About this Recording
8.554210 - DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 6

Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)
Organ Works, Volume 11

Marcel Dupré was born into a musical family in Rouen in 1886. His father was an organist who had been a pupil of Guilmant and taught his son from the time the boy was eleven. Dupré was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire at sixteen, and among his teachers was Widor, whose assistant he became at the great Paris church of Saint-Sulpice four years later. Having won the coveted Grand Prix de Rome in 1914, he 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 remarkable 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 he 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 here. 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 Olivier Messiaen. In 1934 he succeeded Widor as organist of Saint-Sulpice, a position he held for the rest of his life, improvising, as has 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 textbooks including the well-known 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 morning of the very day of his death, at home in Meudon, he played his two final Masses at Saint-Sulpice.

The present recording of Dupré’s organ music includes all three works that he composed for piano and organ together. The Sinfonia for Piano and Organ, Opus 42, written in 1946, was included in the composer's North American tour of that year. It is, like Liszt's Piano Sonata, a single movement which embraces the notions of first and slow movement, scherzo and finale. There are four themes which are used in various guises throughout the work. The opening, marked Animato, is in a percussive style; the second theme, Poco più animato, is a chromatic melody used as a passage between other more significant themes. On this occasion it leads into the steady siciliano-style third theme, marked Cantabile. The fourth theme, marked Andante, is the most expressive of all, and forms the slow section. The third theme re­-emerges, introduced by a fileuse-pattern on the piano, (La fileuse [The Spinner] is the title of one of Dupré's solo organ pieces). The 'finale' simplifies the opening melody into a tarantella in 6/8 time.

The Ballade, Opus 30, dates from 1932 and was inscribed, like the Sinfonia, to the composer's daughter Marguerite Tollet-Dupré. Father and daughter performed it at many of her debuts, in London and Brussels, as well as allover France. There are many similarities between this work and the Sinfonia. Although one cannot speak of four movements, there are again four ideas, with the second one subsidiary to the others. Other fileuse-patterns appear, colouring the central portion of the work until the music erupts into ringing chords and arpeggios. In contrast to the Sinfonia, the opening is slow and pastoral, with hints of distant bells, after which the movement gradually increases in speed towards the "spinning-wheel" section. The third theme leads towards the central climax. The fourth theme appears first quietly, then loud, after which a sudden drop both in dynamics and tempo announces the return of the third theme, in the piano's left hand, combined with the fourth idea on the organ. There is a race towards the mighty climax at the finish.

Marguerite Dupré made her American début with Variations on Two Themes, Opus 35, on 29th September, 1937 (the year of composition). The two themes are readily distinguishable in that the beginning of the first one falls melodically, and the start of the second rises. They are heard alternately to begin with. Following a number of variations, the two are combined, first in a question-and-answer sequence. The solo variation for the piano, where the first theme is heard upside down, with all the rising intervals falling, and vice versa, is a useful landmark. From here onwards the themes are combined in ever more complex ways. One variation has five beats a bar and contains a fugue in the piano based on the second theme. The final variation is in five-time again, and the work is rounded off in a short, sharp coda.

The surprisingly simple Eight Short Preludes on Gregorian Themes, Opus 45, written in 1948, for manuals only, contrast immensely with the grandeur of most of the composer's music. This is Dupré's style pared down to its bare essentials, much as in the Seventy-Nine Chorales, Opus 28. The Gregorian themes are medieval hymns, still sung in their original plainsong. Dupré treats many of them canonically, one part imitating another, as it makes its overlapping entry. In Salve regina (‘Hail, Queen’) the first ten notes of the theme are heard repeated at different pitches. Virgo Dei genitrix (‘Virgin Mother of God’) is a miniature toccata, the theme in one hand, and the typical rapid patterns in the other, culminating in a canon where the left hand follows the right. Pange lingua (‘Sing, my tongue’) has the theme in the middle voice, decorating it with a simple four-note pattern. Sacris solemniis (‘In solemn rites’) is accompanied by continuous staccato scales. Alma redemptoris mater (‘Sweet Mother of the Redeemer’) reflects the meaning of the words in its solo for the right hand, with a hushed accompaniment in the left. Similarly, Ave verum corpus (‘Hail, true Body’) expresses reverence in the gently pulsating left-hand accompaniment to another canon in the right hand. Lauda Sion (‘Praise, O Sion’) is much louder and is a fugue for three voices, somewhat martial in style. Verbum supernum (Word from above) is another toccata, containing a great many forceful chordal passages to conclude this set of pieces.

Stefan Engels
Stefan Engels was born in Germany. He studied organ, piano, harpsichord, conducting and church music in Aachen, Düsseldorf and Cologne, and in 1993 moved to the United States to pursue further organ studies with Robert Anderson and Wolfgang Rübsam. In 1995 Engels received the Artist Diploma degree in organ performance from Southern Methodist University. He has participated in master classes with Marie-Claire Alain, Guy Bovet, Ewald Kooiman, Ludger Lohmann, Günther Kaunzinger, and Harald Vogel, and won several awards and prizes, including first prize in the 1994 William C. Hall Organ Competition in San Antonio and the Concerto Competition at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He was a finalist in the 1996 American Guild of Organists National Organ Competition. Stefan Engels has performed throughout the United States and Germany as soloist, accompanist and member of ensembles and has held positions as organist, director of music and choirmaster in Germany and America. He is currently Associate Organist of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

Alessio Bax
Alessio Bax graduated with top honours at the age of fourteen from the Conservatory of Bari in Italy. At sixteen, he was awarded a full scholarship to study with the renowned pianist Joaquin Achucarro at South Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. In spite of his youth he has already established himself on the international scene by garnering prizes from all corners of the world, including Spain, Korea and Japan. He has toured extensively throughout Europe as well as in the United States and Japan. Engagements have included performances with the Spanish Radio Orchestra and the Galician Symphony Orchestra, and recitals in the Steinway Hall in New York and in Paris.

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