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Maurice Duruflé

Maurice Duruflé: The Man and His Music

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 402
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  • Book Info
    Maurice Duruflé
    Book Description:

    Maurice Duruflé: The Man and His Music is a new biography of the great French organist and composer (1902-86), and the most comprehensive in any language. James E. Frazier traces Duruflé's musical training, his studies with Tournemire and Vierne, and his career as an organist, church musician, composer, recitalist, Conservatoire professor, and orchestral musician. Frazier also examines the career and contributions of Duruflé's wife, the formidable organist Marie-Madeleine Duruflé-Chevalier. Duruflé brought the church's unique language of plainsong into a compelling liaison with the secular harmonies of the modern French school (as typified by Debussy, Ravel, and Dukas) in works for his own instrument and in his widely loved masterpiece, the Requiem Op. 9 for soloists, chorus, organ, and orchestra. Drawing on the accounts of those who knew Duruflé personally as well as on Frazier's own detailed research, Maurice Duruflé offers a broad sketch of this modest and elusive man, widely recognized today for having created some of the greatest works in the organ repertory -- and the masterful Requiem. James E. Frazier is organist and Director of Music at the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-745-2
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Jesse Eschbach

    My very first experience with Maurice and Marie-Madeleine Duruflé goes back to the recital they performed at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana on September 20, 1966. As a young teen who had recently discovered the instrument and who was under the incomparable guidance of the Duruflés’ host, Jack Ruhl, the evening proved to be a turning point in my life. The two major loves in my life, the French language and the organ, suddenly fit together in ways I’m still discovering today. It goes without saying that the playing was phenomenal. Who could have guessed that such virtuosity...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xix)
  7. A Note to the Reader on Terminology
    (pp. xx-xxii)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Among the greatest organists of the twentieth century, Maurice Duruflé was also the eminent composer of some of the most sublime repertoire ever composed for organ, orchestra, and choir. He was a teacher, a recitalist, a virtuosic improviser of impeccable pedigree, and a man of the church. The fact that his opus list, though small, has held an important place in the choral and organ repertoire for three-quarters of a century is testimony to the need for a biography such as this.

    Early in the course of my research, it became clear to me that Duruflé was more complex than...

  9. Chapter One Duruflé’s Childhood and Early Education
    (pp. 9-14)

    Like many another quaint Norman town, Louviers¹ was typical for the half-timbered houses and shops that leaned with precarious medieval charm over its cobblestone streets, a small and pleasantly situated industrial town. But by its enchanting site on twenty-one shallow branches of the river Eure, Louviers distinguished itself from other Norman towns, the factories of its flourishing textile trade straddling those streams in the manner of an industrial Venice.

    The modest home of the Duruflé family stood at the northeast edge of town, at 59, rue du Quai,² next to a café, where several streams of the river converge on...

  10. Chapter Two Life at the Cathedral Choir School
    (pp. 15-23)

    Little is known about the choir school prior to the fourteenth century,¹ when chapter records dated November 13, 1377 refer to amaîtriseof four altar boys directed by a maître named Médard. In the twelfth century a document concerning mass on Christmas day delegated the intonation of theGloria in excelsisto boys positioned in the upper galleries of the cathedral.

    Like the four hundred other choir schools in France,² known at that time by the namepsallette, the school in Rouen was closed during the Revolution toward the end of the eighteenth century. After the reopening of the...

  11. Chapter Three Lessons with Charles Tournemire
    (pp. 24-28)

    Maurice Emmanuel, the composer and musicologist who held a post as historian at the Paris Conservatoire from 1909 to 1936, played the crucial role in providing Duruflé an entrée to the Paris organ world. Emmanuel spent his summers at the country house he owned not far from Louviers, and was occasionally visited there by Charles Tournemire.¹ When Duruflé’s father was called to do some architectural work on Emmanuel’s property, he asked him for some advice about his son’s musical future. Emmanuel was also a friend of Jules Haelling, who is said to have mediated the contact between the elder Duruflé...

  12. Chapter Four Lessons with Louis Vierne
    (pp. 29-35)

    When Duruflé moved to Paris, around the time he began studying with Louis Vierne, he took an apartment at 50 bis, rue de Douai,¹ on the right bank, not far from the Paris Conservatoire. It was a famously musical neighborhood.² In fact, Duruflé’s flat was a mere two blocks north of the apartment on rue Ballu where Nadia Boulanger (1887–1979), one of the greatest musical pedagogues of the century, had lived since 1904. Her beloved sister and composer Lili died in 1918, but Nadia remained there until her death in 1979, hosting her Wednesday musical salons for countless French...

  13. Chapter Five The Conservatoire Student
    (pp. 36-45)

    Although the Conservatoire records indicate that Duruflé was formally admitted to the school on September 12, 1919,¹ it was not until October of 1920 that he played his entrance exam for Eugène Gigout’s organ class, performing for a jury comprising Gigout, Charles Tournemire, and André Marchal.² Tournemire is quoted as having said of Duruflé: “He will surely be apremier prix, in the style of Marchal.”³ At age eighteen, Duruflé became the youngest in Gigout’s class of ten students, the oldest being thirty-six.⁴

    According to contemporary reports, Gigout “played [the organ] in a very clean style, which did not prevent...

  14. Chapter Six Duruflé’s Distinctions
    (pp. 46-48)

    While he was still a student at the Conservatoire, Duruflé won two important competitions sponsored by Les Amis de l’Orgue, one in 1929 and the other in 1930. The first assured his renown as an organist and improviser, and the second established his reputation as a composer of distinction.

    Upon the urging of Vierne,¹ Duruflé participated in the competition in organ performance and improvisation that was sponsored at the Église de l’Étoile,² in June of 1929, by Les Amis de l’Orgue, the association of professional organists established in 1927. For the preliminary round the contestants had to perform theToccata,...

  15. Chapter Seven The Contested Successions at Notre-Dame and Sainte Clotilde
    (pp. 49-53)

    Duruflé was not always successful in obtaining the church posts he applied for. In 1928, the organist post at the church of Saint Vincent-de-Paul, in the tenth arrondissement, became vacant after the tenure of Alexandre Georges (1850–1938).¹ In a letter dated March 3, 1929, Louis Vierne recommended to the archbishop of Paris that he consider as a candidate the twenty-seven year old Duruflé. “I would like, Your Eminence, to recommend still another of my pupils: Monsieur Maurice Duruflé, the winner of thepremier prixin organ at the Conservatoire, and likewise an exceptional organist, is also a musician with...

  16. Chapter Eight Duruflé’s Performing Career
    (pp. 55-64)

    Duruflé began his career as a touring recitalist at a fairly young age. Among the earliest signs that his career had promise were the recitals he presented in 1923, when he was twenty-one years old, at the cathedral of Saint Pierre in Lisieux, at the college of Saint François de Sales in Évreux (1925), at Notre-Dame in Orbec (1928), and at Saint Taurin in Évreux (1929). In the ensuing years he developed a wide range of professional relationships with his colleagues and with performing organizations in Paris.

    On April 20, 1928 he played what can probably be counted his Paris...

  17. Chapter Nine The Orchestral Musician
    (pp. 65-68)

    Duruflé had the rare distinction of having performed with the finest orchestras of Paris over a period of many years. His first such experience took place on November 14, 1930, at Salle Pleyel in a performance ofCarnaval(1892), by Alexander Glazunov, presented by the Orchestre symphonique de Paris with the Russian choirs of Vlassof.¹ Two months later, on January 11, 1931, he played for a performance ofIsrael in Egyptby George Frideric Handel, given by the Concerts Pasdeloup. In the same year he was the organist for a performance with the Symphonie de la Préfecture de Police, given...

  18. Chapter Ten The Poulenc Organ Concerto
    (pp. 69-75)

    In 1938 and 1939 Duruflé was the soloist for the two premieres of Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for organ. The experience brought him into brief contact with the Princess Edmond de Polignac, one of the greatest music patrons of the time. Moreover, the greater popularity of the concerto on this side of the Atlantic has lent a singular importance to Duruflé’s having played the premieres, which one critic described as “one of his most important assignments.”¹ But given the rocky course of the concerto’s genesis, it is surprising the premieres ever came to pass.

    The Princess Edmond de Polignac (1865–1943)...

  19. Chapter Eleven Professor of Harmony at the Paris Conservatoire
    (pp. 76-80)

    Duruflé was affiliated with the Paris Conservatoire, in one capacity or another, for fifty years, beginning in 1920 when he entered the organ class, and ending in 1970 when he resigned as professor of harmony. Even during the hiatus of approximately ten years between his last student exam and the first class he taught in harmony, he served on Conservatoire juries, performed with the Conservatoire orchestra, and was a substitute organ teacher.

    Duruflé’s earliest experience as a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire was in his unofficial capacity as substitute for Marcel Dupré in the organ class. In 1942 he filled...

  20. Chapter Twelve Marie-Madeleine Chevalier
    (pp. 81-96)

    By virtue of their intimate partnership, first of all as husband and wife, but also as musical colleagues, Maurice Duruflé and Marie-Madeleine Chevalier came to be regarded as a single, complementary entity. He provided the music that became her career, and she was his foremost interpreter. The difference that each made to the other was incalculable, such that neither could have made as profound an impact alone, outside of their alliance. This is not to deny the virtues and gifts of each, but merely to assert that by their companionship they constituted a miracle of collaboration. It is impossible to...

  21. Chapter Thirteen Overview of Duruflé’s Compositions
    (pp. 97-113)

    Duruflé’s success as a composer lies in the finesse with which he yoked objective craft and religious inspiration in a rarefied utterance unique in his day, in the process proving the consanguinity of ecclesiastical music and the French musical tradition. For a full understanding of the reception of his oeuvre, the two strains must be held in balance. Any effort to evaluate his work by drawing on one without the other does a disservice to the uniqueness that was his.

    Decades of critics have described Duruflé’s craft in countless ways. When Claude Chamfray told Duruflé in 1956 , “We are...

  22. Chapter Fourteen Duruflé’s Compositions: Their Genesis and First Performances
    (pp. 114-142)

    During his years as a harmony and composition student at the Conservatoire, from 1924 through 1928, Duruflé wrote ten compositions identified in the Conservatoire records of examinations and prizes now housed at the Archives nationales. Three of them were published. If it were any other composer under scrutiny, student works would probably draw little or no attention in a biography. In Duruflé’s case, because of his small opus list, the hope that he may have written other worthy pieces that remain unpublished ignites interest in his student works, an interest supported by the fact that one of these pieces, the...

  23. Chapter Fifteen Duruflé’s Role in the Plainsong Revival
    (pp. 143-155)

    It has often been observed that plainsong played a decisive role in Duruflé’s formation and in his compositions, but it has not been pointed out that Duruflé actually played a role in its revival. While the centrality of plainsong emerged in his very first opus number, the unpublishedFantaisie sur des thèmes grégoriens(1927) for piano, and even earlier in a student work based on a GregorianCredo(1926), plainsong was, for him, much more than one musical element among the many available to him. It was, rather, so much the pith of his existence that he raised the church’s...

  24. Chapter Sixteen The Vichy Commissions
    (pp. 156-165)

    In the late 1930s, before the Second World War began, the grave economic conditions in France had become a serious concern of the government. In an effort to ameliorate the situation, the Administration des Beaux-Arts began awarding commissions to composers in 1938, giving them an incentive to work. The official title of the commissions program was “Commandes exceptionnelles aux artistes vivants et compositeurs de musique en vue de lutter contre le chômage.”¹ It was indeed a radical notion on the part of the Third Republic to institute such a program in response to the worsening economy.²

    The first commissions³ were...

  25. Chapter Seventeen The Requiem
    (pp. 166-180)

    Duruflé’s greatest composition, theRequiem, Op. 9, completed in September 1947,¹ enjoys a reputation as one of the undisputed masterpieces of the twentieth-century choral repertoire. The single piece most responsible for establishing his fame worldwide, it continues to enjoy frequent performances in the West and the East alike. Reviewers have described it as softly luminous, sumptuous, suffused with a tender radiance, of a noble and restrained eloquence and a sweet and serene light, a work of scrupulous craft and exquisite sensibility, having beautiful unity and real grandeur.

    For a long time Duruflé had been seduced by the beauty of the...

  26. Chapter Eighteen The Musical History of Saint Étienne-du-Mont
    (pp. 181-189)

    The church of Saint Étienne-du-Mont,¹ originally called Sainte Geneviève-du-Mont, stands on the highest hill in Paris south of the Seine, behind the Panthéon. It was established there as a dependency of the rich and powerful Abbaye Sainte-Geneviève (founded from Abbot Suger of Saint Denis, in 1146). It received official status as a parish from Pope Honorius III in 1222, and eventually was surrounded by the numerous colleges of the Latin quarter. After the Reign of Terror, when the church was designated a Temple of Theophilanthropy, Saint Étienne-du-Mont was reopened to worship in 1802, and since 1803 has housed a shrine...

  27. Chapter Nineteen The Organs at Saint Étienne-du-Mont
    (pp. 191-199)

    The present organ at Saint Étienne-du-Mont, completed in 1956, was not simply one installation among many by its builder. Those involved in the effort clearly believed, in the beginning, that it would be a routine enterprise. But the design, construction, and installation of the instrument became a complicated saga of so many trials, missteps, and disputes that it took eighteen years to complete.

    Very little is known about the organs at Saint Étienne-du-Mont prior to the seventeenth century, and their succeeding history is complex. It is known that the church had an organ in 1517,¹ and that Jehan d’Argillières, an...

  28. Chapter Twenty Duruflé as Organist and Teacher
    (pp. 200-211)

    With his wife, Marie-Madeleine, Maurice Duruflé was arguably the last great proponent of the French romantic school of organ playing. An uncompromising artist, he performed with impeccable virtuosity, and with the same eloquent lyricism, the same poetry, and the same sense of nobility and grandeur for which his predecessors were renowned. Moreover, his supple playing exhibited a controlled sensitivity and an apollonian personality that neither intruded upon the works he played, nor distracted attention from their composers’ purposes.

    Despite his early technical prowess, it took a longer time for Duruflé to achieve the personality for which his playing would later...

  29. Chapter Twenty-One Duruflé and Organ Design
    (pp. 212-218)

    The organs that Duruflé heard and played during his formative and early adult years were all products of the romantic aesthetic of Cavaillé-Coll, John Abbey, Merklin-Schütze, and others of their ilk from the nineteenth century. His first compositions, such as the first edition of theScherzo, betray this influence. He had little, if any, early exposure to the French classic organ of the eighteenth century, or to the eighteenth-century organs of Germany. In the course of his career, however, he came to see the artistic value of both the classic and romantic models. Over the years he wrote many articles...

  30. Chapter Twenty-Two The Church in Transition
    (pp. 219-227)

    The liturgical documentSacrosanctum Concilium, promulgated in 1963 by the Second Vatican Council, was a natural extension of themotu proprioof 1903 and of subsequent documents issued by the Holy See. What it had to say about Gregorian chant, polyphony, and the pipe organ had already been said before. But at the same time, the council fathers authorized worship in vernacular languages set to indigenous music. Whether it was by a stroke of genius that the church’s bishops sanctioned the coexistence of these two, or merely reticence, is not for us to debate here. But in France, as elsewhere,...

  31. Chapter Twenty-Three The North American Tours
    (pp. 228-237)

    Duruflé began touring when he was about twenty years old. While his earliest tours took him to Normandy and later to the Côte d’Azur, he eventually concertized in England, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Austria, Spain, North Africa, the former Soviet Union (USSR), Canada, and the United States.

    Duruflé made his first trip to England to perform for the Organ Music Society in 1938, and returned under their aegis in September 1949. After his marriage to Marie-Madeleine Chevalier, in 1953, he shared many of his tours with her. In 1968 he conducted “Cum jubilo” in London, and in 1969¹ and 1970...

  32. Chapter Twenty-Four The Man Duruflé
    (pp. 238-244)

    Maurice Gustave Duruflé was a complex man. Of a dark and brooding temperament, he had a keen intellect, a breadth of character, a penetrating soul, and a rich cultural aptitude. Though short as to physical stature and retiring by nature, he had the disposition of a great man. And though his musical and spiritual imagination were vast, they were not prolific.

    Duruflé’s music reveals an important dimension of his personality, a dimension that would otherwise remain invisible, thus rendering him even more complex than at first glance. Many have noted how his gloomy constitution was so different from the luminous...

  33. Appendix A Maurice Duruflé: Complete Œuvre
    (pp. 245-249)
  34. Appendix B Discography: Works by Maurice Duruflé and Other Composers Recorded by Maurice Duruflé and Marie-Madeleine Duruflé
    (pp. 250-258)
  35. Appendix C Stoplists of Organs Important to the Careers of Maurice and Marie-Madeleine Duruflé
    (pp. 259-278)
  36. Notes
    (pp. 279-336)
  37. Bibliography
    (pp. 337-354)
  38. Index
    (pp. 355-376)
  39. Back Matter
    (pp. 377-383)