B1745. MICHAEL MURRAY. Marcel Dupré, The Work of a Master Organist. Boston, Northeastern University Press, 1985. 259pp. Index; Bibliography; Catalogue of Works; Discography; Photos. (Pictorial thick paper covers) - 0-930350-66-9
“Marcel Dupré was a French organist, composer, and pedagogue who was born in Rouen (Normandy, France), a child prodigy. His father Albert Dupré was organist in Rouen and a friend of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, who built an organ in the family house when Marcel was 14 years old. He entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1904, where he studied with Louis Diémer and Lazare Lévy (piano), Alexandre Guilmant and Louis Vierne (organ), and Charles-Marie Widor (fugue and composition). In 1914, Dupré won the Grand Prix de Rome for his cantata, PSYCHÉ. In 1926, he was appointed professor of organ performance and improvisation at the Paris Conservatoire, a position he held until 1954.
Dupré became famous for performing more than 2000 organ recitals throughout Australia, the United States, Canada and Europe, which included a recital series of 10 concerts of the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1920 (Paris Conservatoire) and 1921 (Palais du Trocadéro), both performed entirely from memory. The sponsorship of an American transcontinental tour by the John Wanamaker Department Store interests rocketed his name into international prominence. Dupré's ‘Symphonie-Passion’ began as an improvisation on Philadelphia's Wanamaker Organ. In 1924, he was elected as an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, by the Fraternity's Alpha Chapter at the New England Conservatory in Boston.
In 1934, Dupré succeeded Charles-Marie Widor as titular organist at St. Sulpice in Paris, a post he held until his death in 1971. From 1947 to 1954, he was director of the American Conservatory, which occupies the Louis XV wing of the Château de Fontainebleau near Paris. In 1954, on the death in a road accident of Claude Delvincourt, Dupré became director of the Paris Conservatoire; but he held this post for only two years before the prevailing national laws forced him to retire at the age of 70.
His most often heard and recorded compositions tend to be from the earlier years of his career. During this time he wrote the Three Preludes and Fugues, Op. 7 (1914), with the First and Third Preludes (in particular the g minor with its phenomenally fast tempo/figurations and pedal chords) being pronounced unplayable by no less a figure than Widor. Indeed, such is their difficulty that Dupré was the only organist able to play them until several years later.
In many ways Dupré may be viewed as a 'Paganini' of the organ - being a virtuoso of the highest order, he contributed extensively to the development of technique (both in his organ music and in his pedagogical works) although, like Paganini, his music is relatively unknown to musicians other than those who play the instrument for which the music was written. A fair and objective critique of his music should take into account the fact that, occasionally, the emphasis on virtuosity and technique can be detrimental to the musical content and substance. However, his more successful works combine this virtuosity with a high degree of musical integrity, qualities found in works such as the ‘Symphonie-Passion’, the ‘Chemin de la Croix’, the Preludes and Fugues, the Esquisses and Évocation, and the ‘Cortège et Litanie’. As an improviser, Dupré excelled as perhaps no other did during the 20th century, and he was able to take given themes and spontaneously weave whole symphonies around them, often with elaborate contrapuntal devices including fugues. The achievement of these feats was partially due to his unsurpassed genius and partially due to his hard work doing paper exercises when he was not busy practicing or composing.”