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ClassicsOnline Home » DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 5
Works for Organ, Vol.
Marcel Dupré was born on 3rd May, 1886 in Rouen. His father, Albert, was
an organist and his mother, Marie Alice Chauviére, was a cellist. In 1888 he
began organ studies with Alexandre Guilmant and gave his first public
performance in 1894. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire in 1902,
receiving first prize for piano in 1905, organ and improvisation in 1907, and
fugue in 1909. In 1906 he was appointed as Widor's assistant at St. Sulpice, in
Paris, and was awarded the Prix de Rome in 1914 for his cantata Psyché.
In 1920 there occurred an event without equal in the musical world of
the time; the performance, from memory, in a series of ten recitals at the
Paris Conservatoire, of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach. This
achievement brought Dupré world recognition, and led to his American début in
1921 and the first transcontinental tour of America in 1922. In 1926 he was
appointed Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatoire succeeding Eugène
Gigout, and later served from 1954 to 1956 as Director of the Conservatoire. In
1934 he succeeded his long-time friend and mentor, Charles-Marie Widor, as
organist of St. Sulpice, a post he held until the last day of his life. After
along and successful career as a teacher, performer, composer, and one of the
greatest improvisers who ever lived, Marcel Dupré died at his home in Meudon on
30th May, 1971.
The Seventy-Nine Chorales for the Organ, Op. 28, were composed in
1931 at the request of a friend. They were conceived as a pedagogical work,
intended to prepare the student for the study of the chorale preludes of Bach.
Graded in difficulty, each piece is based on the same chorale used by Bach.
The Offrande à la Verge Op. 40, written in 1944 and 1945,
is part of a series of nine études that Dupré wrote for his student
Jeanne Demessieux. These etudes
Miserere mei, Op. 45, written in 1948, is dedicated to
Armand Dupuis, a Montreal friend whom Dupré had met on his visits to Canada.
The first performance was given by the composer in a recital in Montreal in
1948. This elegaic tone poem is in four sections. The first presents a
funereal-like theme in the pedals, with an onomatopoeic element in the hands
played on the trumpet stop (mi-se-re-re me-i). A second theme is heard
on the voix céleste. The third section is a development of the first
theme, which rises to a climax in which the onomatopoeic miserere reappears
on full organ chords. The second theme is used in a long diminuendo passage.
The fourth section is a coda, which evokes a tender remembrance of the
In 1929 Dupré
undertook his fourth tour of America (he was to eventually do nine such tours).
On these tours he played organs whose unique tone-colours, very different from
those of Cavaillé-Coll, greatly intrigued him. The result was that in such
works as the Sept Pièces Op. 27, written in 1931, there are many
registration indications for stops found on American organs of the period. Each
of the pieces is dedicated to an English or American friend of the composer's
whom he had met on his tours.
Souvenir is inscribed to the memory of Lynnwood Farnam,
an American organist who died in 1930 at a tragically young age. Farnam was a
great friend of Dupré's and published, with the composer's blessing, his own
transcription of the Cortège et Litanie Op. 19, which was meant for
easier performance on American organs. The theme is first heard on an 8' flute
with subtle, suave harmonies in the background.
The March is
dedicated to the English organ-builder Henry Willis, whose organs Dupré
invariably played on his visits to England. The vigorous theme, of
"Elgarian" pomp and splendour, is first heard on full organ.
As Franck dedicated
his Pastorale to the organ-builder Cavillé-Coll, so is Dupré's Pastorale
also dedicated to an organ-builder, the American Ernest M. Skinner.
Skinner's organs were noted for the variety and quality of their solo colours,
many of which are called for in the registration indications of Op. 27. The
scene is in the country – a melancholy theme is heard on the clarinet stop,
followed by a second, more animated, dance-like theme, heard on a flute stop.
In the middle section, an ostinato bass in the pedals accelerates into a
Farandole, tinged with an Oriental hue, calling for the unusual
registration of oboe 8' and flute 2' played two octaves apart. The French horn
stop, one of E.M. Skinner's specialities, signals the return of the second
theme. The piece ends with the melancholy voice of the clarinet, and a wistful
remembrance of the country dance.
Carillon is inscribed to Frederick Mayer, who was
organist of the Cadet Chapel at the West Point Military Institute in New York,
where Dupré often played on his American tours. The relentless pounding rhythms
of several motifs using open fourths and fifths, effectively evoke the sound of
Canon is dedicated to Alexander Russell, organist of
the Wanamaker Store in New York, who was instrumental in arranging Dupré's
first visit to America. The "tongue-in-cheek" nature of the writing
suggests a slightly mischievous wit on the part of Russell.
Légende is inscribed to the English organist and
composer J. Stuart Archer. The first theme is folk-like in character and played
on the oboe stop. The second theme is a gossamer arabesque, played on
the unda maris.
The Final is
dedicated to Albert Riemenschneider, who for many years taught at
Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, and brought several groups of students to Dupré's
summer master-classes at Fontainebleau Riemenschneider was renowned as a Bach
scholar, and Dupré ingeniously uses the B-A-C-H motive in the first, chromatic
theme, by way of tribute to his friend. The second theme is a typical
march-like motif of the kind Dupré was fond of using in his improvised finales.
A quiet middle section introduces a third motive, which becomes important in
the concluding section.
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DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 5