DURUFLE: Messe Cum Jubilo / Organ Suite, Op. 5 (Didier Henry/ Eric Lebrun/ Michel Piquemal/ Michel Piquemal Vocal Ensemble/ Orchestre de la Cite/ Yves Rousseau) (Naxos: 8.553197)
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Maurice Duruflé (1902 - 1986)
Messe Cum jubilo, Op. 11, for baritone solo, baritone choir, orchestra and organ (dedicated to Marie-Madeleine Duruflé)
Prélude, adagio et choral varié sur le Veni Creator, Op. 4
for organ and baritone choir (dedicated to Louis Vierne)
Suite for Organ, Op. 5 (dedicated to Paul Dukas)
Born at Louviers on 11th March 1902, Maurice Duruflé began his musical studies in Rouen. A chorister at the cathedral from 1912 to 1918, he studied at the same time the piano, organ and theory, under the direction of Jules Haelling, cathedral organist and former pupil of Alexandre Guilmant (1837- 1911). Encouraged by his teacher, the young musician went to Paris in 1919 to complete his education. There he studied the organ, at first under Charles Tournemire, whose assistant he was at Sainte-Clotilde, then under Louis Vierne, thus benefiting from the teaching of two leading exponents of French organ music. A year after arriving in Paris, he entered the Conservatoire and studied the organ there under Eugène Gigout, while receiving instruction in harmony from Jean Gallon, in counterpoint and fugue from Georges Caussade and in composition from Paul Dukas. Evidence of his exceptional ability as an organist is seen in the award of premier accessit in 1921 and first prize in 1922.
In 1929, after the competition organized by the Friends of the Organ, Maurice Duruflé was awarded a prize for interpretation and improvisation and the following year, in the same competition, he won the composition prize for his Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié du Veni Creator, Opus 4. It was at this time that he also became organist at the church of Saint-Etienne-du- Mont, a position he shared after 1953 with his wife Marie-Madeleine Duruflé- Chevalier. In 1943 he suceeded R Pech at the Paris Conservatoire and taught harmony there until 1969.
Maurice Duruflé had quickly made a name for himself as a virtubso organist and it was no accident that Francis Poulenc consulted him before writing his Organ Concerto, of which Duruflé gave the first performance in June 1939 at the Salle Gaveau. He was widely recognised beyond the frontiers of France and undertook many recital tours throughout Europe, in the Soviet Union and North America. Warmly welcomed at his first appearance in the United States in 1964, he returned thereafter every year until a car accident in May 1975 put an end to his career as a performer. He died on 11th June 1986.
In composition Maurice Duruflé can be compared with his teacher Paul Dukas. In common with the latter, he gave evidence always of great perfectionism and left a body of work characterized as much by its relatively small quantity as by its deep aesthetic demands.
With the Requiem, Opus 9, the Mass' Cum jubilo, Opus 11 is another important work in the sacred music of Duruflé. This magnificent score, however, is relatively unknown. It has a number of important features, not least its originality. A baritone, a choir of baritones, orchestra and organ are called for, although there is also a version that entrusts the accompaniment to the organ only. As in the Requiem or the Four Motets, Opus 10, Duruflé's interest in plainchant is expressed in the Mass, based on a hymn in honour of the Blessed Virgin. The musicologist Norbert Dufourcq has aptly described the composer's procedure: \Duruflé uses two ways of enhancing the Gregorian text, either entrusting it to the baritone choir, while the orchestra is limited to the enrichment of a modal background, or the orchestra is prominent with the plainchant, the voices developing the material on the basis of the chant. All this is expressed in a harmonic language unequalled in its modal flavour".
Conciseness is the key-word in the five episodes that make up the work. The Kyrie presents at the outset a form of writing remarkable for its simplicity and the suppleness of its melodic design. The Gloria, music of an ardour unusual in Duruflé, starts with brilliance, but also has more tranquil moments, such as the setting of the words Domine Fili unigenite, sung by a solo baritone. The Sanctus, which follows, is on an ostinato bass, leads to a climax at the concluding Hosanna in excelsis. The solo baritone returns in the Benedictus, where the economy of writing reinforces the emotion stemming from the chant. The Mass ends with the Agnus Dei, the delicate shading of which brings a mood of faith and peace.
Completed in 1930, the Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le thème du Veni Creator, Opus 4, as already stated, won Duruflé a first prize in composition in the competition organized by the Friends of the Organ. This large-scale triptych is an affectionate tribute to his teacher Louis Vierne, the period of his Suite, Opus 5. Marked Allegro, ma non troppo and in duple time, the Prélude starts pianissimo and offers at the beginning writing in triplets that characterizes the whole movement. It ends with a passage marked Più lento, notated in notes of long value. A short Lento, quasi recitativo serves as a link with the Adagio in 3/4, marked dolcissimo e sostenuto, with frequent directions, such as espressivo, con calore or con molto espressione. In the last bars of this movement the mood grows more animated and the dynamics vary between forte and triple forte until the rallentando molto ritenuto of the last two bars. It may be noted that in the first movements of Opus 4 the theme of the Veni creator only appears in part. The Choral varié is linked to the Adagio. The Gregorian theme is strongly stated in an Andante religioso in 4/4, furnishing material for four variations. Marked Poco meno lento, the first is characterized by its triplets. The pedals are not used in the second variation, an Allegretto in 4/4, with triplets and quavers superimposed. The third variation, an Andante espressivo is a canon at the fifth. The work ends with the appearance of a toccata in the brilliant fourth variation, an Allegro, reaching a climax in the last fourteen bars, marked Largamente and triple forte.
Another great example of French organ music of the twentieth century, the Suite, Opus 5 was completed in 1933 and dedicated to Paul Dukas. It is in three movements, starting with a Prélude, marked Lento, which, after beginning with longer notes grows more animated with its semiquavers and demisemiquavers. There are a number of changes of time signature (4/4, 5/4, 2/4, 3/4, 9/4) in this first movement. A flowing Sicilienne follows, an Allegro moderato in 6/8. The final Toccata, with its virtuoso demands, reminds of the ability of Duruflé as a performer. This last movement, Allegro ma non troppo in 12/8, continues its semiquaver activity to a brilliant conclusion.
(English version by Keith Anderson)
The organist Eric Lebrun was one of the last pupils of Gaston Litaize. He studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris under Michel Chapuis and completed his studies in organ and other branches of music with five first prizes. In 1990 he was honoured as Laureate in the Chartres International Organ Competition and was in the same year appointed organist at the church of Saint-Antoine des Qu