DURUFLE: Requiem / 4 Motets / Prelude and Fugue (Beatrice Uria-Monzon/ Didier Henry/ Eric Lebrun/ Francois Poly/ Marc Vieillefon/ Michel Piquemal/ Michel Piquemal Vocal Ensemble/ Orchestre de la Cite/ Yves Rousseau) (Naxos: 8.553196)
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Maurice Duruflé (1902 - 1986)
Requiem, Op. 9 (1961 version)
for soloists, choir, orchestra and organ
(dedicated to the memory of his father)
Quatre Motets sur des thèmes grégoriens, Op. 10
unaccompanied choir (dedicated to Auguste Le Guennant)
Ubi caritas / Tota pulchra es / Tu es Petrus / Tantum ergo
Scherzo for organ, Op. 2 (dedicated to Charles Tournemire)
Notre Père, Op. 14 for unaccompanied choir
(dedicated to Marie-Madeleine Duruflé)
Prélude et fugue sur le nom d' A.L.A.I.N., Op. 7
(dedicated to the memory of Jehan Alain, who died for France)
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.
It was in 1947 that Duruflé completed the work that has contributed most to his reputation, the Requiem, Opus 9. This was the original version, for full orchestra and organ. Two other versions followed, one only with organ, then, in 1961, the version recorded here, for a reduced orchestra and organ, restoring probably more faithfully the character of a work that the composer described as follows:
\This Requiem is entirely composed on Gregorian themes from the Requiem Mass. Sometimes the text has been respected as a whole, with no intervention from the orchestra, which plays a supporting rôle or comments on the proceedings, or sometimes I am inspired or even completely carried away, as for example in certain developments suggested by the Latin text, notably in the Domine Jesu Christe, the Sanctus or the Libera me."
"Generally I have above all sought to enter into the particular style of Gregorian melodies and have been compelled to reconcile as far as possible the Gregorian rhythm, as established by the Benedictines of Solesmes, with the requirements of modem barring. As far as the musical form of each of the movements of the Requiem is concerned, it is inspired by the form suggested in the liturgy. The organ has only an episodic part to play. It intervenes not to support the choir, but only to underline certain accents or to bring momentary relief from the too human sounds of the orchestra. It represents the idea of peace, of faith and of hope".
Divided into nine movements, notably not including the Dies irae, the Requiem begins with an Introït. "Peace, faith, hope", the mood of Opus 9 is clear from this opening episode for the choir, as in the following Kyrie, in which one may admire the impeccable polyphonic skill of the composer. The Domine Jesu Christe, after the intervention of the organ and then the choir, calls for the baritone in the Hostias. The Sanctus follows, with music that runs on unimpeded, reaching a climax in the great crescendo of the Hosanna in excelsis. Nowhere else than in the Pie Jesu, for mezzo-soprano, does the relationship that has often been noticed between Duruflé's work and the Requiem of Gabriel Fauré seem so evident. Here too there is a "lullaby of death". Serenity in the face of death characterizes equally the following episodes. The Agnus Dei and the Lux aeterna are moving in the simplicity and delicacy of their writing. The baritone solo returns for the last time in the Libera me. The uneasiness expressed by the voice does not last. The faith of the believer returns in the In Paradisum, a final affirmation of the faith of the composer.
In 1960, one year before turning his attention to the final version of the Requiem, Maurice Duruflé composed his Four Motets on Gregorian Themes, Opus 10, for unaccompanied choir. As their title suggests, plainchant was again the source of inspiration and it is therefore no surprise that the Motets were dedicated to Auguste Le Guennant, director of the Gregorian Institute in Paris. Here there is an astonishing conciseness, with the Gregorian theme continually present in one or more parts. The first motet is based on the hymn for Maundy Thursday, Ubi caritas et amor. Sung by tenors and basses, the melody is later shared with sopranos and altos. Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, Tota pulchra es makes use of the higher voices, with the melody entrusted to the soprano. In Tu es Petrus, which follows, particularly striking is the concentration of thought and rigorous treatment, expressed in imitative writing. Finally the Tantum ergo brings a conclusion to the whole work, offering a magnificent example of polyphonic writing, with the chant entrusted to sopranos and tenors, while the harmony is enriched by altos and basses.
"To my dear master Charles Tournemire, in grateful homage", wrote Duruflé at the top of the score of his Scherzo, Opus 2. Completed in 1926, this early work bears witness, indeed, to the influence of his teachers, but nevertheless is attractive in its flexible writing and freedom of mood, owing to its many modulations and frequent changes of tempo.
The last work published by Duruflé was his Notre Pére, Opus 14, written in 1976. Conceived for unaccompanied choir, it expresses with equal intensity and purity of line the