Maurice Duruflé – Requiem & Quatre Motets
Recorded on 4 & 5 October, 1985 in London.
About the author:
Maurice Duruflé (11/01/1902, Louviers – 16/06/1986 – Louveciennes) was a French composer, organist, and pedagogue, who became in 1912 chorister at the Rouen Cathedral Choir School, where he studied piano and organ with Jules Haelling. At age 17, upon moving to Paris, he took private organ lessons with Charles Tournemire (whom he assisted at Ste-Clotilde until 1927), Guilmant and Vierne. In 1920 Duruflé entered the Conservatoire de Paris, where he took courses in organ with Gigout (Premier Prix, 1922), harmony with Jean Gallon (Premier Prix, 1924), fugue with Caussade (Premier Prix, 1924), and composition with Ducas (Premier Prix, 1928). He graduatied with first prize also in piano accompaniment.
In 1927, Louis Vierne nominated Maurice Duruflé as his assistant at Notre-Dame. Duruflé became titular organist of St. Étienne-du-Mont in Paris in 1929, a position he held for the rest of his life. In 1939, he premiered Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto (the Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani in G minor); he had advised Poulenc on the registrations of the organ part. In 1943 he became professor of harmony at the Conservatoire de Paris, where he worked until 1970. In 1947, Duruflé wrote what is probably the most famous of his very few pieces: the Requiem Op. 9, for soloists, choir, organ and orchestra. The same year, Marie-Madeleine Chevalier became his assistant at St-Étienne-du-Mont. They married in 1953. The couple became a famous and popular organ duo, going on tour together several times throughout the sixties and early 1970’s.
Maurice Duruflé suffered severe injuries in a car accident in 1975, and as a result he gave up performing; indeed he was largely confined to his apartment, leaving the service at St-Étienne-du-Mont to his wife Marie-Madeleine (who was also injured in the accident).
As a composer, Maurice Duruflé was extremely self-critical. He only published a handful of works and often continued to edit and change pieces after publication. For instance, the Toccata from Suite, Op. 5 has a completely different ending in the first edition than in the more recent version, and the score to the Fugue sur le nom d’Alain originally indicated accelerando throughout. The result of this perfectionism is that his music, especially his organ music, holds a very high position in the repertoire. His best known compostions are a Requiem (1947) and a Mass (1967)
About these works:
In 1947, Maurice Duruflé was already working on a suite of pieces for organ based on the Gregorian chants for the requiem mass (the service for the dead), when he was commissioned by his publisher Durand to write a large-scale work based on those texts. The resulting Requiem, originally for orchestra and chorus, is the culmination of Duruflé’s style, mixing chant, quasi-Renaissance counterpoint, and sumptuous harmony derived from Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel. Duruflé made three versions of this work; the final one, completed in 1961, is for choir, string orchestra, trumpets, and organ; it is the most practical and the most commonly used. He used the same text as Fauré had done in his Requiem of 1889, omitting the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) section which, although it provided some of the most spectacular music in the Mozart, Berlioz, and Verdi settings, was not compatible with the gentler, more reassuring tone of the work. This peaceful quality is in many ways simply a reflection of the Requiem’s indebtedness to Gregorian chant, the flowing, easy quality of which serves as a musical template for many of the movements (chant formed a large part of Duruflé’s musical upbringing: from 1912 to 1918 he was a boy chorister at the cathedral in Rouen, where the services were almost entirely chanted, and his professional education was at the Paris Conservatoire, where harmonizing chant melodies was a large part of the training for organists). Duruflé presents the chants quite clearly, much as in the Four Motets on Gregorian themes. The serene mood is enhanced by pervasive imitative counterpoint in a quasi-Renaissance melodic style. There is often a similarity of sound between Duruflé’s music and that of Vaughan Williams, who briefly studied in France and also used modal melodies and counterpoint, though for him these archaic-sounding techniques were inspired by English folk music and the composers of the Tudor era. With Duruflé, the modal counterpoint is supported by rich, and very French, added-note harmonies. Duruflé’s grounding in the past is evident throughout the Requiem. The opening movement, one of the most beautiful in twentieth century music, sets a mood for the rest of the piece: running sixteenths (a favorite device of Duruflé’s) create a wash of sound, preparing the entrance of the tenors and basses intoning the requiem chant, soon accompanied by a wordless vocalise from the women’s voices. The original chant melodies are present in many of the movements; a striking instance is the Kyrie, where the trumpets sound the chant melody in long notes over a busy contrapuntal texture in the choir (which in turn is based on a rhythmicized version of the chant). The effect is similar to that of Bach’s famous cantus firmus cantata opening movements — Wachet Auf and Ein’ feste Burg are good examples. Another striking section is the Pie Jesu, which Duruflé sets in a style very similar to Fauré, with a mezzo-soprano solo accompanied only by organ and cello. In the final movement, In Paradisum, the sopranos, supported by full chords in the strings, sing the incantatory chant promising the deceased a peaceful welcome into heaven. At the words “chorus angelorum te suscipiat” (May the choir of angels receive you), the other singers enter with a beautiful, slowly descending passage to end the work. Duruflé’s wife has said that while composing his Requiem, which is dedicated to the memory of his father, Duruflé “cried several times”; it is indeed one of the most moving religious works of the twentieth century.
Duruflé’s choral setting of “Ubi caritas” is one of the most popular sacred a cappella works of the twentieth century; it is, however, only one of a group of four works of equally high caliber. The Four Motets, written just before the final version of the composer’s Requiem, are dedicated to Auguste Le Guennant, the director of the Gregorian Institute in Paris at the time. Each is based on a different Gregorian chant tune which remains prominent throughout; this process is similar to that employed in the Requiem, lending the pieces a flexible, speech-like rhythm. The incipit (the first few notes) of the original melody is given in neumatic chant notation at the beginning of each motet. Each of the motets is quite short — a trait that is typical of Duruflé (even the Requiem, his largest work, is composed of nine much smaller units). Also typical is his use of Renaissance contrapuntal techniques in the service of a rich harmony derived from that of Fauré and Ravel. Performed as a set, the Four Motets have a classic arch shape, reaching a climax in the third motet (“Tu es Petrus”), then, in “Tantum ergo,” returning to the mood of serene contemplation first established in “Ubi caritas.” The text of “Ubi caritas” (“Where charity and love are, there is God”) is an antiphon usually sung on Maundy Thursday during the washing of the feet. This is the most famous of the motets, and an example of Duruflé’s style at its best: rhythmic flexibility, strong part-writing, and rich harmony provide a serene background for the chant melody. The opening phrase returns briefly at the end (Duruflé, like Chopin and other composers who tended toward shorter compositions, usually composed in ternary form), and leads to an appended “amen.””Tota pulchra es” (“You are all-beautiful”) is a setting of antiphons from the feast of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, and is sung only by the sopranos and altos. The opening melody serves as a kind of refrain, coming back twice. The pace is rather faster than in the “Ubi caritas,” and leads into the climactic third motet.
“Tu es Petrus” (“You are Peter”) is the shortest of the motets, and is a setting of the Jesus’s renaming of his disciple Simon by the Greek for “rock,” and then saying that “upon this rock will I build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The latter phrase is stated three times in Duruflé’s setting, perhaps reflecting Peter’s later three denials of Jesus. “Tu es Petrus” is much more rhythmic than the other motets, and builds to a loud climax.
In “Tantum ergo” (the last two verses of the “Pange lingua” eucharistic hymn traditionally attributed to Thomas Aquinas), the chant is sung in long notes by the sopranos. The melody is imitated and varied by the tenors, while the other voices are freely composed, with an effect similar to cantus firmus settings of chants from the Renaissance period. There are no accidentals (notes outside the key in which it is written), and very little harmonic tension. The motet, like the “Ubi caritas,” ends peacefully on a low chord with the word “amen.”
01. Requiem -I- Introit (3:50)
02. II. Kyrie (3:57)
03. III. Domine Jesu Christe (9:08)
04. IV. Sanctus (3:24)
05. V. Pie Jesu (3:58)
06. VI. Agnus Dei (3:51)
07. VII. Lux Aeterna (4:04)
08. VIII. Libera me (6:00)
09. IX. In Paradisum (3:14)
10. Quatre Motets sur des thèmes Gregoriens op.10 – I. Ubi caritas et amor (2:45)
11. ii – Tota pulchra es (2:13)
12. III. Tu es Petrus (0:58)
13. IV. Tantum ergo (3:06)
English Chamber Orchestra
Matthew Best: conductor
Ann Murray: mezzo soprano
Thomas Allen: baritone
Thomas Trotter: organ
Stereo, DDD, mp3, 320 kbps, 50:28 minutes. Covers & info included.