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Twin Cities Organ Cocert Series
Lenten Organ Meditation
March 27, 2011

Durufle: "Ubi Caritas" from Quatre Motets, Op.10 | Dupre: Cortege et Litanie, Op19, No.2
Franck: Panis Angelicus | Durufle: Requiem, Op.9

Maurice Durufle (1902-1986)
"Ubi Caritas" from Quatre Motets, Op.10

French organist/composer Maurice Duruflé’s experience as a choir boy at Rouen Cathedral and his exposure to the revival of the use of plainchant in the liturgy left a life-long mark on his musical path. The motet Ubi Caritas, based on the antiphon for Maunday Thursday during the washing of feet, movingly depicts the spirit of God’s presence in the sharing of love between Christ’s disciples. A flexible presentation of the chant is supported by rich harmony and strong part-writing. The serene moment of the motet is extended by an elongated “amen.”

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Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)
Cortege et Litanie, Op.19, No.2

Marcel Dupré was one of the great virtuoso organists/composers/teachers of the early 20th century French organ school. His long tenure as organist of St. Sulpice in Paris, his career as professor at the Paris Conservatory, and his numerous concert tours, including lengthy visits to America, brought many to an appreciation of the pipe organ. He was also a master of improvision and of counterpoint. Many of his composition grew out of improvisations done before live audiences which were later notated and revised for publication.

Cortège et Litanie was actually written as part of a group of orchestral pieces for the stage, and was later arranged for organ solo, and also for organ and orchestra. The piece which engages the full dynamic and coloristic range of the organ is built on two contrasting themes. The Cortège, evoking a solemn processional begins quietly featuring a chorale-like tune. The Litanie presents an insistent theme, a repetitious, anxious prayer growing in complexity and intensity, until, joined by the reappearance of the Cortège theme, the piece concludes in a blaze of triumph and hope.

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Cesar Franck (1822-1890)
Panis Angelicus

Following the revolution, church music in 19th century France adopted the genres popular in the opera houses, theaters, and the streets. The Belgian/Parisian organist César Franck chose to buck the tide, contributing high quality organ playing to the services, continuing to improvise on the chants. He is also beloved by organists for his varied and colorful organ works composed for concert use. One of his most enduring vocal pieces is the communion motet Panis Angelicus. The text comes from the last two stanzas of the hymn Sacris solemniis, composed by St. Thomas Aquinas for the Matins of Corpus Christi. Franck’s setting for Tenor solo, organ (harmonium), harp and cello was incorporated it into his Messe à trois voix, Op. 12 and was published in 1872. The piece has been made into numerous arrangements. Today’s arrangement, which adds the full string ensemble and chorus to Franck’s original instrumentation, is by James Kraus.

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Maurice Durufle (1902-1986)
Requiem, Op.9

One of the most beautiful, expressive liturgies of the Roman rite, the Requiem (Rest eternal) draws from ancient Jewish prayers for the dead, as well as from burial services of the early Christian church. Scriptures associated with the Mass for the Dead include: “Behold I tell you a mystery: we shall indeed rise again, but we shall all be changed ... at the last trumpet ... Death is swallowed up in victory ... thanks be to God .... (I Corinthians 15: 51-57). “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth. Yea, says the Spirit, let them rest from their labors, for their works shall follow them.” (Revelation 14:13). The various texts that are included in the Requiem Mass and Burial Service were under development for centuries until the present arrangement was formalized by order of the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Composers have chosen various portions of the liturgy to set to music depending on their personal, musical, theological, and philosophical purposes.

Maurice Duruflé, a life-long church organist, chose to set his Requiem, Op. 9 as a liturgical piece rather than a concert work, as many others have done. The composer had been working on a set of organ pieces based on the plainsong themes of the Mass for the Dead when a commission came from his publisher, Durand, to publish a Requiem. He used these pieces as a basis for the work, which was dedicated to the memory of his father. Completed in 1947, the piece avoids the flamboyance and extreme dramatics of the concert Requiems of Berlioz, Verdi and others. Instead, Duruflé focuses on rest, peace, and consolation both in the chosen texts, and musical style. The Gregorian chants are the fount from which the melodies flow. The harmonic colors come from the French tradition, and the influence of his compatriots, Ravel, Debussy, and Dukas, provide the clothing. Ever the practical church musician, Duruflé created three different versions of the accompaniment of the work for soloists and chorus: one for organ alone (1948), one for large orchestra and organ (1950),and his preferred version, for organ and strings with timpani, harp, and trumpets, ad lib. (1961).

The composer considered the organ as adding a “touch of eternity” to the orchestral sound. He wrote of the work:

My Requiem is composed throughout upon the Gregorian themes of the Mass for the Dead. Sometimes the text is completely respected, the orchestral part intervening only to support or comment upon it; sometimes I am simply inspired by it, or completely removed from it, for example, in certain developments suggested by the Latin text, particularly in the Domine Jesu Christe, the Sanctus, and the Libera. In general, I have sought above all to enter into the characteristic of the Gregorian themes; thus I have striven to reconcile, as far as possible, Gregorian rhythm as it has been established by the Benedictines of Solesmes with the exigencies of modern meter. As for the musical form of each of these pieces, it is generally inspired by the same form presented in the liturgy. The organ’s role is merely episodic: it intervenes, not to support the chorus, but solely to underline certain accents or to replace temporarily the too human sonorities of the orchestra. It represents the idea of peace, of faith and hope.

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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 2011.
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Program notes home Alphabetical Index of Composers Chronological Index of Concerts