Daniel Roth an Cavaille-Coll-Orgel Von Saint-Sulpice, Paris
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When Widor had Marcel Dupre named his successor in 1934, Dupre was already at least as world-famous as the organ, and had been professor of organ at the Paris Conservatory since Gigout's death in 1925. It was to his teaching, composing and concertizing that he owed his reputation, since he had held no permanent church position since his childhood. Duprg's association with Saint Sulpice seemed all the more preordained in that he knew the esthetics of the largest Cavaille-Coll organs intimately: assistant to Widor from 1906 on, and having replaced an ailing Louis Vierne at Notre Dame from 1916 to 1920, he was above all a native of Rouen in Normandy, a region blessed with a stunning concentration of fine instruments within a radius of a few miles. Indeed, Marcel learned to play the organ on an orgue de salon by Cavaill6-ColI in the Dupr6 home, and his father was later to become titulaire at Saint Ouen, that builder's last major masterpiece.
Duprg owes his remarkable place in the history of the organ not only to his virtuosity, to his legendary skill as an improviser, and to his teaching, but perhaps even more to his very personal musical language, which so well captures the Weltanschauung of his epoch. Everyone who knew him has emphasized his sensitivity to the cultural and technological currents surrounding him (how similar he is in this respect to his German counterpart Karl Straube!), and his music reflects at once the optimistic exuberance that spawned the "Roaring Twenties" and the nostalgic, even tragic contemplation of a world of shattered ideals. Dupre is no less at home with the wry drSIerie of the Intermezzo or of the Invention in E-Flat than in facing the harsher facts of life such as the death of children or of promising young artists. (The Lamento is dedicated to the memory of the son of A. W. Henderson, the organist of Glasgow University; the early Op. 7 Preludes and Fugues and the Offrande la Vierge commemorate French organists, victims of the folly or war; Dupre's own daughter, a fine pianist, was to precede her father into the grave.)
The recent appointment of Daniel Roth to the post of organiste titulaire at Saint Sulpice - only the fifth musician to hold the position since 1863 - has been greeted with universal approval in the organ world. This recording is ample proof that the Saint Sulpice tradition will not only be respected but also creatively developed. It seemed most appropriate to the anniversary spirit to present a chronological and stylistic cross-section of Dupre's oeuvre, rather than large scale works in their entirety. In this anthology, then, may be heard concert as well as liturgical music, virtuosic as well as contemplative movements, and rhapsodic, improvisational styles as well as tightly structured compositions.
To be sure, the processes of improvisation and of composition were very closely related in Duprg's work. His analytical mind and phenomenal memory allowed him to write down the best elements of an extemporisation after the fact, and the impromptu transposition of an entire piece in the middle of a concert (due to a cipher, for instance) was no impossible feat. (How can one fail to be reminded of the anecdotes concerning Mozart and Franck, two other musicians whose activity fused the compositional and the improvisatory into a unified, satisfying style.) Duprg's abilities as an improviser were hardly a "threat" to compositional integrity, to the extent that polyphony underlay his musical thought. DuprS firmly believed that there was no such thing as an "academic" fugue, and that well-directed chromatic counterpoint was fully capable of yielding an infinity of new harmonic combinations. Thus he was aware of the limits of "circus tricks," as he put it banteringly -improvising double fugues in concert and the like. The Prelude and Fugue in A-Flat amply shows the expressive power he was able to derive and build up from such seemingly "dry" contrapuntal genres. On the other hand, how could a musician of the early 20th century be unreceptive to the more homophonic innovations of Wagner, Debussy and the Russians? Dupre incorporated these neadily into his work; in his renewal of the use of the organ's tonal resources, he can truly be compared to Chopin in the realm of the piano.
The variety of the compositions heard on this record speaks for itself, and an analysis of them here would be fastidious. However, it is useful to the listener to know their chronological order:
1912 op. 7 Prelude et Fugue en fa mineur
1919 op. 18 Ave maris Stella
1924 op. 23 Symphonic passion
1926 op. 24 Lamento
1929 op. 26 Deuxieme Symphonic
1938 op. 36 Prelude et Fugue en la bemol
1944 op. 40 Virgo mater (Offrande a la Vierge)
1946 op. 43 Paraphrase sur le Te Deum
1956 op. 50 Vingt-quatre inventions
A recent renewal of interest in the music of Widor and even of Lefebure-Wely, unthinkable hardly fifteen years ago, presages an imminent reappraisal of Dupre's contribution to the musical world. Perpetuation of the Saint Sulpice tradition being assured, this master may be expected to take his rightful place as one of the 20th century's greatest musicians.
- Kurt Lueders