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8.553922 - DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 3
Descended from a family of organists and musicians, Marcel Dupré was born in Rouen in 1886. Taught by his father, he had his first appointment as an organist at the age of twelve and in 1898 became a pupil of Alexandre Guilmant, his teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, with Vierne and Widor, studying composition with the last and winning the Prix de Rome in 1914. Unfit for military service, he took the place of Vierne at Notre-Dame between 1916 and 1922, during the latter's illness, and found time to study all Bach's music for the organ, in 1920 playing in recital the complete organ works from memory, thus establishing his reputation. An international career followed, with many recitals throughout the world, particularly in the United States, where he exercised considerable influence. This activity he coupled with the position of professor of organ at the Conservatoire from 1926, when he succeeded Eugène Gigout, and employment as Widor's successor as organist at the Paris church of St Sulpice from 1934. He served as director of the Conservatoire from 1954 to 1956 and died in 1971. Equally gifted as a composer and as a performer, Dupré was a master of organ improvisation, in particular on the fine instrument at St Sulpice, with an incredible command of contrapuntal extemporisation As a composer his musical language, often polytonal and making use of colourful clusters of notes in chords in close proximity, had a strong influence on his pupils Alain and Messiaen, continuing the great traditions of French organ music.
Dupré dedicated his Concerto in E minor for organ, Opus 31, to his wife. The work was written in 1928. The first movement opens in grandiose style, with a characteristic melodic figure stated with heavy chords from the organ, woodwind and brass. This is extended by the orchestra to a passage in which the soloist offers more rapid notes, in chromatic sequence, over a sustained pedal-point, continued over a restatement of the first subject by brass and woodwind. A broader transition leads to a solo passage in E major, the second subject of the movement, with registration of 8-foot Flute and 8-foot Bourdon, shifting key to allow the appearance of the same melody in the cellos, a semitone higher. There is an innovative development and a recapitulation that is greatly varied. This brings yet another transmutation of the second subject in the flute, accompanied by organ triplet figuration, with 8- and 4- foot Flute. The original key is finally restored, as vestiges of the principal theme return in a coda. The organ opens the slow movement, using the characteristic sound of the Voix céleste over an initially sustained pedal chord in C major. The orchestra continues, the French horn leading to the return of the soloist in accompaniment of the horn solo. The mood changes with an Allegretto in which flute and clarinet propose the beginning of a melody, over a sustained C major chord from the organ, which then takes up the melody, extending it chromatically, before the two thematic elements are blended together both in a development and in the following recapitulation, as the organ plays the first theme with the Trompette, while the French horn offers the accompanying rhythm of the secondary theme. This is finally heard from French horn and celesta, while the organ sustains a C major chord. The last movement is introduced by the lower strings, joined, after a trumpet motif, by the organ. The textures allow colourful chromatic chords in a movement in which the opening motifs retain their importance and there is a reference to the second movement Allegretto. An extended cadenza, which recalls elements of the first movement, leads to a final conclusive statement of the chords of E major.
Dupré's Cortège et litanie, Opus 19, No. 2, was written as a work for organ alone in 1921, as well as in a version for organ and orchestra. With the direction Très modéré, and in the key of E major, the work is markedly less chromatic than the Concerto, but once again, as in the slow movement of the latter work, combines two thematic elements, the opening processional, introduced by the orchestra and taken up by the organ, and the constant repetitions of the litany, a characteristically liturgical musical source.
The Poème héroïque, Opus 33, for organ and brass, was written in 1936, twenty years after the battle of Verdun, the heroism of which it celebrates in response to a commission from the restored Cathedral of Verdun with its Jacquot Organ. In a much more direct and approachable musical idiom, the piece, ending in triumph and victory to which the percussion add an element of authenticity, may be considered as in the nature of a pièce d'occasion, a patriotic tribute to the heroism of 1916, under Pétain.
Dupré's Symphony in G minor for organ and orchestra, Opus 25, was written in 1928 and published with a dedication to the English conductor Sir Henry Wood, a friend over many years. It was first performed at a Promenade Concert in London on 9th September 1930. The first movement opens with a slow unison theme, ending in a chord of some ambiguity before the strings begin an Allegro with a rhythmic and melodic figure that continues to be important as the movement continues. Very French harmonies from the clarinets lead to a flute version of the opening theme, accompanied by the harp. It is from these two thematic elements that the movement grows, the two typically blended together as muted violins play the first theme, while the organ adds a derivative of the second. The music moves forward to a dynamic climax. There is a sudden silence, before massive sustained D flat major chords allow a version of the first theme from the orchestra and the subsequent return of the other elements that have made up the movement, ending in the dominant key of B major. The Vivace that follows is dominated by the rhythm and melodic contour of the opening, insistently repeated. This material is introduced by flutes, then clarinets, oboes and bassoons in turn, leading to its statement by piccolo, oboe and muted trumpet. The organ introduces a contrast of rhythm, melody and harmony, but it is the orchestra that eventually brings in a much less chromatic theme, over the rhythm of the opening. Once again various elements are brought together as the movement draws to a close. In the slow movement a solo viola offers a melody, accompanied by the organ, which is later given the theme, leading to a passage marked Plus animé with a shift of tonality. It is, however, the first theme that predominates, as the music unwinds, as so often in a style of masterly improvisation. The last movement is a fugue, but as this continues its polyphonic course, the rhythms of the second movement are recalled and finally the melody with which the symphony had opened, now transformed to a triumphant G major.
Daniel Jay McKinley
Columbus Indiana Philharmonic
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