DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 11
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Organ Works, Volume 11
Marcel Dupre was born into a musical family in Rouen in 1886. His fatherwas an organist who had been a pupil of Guilmant, who became Marcel's teacherfrom the time the boy was eleven. Dupre was admitted to the Paris Conservatoireat sixteen, and among his teachers was Widor, whose assistant he became at thegreat church of St. Sulpice (Paris) four years later. Having won the covetedGrand Prix de Rome in 1914, Dupre began his rise to fame with internationalrecital tours, in which he performed (in Paris and New York) Bach's completeorgan works from memory - a stunning feat which had been his ambition since hewas a child. His American debut concluded with an improvised four-movementorgan symphony, described at the time as 'a musical miracle'.
In 1925 Dupre bought a house in the Parisian suburb of Meudon, where hehad a house organ installed which had belonged to Guilmant. Pupils from allover the world were soon to flock here. A year later he was appointed professorof organ at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included both Jehan andMarie-Claire Alain, Jean Guillou, Jean Langlais and Olivier Messiaen. Hesucceeded Widor as organist of St. Sulpice in 1934, where he remained for therest of his life, improvising (as has always been the custom in France) for theMass and Office, unfailingly matching the music to the occasion. He alsopublished a famous edition of Bach's organ works, as well as textbooksincluding the well-known Cours d'Improvisation. In the succeeding yearsuntil his death in 1971 he received many honours and awards, and composed worksthat now appear on recital programmes and in recordings all over the world. Onthe morning of the very day of his death (at home in Meudon) he played his twofinal masses at St. Sulpice.
Le Chemin de la Croix ('The Way of the Cross') is an ideal vehicle forDupre's art, combining his genius for organ playing, his harmonic andcontrapuntal gifts and, not least, his religious devotion. The individual stationsof the Cross form a musical stained-glass window, juxtaposing autonomoussections of music in the way so many French composers love. Each station isdepicted in a pictorial manner whose history extends from Couperin'sharpsichord pieces through to Messiaen's great suites for organ.
It is perhaps dangerous to seek absolutely precise images in Dupre, butPilate's grim (and cowardly - notice how indefinitely the music begins)sentence followed by the shrill mocking yells of the mob may be imagined in Jesusest condamne ?á mort ('Jesus is condemned to death'). On his way to Calvary,Jesus falls three times; in each of the relevant pieces, one can picture hisagonized steps, and the weight of the Cross bearing down on his shoulders. Howsubtly Dupre indicates that this is more than just the toppling over of oneexhausted human being! The brutality of events is interrupted by the tendermeeting of Jesus with Mary; the resigned mood of the music seems to suggestthat both had long realized that this moment would one day arrive.
Legend has it that a compassionate woman, St. Veronica, stepped out ofthe crowd and wiped the sweat and blood (caused by the crown of thorns) fromJesus's face (Une femme pieuse essuie la face de Jesus). This act ofcharity is expressed in terms first of pain, but concludes in the warmth of thefinal major chord.
The professional mourners are at hand (Jesus console les fillesd'Isra?½l qui le suivent ('Jesus comforts the women of Jerusalem')); butJesus gently tells them, 'Don't weep for me, but weep for yourselves and yourchildren'; one hears his voice (perhaps) on the Oboe stop. Jesus tombe ?áterre pour la troisi?¿me fois ('Jesus falls the third time') reminds us ofthe viciousness of events; and the diabolical dancing succeeded by an awfulstillness in Jesus est depouille de ses v?¬tements ('Jesus is stripped ofhis clothes') reveals our shame and disgrace.
Jesus meurt sur la Croix ('Jesus dies on the Cross') expresses, with the voixhumaine stop penetrating through soft, flutey sounds, the fading away oflife, and the head dropping onto the shoulder. Suddenly, we perceive thethrobbing of the earthquake and the rending of the Temple veil which occurredat this moment. In number XIII, Jesus est detache de la Croix et remis ?á saM?¿re ('The body of Jesus is taken from the cross and laid in Mary's bosom')we have the musical equivalent of the sculptural form known as the Piet?á. Finally,Jesus's body is laid in the tomb, with its promise of Resurrection, which themusic expresses in an inexorable crescendo. The concluding atmosphere isother-worldly, and removes us from the preceding evil (which always makes sucha noise!) and towards the silence of eternal Hope.
The Seven Chorales from Op. 28 are extremely short, finding,incidentally, an ideal medium in recording. The intention is to prepare theyoung organist for similar pieces by Bach (such as The Little Organ Book).
These quiet little gems each express a subtly different mood; notice how (tomention but the first three) Dupre expresses the profound, meditative aspect ofMon ?óme glorifie le Seigneur ('My soul doth magnify the Lord'), incontrast to the joy of Dans la paix et dans la joie ('In peace andjoy'), and the tenderness of O innocent agneau de Dieu ('O innocent Lambof God').