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ClassicsOnline Home » DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 4
Works for Organ, Vol.
Marcel Dupré was born into a musical family in Rouen in 1886. His father
was an organist who had been a pupil of Guilmant, who became Dupré's teacher
from the time the boy was eleven. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire at
the age of sixteen, and among his teachers was Widor, whose assistant he became
at the great church of St Sulpice in Paris four years later. Having won the
coveted Grand Prix de Rome in 1949, Dupré began his rise to fame with international
recital tours, in which he performed, in Paris and New York, Bach's complete
organ works from memory, a stunning feat which had been his ambition since he
was a child. His American début concluded with an improvised four-movement
organ symphony, described at the time as a musical miracle.
In 1925 Dupré bought a house in the Parisian suburb of Meudon, where he
had a house organ installed which had belonged to Guilmant. Pupils from all
over the world were soon to flock there. A year later he was appointed
professor of organ at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included both
Jéhan and Marie-Claire Alain, Jean Guillou, Jean Langlais and Oliver Messiaen.
In 1934 he succeeded Widor as organist of St Sulpice, where he remained for the
rest of his life, improvising, as had always been the custom in France, for the
Mass and Office, unfailingly matching the music to the occasion. He also
published a famous edition of Bach's organ works, as well as text-books
including the famous Cours d'Improvisation. In the succeeding years
until his death in 1971 he received many honours and awards, and composed works
that now appear on recital programmes and in recordings all over the world. On
the very day of his death at home in Meudon, he had played two Masses at St
Sulpice that very morning.
This volume of Dupré's complete organ works includes his first and last
compositions for the instrument, the Three Preludes and Fugues, Op. 7,
written in 1912, and Vitrail, Op. 65, of nearly sixty years later.
The former are among his best known works. Whilst their outer movements, in
particular, exhibit the dash and flair of a young virtuoso, they also posses
some of the qualities of maturer works, a complete mastery of counterpoint,
individual chord progressions, and a sensitive ear for the variety of sounds
available from the organ.
The B major Prelude, the first, is typical of French organ
toccatas, with rapid patterns for the hands accompanying a grandiose line for
the pedals. Dupré subtly varies the formula with sudden pianissimos and by
creating dialogue between the hands and feet. The succeeding Fugue is
based on a theme derived from the carillon figures of the Prelude. The Prelude
and Fugue in F minor, the second, presents a total contrast to the
other two, being quiet and subdued. Perhaps one can detect the shadow of
Debussy, still alive at this period. The theme of the Fugue is a variant
of that of the Prelude; here, though, a ray of light shines through. The
third, the Prelude in G minor, continues the quietness of its
predecessor, but in a completely different manner, as aerial as its companion
was profound. The melody is heard first in the pedals in single notes, but
later occurs in seven-note chords, three of which are played by the feet. The Fugue
brings return of the energy found in the E major pair, but this time the
mood is dark and ferocious; the main theme of the Prelude returns, and
becomes more and more overwhelming towards the vociferous conclusion.
Variations on Adeste Fideles, an Improvisation for Organ, reconstructed
by Rollin Smith, is one of a fair number of improvisations that were recorded
by musicians such as Dupré, and written down by others. Rollin Smith was a
friend of Marcel Dupré from the time the composer first visited America in
Vitrail, Op. 65 had an interesting genesis, beginning with an improvisation in
1961 inspired by the stained-glass windows of St Patrick's Church in Rouen.
Some years later, in 1969, the composer seems to have taken up this idea again,
and produced a work in six sections, which appears to have been inspired by the
east window, depicting the Resurrection. The agitated first section,
representing the Fall, and depicted at the base of the window, is played on the
full organ, with a notable figure in the pedals; the next is slower, and has a
melody in the upper range; the third is again on the full organ, containing an
ancient hymn, this and the subsequent return of the music of the opening
representing the Crucifixion. The following passage is effortlessly flowing, with
flutes at high pitches; the penultimate section is steady in pace, very quiet,
and brings back the hymn-tune heard earlier; and the final Allegro (the
Resurrection) works up dynamically to a triumphant chord of G major.
The Seventy-Nine Chorales for the Organ, Op. 28,
In 1966, when he was eighty and writing and playing far less than
previously, Dupré was approached by Henry and Enid Woodward to compose a piece
for their Library of Organ Music. The result was Meditation, which
bears no opus number.
Paraphrase on Te Deum, Op. 43, was composed in 1946, reveals how far
the composer had travelled since the Preludes and Fugues which opened this
recording. Dupré had developed a pulsating staccato style all his own, arising partly
from the old toccata style, and influenced, perhaps, by Prokofiev. It is
clearly present here, accompanying the plainsong theme of the Te Deum. The
harmony is now much richer and darker hued; the grandeur contains a profundity
and expressiveness developed in the course of a life dedicated to the art of
organ-playing and composition.
A graduate of Indiana University, with a subsequent doctorate from
Northwestern University, the American organist Janette Fishell includes among
her principal teachers Wilma Jensen, Richard Enright, Clyde Holloway and
Wolfgang Rübsam. Named Young Organist of the Year in 1979 by Keyboard Arts,
Inc., she is a recitalist and teacher of international standing. The author of
numerous articles and a recent book on service playing, she is widely
recognized as a leading authority on the organ music of Petr Eben. Her numerous
compact disc recordings include performances of the music of Eben and J.S.
Bach, as well as duet literature performed with Colin Andrews. She has been
featured in live radio broadcasts throughout the world, including a recital
performance for the BBC, and is Distinguished Associate Professor of Music at
East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, where she heads the Organ
Performance and Church Music degree programmes. She is the founder of the East
Carolina Religious Arts Festival and is Organizer and Choir Director of St
Paul's Episcopal Church in Greenville.
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DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 4