Marcel Dupre (1886 - 1971)
Works for Organ Vol.
Marcel Dupre(1886-1971) was active as concert organist, composer, and master teacherthroughout a long and distinguished career. At several times in his life, Duprewrote sets of pieces for students of the organ, much as J. S. Bach had donemore than two centuries earlier. Not only do these pedagogical works serve asvehicles for developing organ technique, they also demonstrate novel ways ofcomposing music for the instrument.
The 79 Chorales,Op. 28, were written in the summer of 1930 while Dupre was enjoying thebeach in Biarritz. The pieces werecomposed for organ students to use as a stepping-stone to the chorale preludesof Bach, since those works are frequently too difficult for the beginner. Althoughthe 79 brief chorale settings are arranged in alphabetical order, Dupreincluded a list in order of difficulty for the student and teacher to follow.
Somewhat moresubstantive than the Op. 28 chorales, at least in terms of duration, arethe two Op. 59 Chorale Preludes. Composed in 1962-63, they wereundoubtedly intended for practical use in the church service.
At the age of 68 Duprewas named Director of the Paris Conservatoire, a post he held for only twoyears until mandatory retirement. During this time he was again drawn topedagogical organ composition, resulting in the 24 Inventions, Op. 50. Dupreadopted the term "invention" from Bach and other earlier composerswho used the title for brief pieces which display inventiveness ofcompositional technique. J. S. Bach's miniature keyboard masterpieces in two-and three-part counterpoint were intended as examples to teach the student"not alone to have good inventions (ideas), but to develop the samewell." Similarly, the Dupre Inventions are based on unusual andsurprising melodic ideas. Most are developed contrapuntally, with the musicallines imitating one another. Dupre also follows Bach's example (TheWe/I-Tempered Clavier) by writing pieces in all of the major and minorkeys. A wide variety of moods are explored: serious (nos. 2, 4, 16), mystical(nos. 7, 11, 15, 22), playful and humorous (nos. 3 and 13), virtuosic (nos. 6and 12), even heroic (no.18). Many of the pieces are composed in trio form,using different sounds for the two hands and a third for the feet. Among thesounds employed are flutes in various combinations (nos. l, 7, 11, 17),foundation stops (nos. 2, 4), solo reed voices (nos. 3, 10, 24), mutation stops(nos. 5,9, 13, 20, 23), sparkling mixtures (no. 12), strings (no.15), and occasionallya principal chorus sound (no.6 and 18). Nos. 11 and 23 make use of the sonoritypossible when two voices are sounded simultaneously in the pedals.
The Four ModalFugues, Op. 63, are late works, composed in the 1960s. They offer a glimpseof Dupre's ability to demonstrate the art of strict counterpoint. What setsthese pieces apart is the use of the ancient Greek modes Dorian, Phrygian, Locrian,and Ionian. Dupre placed severe limitations on himself in the composition ofthe fugue subjects, stating that all seven notes of the chosen scale must beused in the fugue subject, and that the subject must begin and end on the tonicnote. In contrast with the Inventions, which are heavily chromatic andpeppered with sharps and flats, here there are no key-signatures, and only Fsharp and B flat are permitted within the works.
@ 1996 James Biery