920, when the composers name had become better known. In due course the Preludes and Fugues became standard repertoire works, but it is difficult to overestimate their originality in those early days before the First World War, when some pronounced them unplayable. Duprés unparalleled liberty of technique allowed him to express his personal vision with complete integrity, and to maintain throughout each piece an individual and vividly imagined colour and character. A door was opened on the future...
Conceived, in the composers words, for a triumphal solemnity, like Easter, the first Prelude and Fugue explodes into life with a joyful carillon of jangling fourths with a striding pedal theme beneath. In the quieter central section the theme becomes a little more lyrical in character, before a crescendo of antiphonal exchanges between manual and pedal (still based on fourths) ushers in the reprise of the opening, with the theme now in canon between the outer parts. The coda returns to the antiphonal exchanges, and a brief pedal solo brings the Prelude to close. The vibrant mood of the Prelude carries through into the Fugue, whose lively subject takes the pervasive fourths and builds them into broken chord figures. Although the fugal writing is fairly free, one can clearly recognise the four voice exposition, and two episodes, the first based on the leaping octaves of the counter-subject, and the second based - for the first time in the whole piece - on a triad, derived from the third phrase of the subject. This second episode involves a good deal of intricate pedal work and some snappy syncopations, which propel the Fugue to its climax, with a stretto between the subject in the soprano and its augmentation in the bass. Then the roles are reversed, and the whole work ends in the most emphatic style with the return of the toccata figuration and the antiphonal manual/pedal dialogue from the Prelude.
The second Prelude and Fugue is perhaps the most eloquent of all Duprés early works A filigree of staccato semiquavers threads its way throughout the Prelude, accompanying the expressive melodic lines of the other parts, which are entrusted to 8ft flute combinations of varying intensity, ranging from a single voice to a rich four-part texture with double pedal. From the three-note melodic cell of the prelude Dupré fashions a fugue subject whose perfectly balanced rise and fall is a model of expressive elegance. The registration is restricted to 8ft fonds and Voix Celeste, and the music flows so naturally that one is hardly aware of listening to a fugue at all; towards the end there are some neat contrapuntal devices in the form of inversions and stretti, but they seem to float past in a dream, and the atmosphere of melancholy nostalgia is never disturbed.
The third Prelude and Fugue is technically the most innovative of the three; the lightness and dexterity of its semiquaver figuration look forward to the developments of the 1920s, when Dupré discovered the possibilities of electric action, and the textures produced by its four-part pedal chords puzzled many professionals in the audience when he gave the first public performance in Paris in 1917. The prelude, which never rises much above a whisper, opens ppp (a novel effect in itself) with scurrying patterns of semiquavers on the manuals, against which a long melodic line stands out in relief. The solo tune moves up to the treble register, and is then generously harmonised by right hand and pedals while the left hand continues the scurrying. In the first two Preludes and Fugues, both movements are conceived as a single entity in terms of mood and registration, but here their character is quite different, and the lively jig-like fugue makes a wonderful contrast to the gentle colours of the prelude. Unity between the movements is established by the return of the melody from the prelude, which gradually infiltrates the contrapuntal texture and dominates the vibrant final page, where the full power of the organ is deployed to thrilling effect.
|Fantasie in B||8||Piano and Orchestra||1912|
|A lamie perdue||11||Orchestra||1911|
|De Profundis||17||Solo, Chorus, Orchestra and Organ||1917|
|15 Versets pour la Vêspres du Commun des Fêtes de la Saint Vierge||18||Organ||1920||1-5 are based on text from the Song of Solomon
6-9 are based on the plainsong Ave maris stella
10-15 are based on the Magnificat.
|H W Gray Publications|
|Cortège et Litanie||19||2||Organ/Organ and Orchestra||1921||Another work from Duprés American period, the Cortège
et Litanie has a complicated history, and exists in several different
versions. It originally formed part of a suite of incidental music which
Dupré composed for a friend who was having a play performed in Paris,
and was first conceived in terms of a chamber orchestra of 11 instruments.
The composer also made an arrangement for piano solo, and when he played
this to his American concert agent Dr Alexander Russell, Russell was so
impressed that he persuaded Dupré to make two two more arrangements,
one for organ solo and another for organ and symphony orchestra; the solo
version was premiered in New York in September 1923 (in the same programme
as the American premiere of Variations sur un Noël), and the first
performance of the orchestral version was given by Stokowski and the
Philadelphia Orchestra early in 1925.
The most successful arrangement of this short piece is undoubtedly the organ and orchestra version, but for practical reasons the organ solo version is far more frequently performed, and is now firmly established as one of Duprés most popular works. Richly harmonised on soft strings, the melody of the Cortège is one of his most memorable tunes; the ends of the phrases are punctuated by a motif of two repeated notes, like the tolling of a distant bell. The poignant repetitions of the Litanie begin on a delicate solo flute, and move through a variety of tone-colours before a gradual increase in intensity leads to the powerful return of the Cortège theme and a brilliant toccata-like conclusion.
|Variations sur un vieux Noël||20||Organ||1922||The first product of Duprés American period, the Variations
sur un Noël were composed in 1922 during the course of his first
transcontinental tour; he later recalled that each variation was written in
a different city, ranging from London to San Diego and all stops in
between. This remarkable work represents his first response to his
discovery in America of the benefits of organs with electric action and
adjustable pistons - so different from the cumbersome ventil pedals of the
Cavaillé-Coll organ - and he was later to describe it as a
synthesis of the orchestral possibilities of the modern organ. The
variations embrace a kaleidoscopic variety of colours and textures, of a
kind that had never been heard before, and cover an equally wide range of
musical moods between the expressive opening harmonisation of the theme
(the carol that is nowadays known as Noël Nouvelet) and the
tempestuous finale; the immediate accessibility of this music and its
astonishing richness of invention have ensured it a secure place among
Duprés most popular concert works.
In five of the variations the tune can be clearly heard, sometimes in one voice (in the tenor in Var. 1, inthe bass in Var. 4), sometimes in canon between two voices (canon at the octave in Var. 3 and a tour-de-force of canon at the second in Var.8) and once (in the 6th variation) in a double canon at the fourth and fifth, with right hand, left hand and pedals all playing in different keys. These contrapuntal movements alternate with orchestral variations, in which the contours of the tune are absorbed into a rapid stream of virtuoso figuration - a flowing invention for flutes in Var. 3, a scintillating flute solo in Var. 5, a dancing stream of crushed notes in Var. 7, and a ripple of chromatic thirds for Clarinet in Var. 9. The variations culminate in a brief but brilliant fugato, teeming with contrapuntal device, and leading straight into the final toccata, which erupts at the end into a resounding peal of Christmas bells.
|Variations in C#||22||Piano||1924|
|Lamento||24||Organ||1926||This short piece was composed in 1926 for Duprés friend
A.M.Henderson, the Organist of Glasgow University, following the loss of
his son - the touching dedication reads: To my dear friends Mr &
Mrs A. Henderson, of Glasgow - In memory of their dear little Donald.
The death of this child inspired from Dupré
an eloquent memorial, in a style that is far removed from the complexities of his contemporary Symphonies. The lament is expressed in B flat minor by the Oboe, above an ostinato chordal accompaniment that evokes the image of a frozen, motionless cortège, very much in the manner of Saties Gymnopédies. This is answered by a consoling second theme in the major, a kind of In Paradisum; with the entry of the pedals the music takes on the flavour of a gentle angelic procession, with a subtle harmonic texture that is typical of Dupré at his most imaginative. The lament returns, and rises to a powerful but short-lived climax, leaving the last word to the angels.
|Symphony No. 1 in G minor||25||Organ and Orchestra||1928||Salabert|
|Symphony No. 2||26||Organ||1929||Salabert|
|79 Chorals||28||Organ||1931||These chorales are based on the melodies of the 79 old Chorales used by J.S. Bach in his Chorale Preludes.||Warner Brothers Music Publishing|
|Le chemin de la croix||29||Organ||1931||Durand|
|Ballade||30||Piano and Organ||1932||H W Gray Publications|
|Concerto in E minor||31||Organ and Orchestra||1934||Bornemann (now Leduc)|
|Poème Héroïque (Verdun)||33||Organ and Brass||1936||Warner Brothers Music Publishing|
|Ave Verum||34||1||SATB and Organ||Consortium Musical|
|Variations sur deux thèmes||35||Piano and Organ||1938||H W Gray Publications|
|3 Preludes and Fugues||36||Organ||1938||If the 1920s - during which he produced three colourful Symphonies, two
for organ solo and one for organ and orchestra - could be described as
Duprés virtuosoyears, the next decade was marked by
a distinct change of direction. The Stations of the Cross of 1931
introduced a new note of sincerity and profundity into his work, but after
this did not compose very much during the 1930s - an Organ Concerto, a
Poème Héroïque for organ and brass, two duets for piano and
organ, and a few miniatures. As Professor of the most prestigious Organ
Class in the world, much of his time in these years was taken up with
teaching work, and with the writing of no less than ten academic text
books. It was not until 1938, with the prospect of a world tour of
Australia and the USA coming up the next year, that he began to think about
another major work for organ solo, and the result was a second set of Three
Preludes and Fugues, of a very different character from the first (Op.7, in
Volume 1 of this series). In later life Dupré was to sum up the
essence of his own artistic personality in one simple phrase: In
aesthetics, just as in matters of ethics and morality, nothing is
worthwhile that is not achieved within the context of a strict intellectual
discipline, freely embraced, and it was in Op.36 that he first proved
the truth of these words in a work of magisterial, and at first sight
almost forbidding, intellectual integrity. The apparent liberty and
spontaneity of the early Preludes and Fugues are now replaced by a strict
academic discipline that analyses every note of the music on the page. Not
only are these pieces comprehensively fingered and pedaled, they are
deconstructed before our eyes with indications of every contrapuntal device
in every voice, and each subject, counter-subject, key relationship,
inversion, augmentation and stretto is labeled with painstaking
On first acquaintance this might appear an arid exercise, but appearances can be deceptive, and familiarity reveals that the poetic, imaginative side of Duprés creative personality is still flourishing as strongly as ever, in spite of - or more truthfully because of - the intellectual demands of these strict fugal forms. In the 25 years that had passed since the composition of the first set of Preludes & Fugues, Duprés harmonic language had progressed into a new world, but in many ways Op.36 can be seen as a logical development of the technique of the earlier pieces; once again each Prelude and Fugue is conceived as a whole, a single unit with both movements exploring the same thematic material, and the new pieces are no more abstract mathematical exercises than the earlier ones - they are vital, living entities, each with its own unique personality, vividly imagined and then brought to life with minute attention to detail.
The E minor Prelude is a unique and extraordinary invention. At the start the two hands sketch a rapid tracery of demisemiquaver figuration on two flutes in the same register of the keyboard; they are both playing the same patterns in alternation, with the result that it is impossible to detect any detail in this impressionistic haze of sound - pure Monet, as Graham Steed once described it. The main theme, which also inspires all the figuration, is played in crotchets on a 4ft pedal flute, and therefore sounds in the same register as the hands. Despite the rapidity of the movement, the character of the Prelude, in the words of Duprés first biographer Abbé Delestre, is grave and nostalgic, and so it remains as the texture becomes ever more complex with the introduction of the Voix Celeste. Canons begin to proliferate like creepers in a forest, and the voices are doubled and amplified until they form a polyphony of six parts, which loses none of its rapidity, but from which there emanates a strange charm: it is the first manifestation of the new language of Marcel Dupré... Gradually this polyphony is diluted once again, and at the end, when we hear a pedal 16ft for the first time, there are only two voices remaining: the rapid murmur, which has never ceased, and the theme, which sadly fades into the melancholy of falling night.
The Fugue is a swiftly flowing, lightly registered trio, with the theme enlivened by a touch of syncopation; two regular counter-subjects are also used throughout. The first few notes of the subject sound as though they going to be in C minor, and this constantly disturbs the equilibrium of the basic E minor tonality, producing, when all three voices come into play, an almost polytonal effect, which is intensified by the use of mutations and soft mixtures. On the third page Dupré also introduces an added complication in the form of rhythmic transformations of the subjects from duplets into triplets, and from this point on, the constant interplay of twos against threes adds a new element of rhythmic instability. The effect is bizarre, but intriguing.
The second Prelude and Fugue is a towering contrapuntal edifice, with complete thematic identification between Prelude and Fugue, and its monumental character is reinforced by traditional symphonic registration, with massed foundation stops enriched by the addition of mixtures and reeds. The Prelude begins with sketchy toccata figuration above a long pedal point. A strong theme enters the scene in staccato chords, and this is identified as Subject II; it soon gives way to a more lyrical idea high in the treble register, and this is Subject I. Further contrapuntal development of the two themes, with a number of canons and stretti, leads to a big climax where the themes are superimposed, and crowned by the entry of a new subject in long notes, in triple octaves - this is labeled as Counter-subject I. The climax recedes, and the semiquaver figuration which has been maintained all through the movement moves down to the pedals during the final diminuendo.
A serene development of Subject I, accompanied by Counter-subject I, opens the five-part double Fugue, Cantabile con moto. It is followed by a separate development of the more rhythmic Subject II, enlivened by the addition of Mixtures, and then in the final section the two subjects are finally combined; as intricate contrapuntal devices proliferate on all sides, the volume steadily increases, building up to a final resolution that never fails to make the most powerful effect.
The C major Prelude and Fugue is more relaxed than the other two, and its theme could hardly be more straightforward - it is simply the major triad. The prelude has a strongly evocative atmosphere, typical of so much of Duprés later music, serene but troubled, magical but mysterious.... At the start the theme goes almost unnoticed on the pedals, while the soft manual parts trace dense chromatic lines; the two hands, with two voices each, are on different manuals, but they are both creeping around in the same register of the keyboard. The theme soars into the treble where it sings out in a plaintive appeal on a solo flute, to be answered by a new theme, a halting sequence of rising chords in a kind of fragmented canon between the hands. These ideas are developed throughout the Prelude, the solo flute later blossoming into two contrapuntal parts, which are finally superimposed on the mysterious rising chords.
From the shadows of this evocative prelude, we emerge into bright sunlight in the Fugue, whose subject transforms the major triad into a vibrant staccato fanfare. Of fearsome technical difficulty and unflagging dynamic energy, it proceeds to a dazzling conclusion, superimposing the fanfares on a breathless stream of pedal scales and ending in an explosion of full C major chords bouncing from the bottom to the top of the keyboard.
|Le Tombeau de Titelouze||38||Organ||1943||Warner Brothers Music Publishing|
|Offrande à la vierge||40||Organ||1944||Leduc|
|Esquisse in C major||41||1||Organ||1945||Leduc|
|Esquisse No. 1 in E minor||41||2||Organ||1946||Part of 2 Equisses||Warner Brothers Music Publishing|
|Esquisse No. 2 in B-flat minor||41||3||Organ||1946||Warner Brothers Music Publishing|
|Sinfonia||42||Piano and Organ||H W Gray Publications|
|Paraphrase on the Te Deum||43||Organ|
|Eight Short Preludes||45||Harmonium|
|Miserere Mei||46||Organ||1948||This short meditation for a time of Penitence dates from 1948, and is dedicated, like so many of Duprés works, to the memory of one of his friends. Much of the melodic material seems to have a vocal inspiration, and it is not just the prominent Trumpet motif that seems to be crying Miserere Mei, but many other phrases as well. The piece falls roughly into four sections: a Moderato introduction, a pleading Andante for Voix Celeste, a Piu animato that builds up to an anguished climax, and a Cantabile for solo flute that finally attains peace, of a kind, in its concluding major chord.||Leduc|
|Psalm xviii (Poème symphonique)||47||Organ||1950||Leduc|
|6 Antiennes pour le temps de Noël||48||Organ||1952||Leduc|
|La France au Calvaire||49||1952-53||Oratorio||Leduc|
|24 Inventions||50||Organ||1956||Book 1
In 1954 Dupré gave up the Organ Class at the Paris Conservatoire after 28 years, and agreed to take on the position of Director for a term of two years, until he reached official retirement age in 1956. These two years were not happy ones (a preview of Purgatory), and the thankless and time-consuming administrative work left little time for his own playing and composition; the only work that he was able to complete during this period was the 24 Inventions. Dupré once wrote that nothing is worthwhile that is not achieved within the context of a strict intellectual discipline, freely embraced; all his work illustrates this proposition to a greater or lesser degree, and none more clearly than this fascinating collection of miniatures in which craftsmanship and poetry combine in perfect harmony. Mostly restricted to two short pages, and to three or four voices, the pieces are all fingered and pedalled, emphasising their practical value for the student, but many of them are by no means unduly difficult, and the emphasis is far more on the compositional side, as Dupré displays unerring resource and imagination in the art of motivic contrapuntal development - invention in the way that Bach understood it. There is one piece in every major and minor key, and each has its own unique mood, texture, theme and registration, often using single stops - there are only two loud pieces in the whole set. The title Inventions inevitably recalls the Inventions and Sinfonias of Bach himself, and Bachs Title Page for those works is also perfectly applicable to Dupré: Upright instruction, wherein the lovers of the clavier, and especially those desirous of learning, are shown a clear way...to learn to play clearly in two....and three obbligato parts; furthermore, at the same time not alone to have good inventiones (ideas), but to develop the same well, and above all to arrive at a cantabile style in playing and at the same time to acquire a strong foretaste of composition.
The First Book of Inventions begins with a prelude of C major arpeggios in a trio texture, conventional in conception if not in its curiously wistful effect, and contains five more trios of vividly contrasted character - playful crushed notes in No.3, sinuous chromatic lines in No.4, vigorous neoclassical counterpoint in No.6, a haunting six-note ostinato in No.8 and lively semiquaver dialogue in No.10. Flowing four-part textures are introduced in Nos. 5 and 9, and in the strangely elusive meditation of No.7, while denser sonorities are reserved for the elegiac chorale of No.2 and the drifting melodic lines of No.11, which circle and entwine like exotic foliage in a magical dream. The impish final scherzo is one of just two non-linear pieces in the whole collection - a nimble study in staccato and repeated notes.
In 1954 Dupré gave up the Organ Class at the Paris Conservatoire after 28 years, and agreed to take on the position of Director for a term of two years, until he reached official retirement age in 1956. These two years were not happy ones (a preview of Purgatory), and the thankless and time-consuming administrative work left little time for his own playing and composition; the only work that he was able to complete during this period was a remarkable set of 24 Inventions. Like the Op.36 Preludes and Fugues, but on a miniature scale, this work provides another superb illustration of the inspiration which Dupré could always find in the embrace of a strict intellectual discipline; craftsmanship and poetry combine in perfect harmony in each of these short pieces. Mostly restricted to two pages, and to three or four voices, they are all fingered and pedaled, emphasising their practical value for the student, but many of them are by no means unduly difficult, and the emphasis is far more on the compositional side, as Dupré displays unerring resource and imagination in the art of motivic contrapuntal development - invention in the way that Bach understood it. There is one piece in every major and minor key, and each has its own unique mood, texture, theme and registration, often using single
stops - there are only two loud pieces in the whole set. The title Inventions inevitably recalls the Inventions and Sinfonias of Bach himself, and Bachs Title Page for those works is also perfectly applicable to Dupré: Upright instruction, wherein the lovers of the clavier, and especially those desirous of learning, are shown a clear way...to learn to play clearly in two....and three obbligato parts; furthermore, at the same time not alone to have good inventiones (ideas), but to develop the same well, and above all to arrive at a cantabile style in playing and at the same time to acquire a strong foretaste of composition.
The 24 Inventions were published in two books of 12, the first of which has already appeared in Volume 1 of this series. Like the first book, the second includes a wide range of different styles and textures. There are two scherzi - the first piece, No.13, with its bubbling repeated notes, and No.20, with its rhythmic pedal figure, like the beating of a tiny drum - and several contrapuntal movements - lively neoclassical trios in Nos. 14 and 23, a sturdy Germanic fugue in No.18, and more expressive, cantabile fugues in No.16 and in the nostalgic final piece (No.24), a plaintive fughetta for oboe and flute. The remaining five Inventions are richly expressive slow movements, exploring a variety of more overtly romantic styles, including a soaring meditation for flutes in No.22 and a tender chordal meditation for strings in No.19; these two pieces, and the gentle undulations of the serene Cantabile in E major (No.15), perfectly illustrate the exquisite refinement of Duprés mature harmonic language, in its purest form.
|Bornemann (now Leduc)|
|Triptyque||51||Organ||1951||In 1957 Duprés childhood friend, the conductor Paul Paray,
persuaded him to make a short trip to America to inaugurate the new organ
of the Ford Auditorium in Detroit. The solo recital was followed a few days
later by a performance and recording of Saint-Saëns Third
Symphony, and this recording, in Mercury Living Presence stereo sound,
caused a sensation in those early days of stereo LP. The 71 year old
composer wrote a new piece for his inaugural recital; this was the
Triptyque, Op. 51, and it was to be the last of his virtuoso concert works.
In addition to the symphony, Dupré was contracted to make some solo
recordings on the new organ, but the engineers decided that the acoustic of
the hall in Detroit was too unflattering to make this project worthwhile,
and the solo recordings were transferred to New York. The programmes of
these two LPs included the new Triptyque, and Duprés masterly
performance of this work is now a valuable historical document.
The opening Chaconne is designed as piece of display not only for the player, but even more for the instrument, calling on a kaleidoscopic array of ever-changing registrations. The ground bass theme is exposed on the pedals at the start; it is only four bars long, and this gives the whole movement the character of a highly-coloured, sectional mosaic, each short variation having its own tempo, texture and registration. After exploring a wide range of softer sounds, the Chaconne quickly builds to a climax with the theme thundering out in pedal octaves beneath a cascade of pianistic manual figuration, but the tumult subsides in an instant, and the movement ends in a hushed pianissimo coda, with parallel chords producing some bizarre, hollow harmonics. The Musette, of fearsome technical difficulty, is a delicate study in repeated notes for the pedals, their incessant patter on a 4ft flute barely pausing for breath as it accompanies the naïve melody of the manual parts. The concluding Dithyrambe bursts in with some dramatic rhetorical exclamations in the form of chords and toccata figuration, and then calms down for a more relaxed second theme. With the entry of more regular semiquaver movement, the pedals are taxed once again with demanding writing in thirds and sixths as the movement builds to its finale in a powerful 6/8 metre, with the second theme triumphantly declaimed over driving pedal octaves, ending in a typical Dupré cadence of four emphatic but unpredictable chords.
|Quartet||52||String Trio and Organ||1952|
|Trio||55||Organ, Violin and Cello||1955|
|Chorale and Fugue||57||Organ||1957||Leduc|
|3 Hymnes||58||Organ||1958||Liturgical music forms a significant and still relatively little-known
part of Duprés output; containing some of the most charming and
easily accessible music of his later years, the Three Hymns of 1963 were
his last liturgical works of any substance. The themes of each of the three
pieces have a strong modal flavour, but they appear to be original - or at
any rate they have not yet been publicly identified.
Aptly described by Duprés protégé and successor Rolande Falcinelli as fresh as a spring morning, Matines takes the form of a theme and variations; the theme is presented on a solo flute with a sparse accompaniment.
Var. 1: the separate solo phrases of the theme alternate with gliding chains of common chords in unusual juxtapositions, in a style that recalls the music of another of Duprés pupils, Jehan Alain.
Var.2 : a delicate duo, with the theme on a 4ft pedal flute, surrounded by a garland of piquant figuration on Bourdon and Tierce.
Var. 3: the theme is in long notes in the pedal, as the bass of this tranquil meditation for flute and strings.
Var. 4: a sparkling trio in staccato triplets, with the theme broken up in the pedal.
Var. 5: a meditative paraphrase of the theme, densely scored for the penetrating tone of the Vox Humana, with drone-like double pedal.
Var. 6: the finale begins with a lumbering staccato trio with chromatic alterations of the theme. This builds up to a powerful tutti statement of the tune, accompanied once again by chains of unrelated common chords, and immediately succeeded by a softer harmonisation that finally fades away into silence.
Vesper is a gentle evening prayer; the theme passes from a flute in the treble to a cello on the pedal, then, lightly decorated, to a soft trumpet, and finally back to the flute.
The more extrovert finale, Laudes, is based on two musical ideas, the first in animated triplets, the second more expressive, in the style of a chorale. These ideas are first heard in succession, and then combined in the final section of the piece, which mounts to a brilliant toccata-style conclusion.
|Sonata||60||Cello and Organ||1960|
|In Memoriam||61||Organ||1965||The last major work of Duprés old age arose from tragic
personal circumstances, following the death from cancer of his only child,
Marguerite, on 26th October 1963, at the age of 54. Duprés pupil
and biographer Michael Murray was in Paris at the time, and has given a
moving account of the events of the following day: The next morning,
Dupré played his services at Saint-Sulpice, urged by his wife to do
so, and encouraged by his own inner need. As usual, the service was almost
entirely improvised. And on this day, as those present will never forget,
the strictures of counterpoint, and the hard disciplines of the ricercar
form, embraced a music so exquisite and so grand that even those
downstairs, unaware of the visitors solemn hush in the organ loft,
and of the reason, remarked Duprés eloquence. What has
happened to Monsieur Dupré today?, the Curé of
Saint-Sulpice recalls a parishioner asking: He has surpassed
himself. As always, intense emotion was rendered overpowering by the
constraints of form, for Dupré neither violated contrapuntal laws nor
took liberties with harmony to achieve his eloquence, though he played with
eyes closed and tears trickling down his cheeks.
Simply inscribed to my daughter, In Memoriam was composed during the next two years, and first performed by Dupré himself at his 80th birthday recital in Saint-Sulpice on 3rd May 1966; it has rarely been played since. In a way this is understandable, as this is very private music; emotion is distilled to a rare essence, a subtle perfume of nostalgia and regret which permeates every movement, and the harmonic language is personal, and occasionally obscure. But, like many of Duprés lesser-known works, In Memoriam amply repays repeated listening, and increasing familiarity brings rich rewards.
The framing of the whole work by a prelude and postlude reinforces the impression that this is a personal rite of remembrance. Dupré had asked to hear his Lamento at his daughters funeral, and the opening Prélude reworks the conception of the earlier piece; the contrapuntal development of an elegiac theme alternates with an ethereal In Paradisum for the Voix celeste, rising to an anguished climax, and ending in a serene ascent to a cloudless sky. The wayward, dancing Allegretto seems to be an evocation of childhood, but the bizarre harmonic language veils the music in a strangely distant, dream-like atmosphere. On the final pages, after an expressive central interlude for 8ft flutes, the soft solo reed theme on the pedals expands to two parts, producing a texture of extraordinary complexity. Méditation is simply scored for solo flute and celeste, the soaring lyrical flute theme supported by evocative tints of harmonic colour; in the middle the theme moves to the pedal, and the final reprise again expands the textures, as the flute blossoms into two parts and the pedal joins in the dialogue.
The Quod libet is a set of eight miniature variations on a short six-bar theme. After a briefly bouncing Clarinet, a calm meditation for the fonds, a flowing trio, and a 2-part invention, the nostalgic mood of the Méditation returns in the magical fifth variation; animation returns in a strange, hollow trio and a strutting march, but tragedy strikes in the bleak final Grave as the theme suddenly disintegrates into a few hushed, disembodied phrases in dialogue between manual and pedal. The sublime six-part Ricercare is surely a reflection of the composers own improvisation on the occasion described earlier; with two parts each for right hand, left hand and pedal, four contrapuntal developments of the theme unfold in a steady rhythm of even crotchets, in music of serene, inimitable eloquence. The contained emotion of all the preceding movements is finally released in a savage burst of energy in the final Postlude. Toccata figuration in the form of rapid alternating chords and bristling repeated notes accompanies the legato theme first heard in the pedals, building up an effect of considerable tension; this is briefly dispelled by two more reflective interludes, but finally builds up a full head of steam as the repeated-note figure explodes onto the pedalboard in a coda of brief but breathtaking brilliance.
|Entrée, Méditation, Sortie||62||Organ||1962|
|4 Modal Fugues||63||Organ||1963||These short contrapuntal works from the composers old age follow on from the Inventions in their wholesale embrace of a rigorous intellectual discipline; they were written in 1968, when Dupré was 82. The modes he uses are the modes of Ancient Greece, rather than the more familiar church modes; according to this system, which Jehan Alain had also used forty years earlier in his Deux Chorals, the Dorian Mode begins on E, the Phrygian on D, the Locrian on G, and the Ionian on F. Dupré provided a detailed preface for the work, in which he explained the severe limitations that he had imposed for the composition of these pieces: Modal Fugue (an abbreviated title for Fugue on a modal subject): the subject must include all the degrees of the mode that has been chosen, in order to avoid any ambiguity. It must start and end on the modal tonic, either superior or inferior. Consequently no initial or final mutation is possible. The relative keys are the modal relatives. The form remains the same as the classical fugue. The subject being composed solely of natural notes, only two accidentals are possible, F sharp and B flat. One might think that these suffocating restrictions would be sufficient to preclude any possibility of genuine musical expression, but Dupré had always thrived under such conditions, and there is a genuine serenity and nobility in this music, the elegant modal counterpoint unfolding with seemingly effortless, natural ease.||Leduc|
|Le Vitrail de St Ouen||65||Organ||1965||Leduc|
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- f.11., Rouen, — 3 May 1886
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