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Thread: Maurice Duruflé (1902-86)

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    Default Maurice Duruflé (1902-86)


    I have recently become acquainted with some of Duruflé's works, including his Requiem (1947). A work noted for it's foundation on Gregorian chant techniques. I like it's lyricism, it is music that can put me into a kind of trance or meditation.

    Although he lived a long life, he didn't compose much, because he was a perfectionist. However, this kind of guarantees that all of his works have a high quality. He was a contemporary of Messiaen and, although both shared a certain kind of spiritualism, Duruflé's style is totally different. It has more to do with music from the previous generation, especially with Faure, although it does have a modern bent. He also did a number of transcriptions of composers like J.S. Bach, Schumann, Faure & Vierne.

    I think that his organ works sound quite unique. Definitely different from those of the previous generation, like Franck. He was also an excellent organist and teacher at the Paris Conservetoire.

    What are people's impressions of Maurice Duruflé?

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    I don't know much about him other than his "Requiem." It's a shame he didn't compose more music though.

    The "Requiem" is a beautiful piece of music though. No question about it.

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    I think he is very good But for some reason I don't have a lot of his works I shall delve into my CDs to-night

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    Thumbs up great viola part

    I played the Requiem a few year's ago and it has a wonderfully written and important viola part that makes the work very satisfying to play, for violists.

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    Ubi Caritas is a beautiful piece of music. Absolutely stunning and very well written.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drowning_by_numbers View Post
    Ubi Caritas is a beautiful piece of music. Absolutely stunning and very well written.
    & so are the others in that set of Motets on Gregorian Themes, Op. 10.

    He was an excellent choral composer, but let's not forget his organ works also. They are equal to other French composers of the C20th for that instrument, such as Alain, Messiaen & Vierne.

    To anyone who is interested in getting to know Durufle beyond his Requiem, Naxos has issued two CD's of some of his choral & organ works (including Requiem but also his setting of the Latin Mass and the 4 Motets mentioned above). I have found these to be an excellent introduction to his music.

    Like Barber, Bernstien & Walton, his music has a modern bent but it is very accessible. You can definitely listen to modern music & enjoy the harmonies & melodies more readily associated with earlier times. Durufle was such a combination of the best of the old & the new trends.

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    I remember singing Ubi Caritas in the Choir at my music school.. I thought the harmonies where quite amazing, but I found it boring for some reason.. I guess having to sing something can sometimes ruin your chances of actually liking it..
    But I do want to listen to it again, and more of this composer's music..

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    Since creating this thread I have retained an interest in Durufle, but only now read a book about him. It is titled Maurice Durufle: The Man and His Music and written by James E. Frazier (University of Rochester Press, 2007).

    I found this book extremely informative, about Durufle's life, work and times. I especially like how Frazier presents a holistic view incorporating the music, religious debates and historic events which shaped Durufle's career.

    Durufle's early education was at the choir school at Rouen. It was a time which had many hardships, in particular being separated from his family. He also developed an infection from unclean shears which caused his patchy baldness and need to wear a toupee for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of a lifelong passion for liturgical music. This was enhanced by the revival of Gregorian chant and other pre-Baroque choral music which had gained ground since the revolution of 1789. By the time Durufle commenced his studies in Paris, institutions such as the Schola Cantorum had funded scholarship into modal music. Performances aimed to present it in the most authentic way without subsequent accretions.

    Frazier's description of Durufle's music is most eloquent, especially in terms of relating it to the architecture of France's ancient cathedrals which where the setting for the composer as one of the foremost organists of his time. The stained glass windows and the delicate stone tracery reflect the music which is infused with light but also profound. In purely musical terms, it is based on Gregorian chant combined with the structural integrity of Franck (one of Durufle's teachers was Tournemire, Franck's student) and the modernity of Ravel. While Durufle had no time for serialism or aleatoricism, he went to premieres of Ravel's music and also studied the works of Debussy in great depth. Durufle also admired the music of Poulenc, who wrote his Organ Concerto for him to play.

    Until this book, not a great deal was written about Durufle's personal life. He was a reclusive man, having a small circle of friends. He was circumspect about his first marriage and as a devout Catholic felt stigma about having it annulled. His second marriage to Marie-Madeleine Chevalier proved a great partnership and lasted until his death. She was a fine musician in her own right, and an important advocate for Durufle's work.

    Durufle's most famous and greatest achievement was his Requiem. It was originally commissioned by the Vichy regime, but due to his slow working methods Durfufle completed it after the war. Durufle was by no means a collaborator, and Vichy had simply continued the policy of the previous government by commissioning works by notable French composers. It has remained one of the most popular choral works of the 20th century and Durufle made three versions: with large orchestra, with organ alone and with organ and small orchestra. The composer made an acclaimed recording of the work and with royalties emanating from that and its continuing performances was able to live comfortably, his church stipend and work as an academic had been his only income up till that point.

    Two anecdotes jumped out from the book at me. One was how Durufle, though not yet famous, was called to play organ for the ceremony celebrating the liberation. Durufle was asked, since he had no political affiliations and was considered clean of any taint of collaboration. Ironically he was not able to fulfill this as the entrance to the tower of Notre Dame was blocked by armed guards. Paris was still in a state of chaos and there where already threats against de Gaulle. The ceremony proceeded but without Durufle.

    The other anecdote was more poignant and occurred in 1937 at the same location. Durufle was assisting his teacher Louis Vierne during what was to be his final public recital. It also proved to be the end of his life, gir he died at the console. Durufle finished the recital on behalf of his well loved colleague.

    Undoubtedly the Vatican's erasure of the Latin mass and its eventual replacement with the language spoken by the congregation caused Durufle great disillusionment. The Catholic church alienated many organists who felt redundant with the changes, and it rendered plainchant obsolete. Things had come full circle since the 19th century when secularism entered church music and eroded musical traditions. This had what became in retrospect a positive effect, for it ushered in the revival of pre-Baroque music as a reaction.

    The Mass "Cum Jubilo" was Durufle's last published piece, and with that in 1966 he was already swimming against the tide. Thereafter, Durufle and his wife focused on tours as organists, and this brought a fruitful period - especially in America - until health problems and a near-fatal car accident led to his complete retirement from music in the early 1980's.

    The book covers much more in depth, such as Dufufle's work as a consultant for organ building, his practices of organ performance and his edition of the works of Franck. I'll leave the last words here to Vierne who described his pupil's music most aptly:

    Durufle's music attracts attention by its absolute freedom, by its complete rejection of any system displayed arbitrarily for its own sake, by its great depth of thought and by a solid construction that in no way hampers its emotional expansion nor its attention to detail. This art reveals an intense inner life expressed in the most adequate means with rare sensitivity...His sometimes daring modernism is fully justified by the nature of the emotions he means to translate. That is infinitely rare.
    Last edited by Sid James; Sep-27-2018 at 12:31.

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    Senior Member Joachim Raff's Avatar
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    Great new recording just released of his Trois Danses, Op. 6
    https://d27t0qkxhe4r68.cloudfront.ne...jpg?1578774417

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    I love Duruflé! Kind of sad not to see him getting more attention around here. He was the favorite composer of my former organ teacher, who said that the Sanctus from the Requiem is "the music we'll hear in heaven." The Requiem is indeed, IMO, one of the great sacred choral works of the 20th century in a very unique voice, not just a spinoff on Faure's Requiem as is often inferred by the coupling of the works on CD. My first exposure to his music was at a university chamber music concert last spring, where they played his Rectatif et Variations for flute, viola, and piano. I thought it was a tremendously beautiful work and wondered why I had never heard of the composer. He was a very self-critical composer who left us very little. His main accomplishments were in contributing to organ literature- the Prelude and Fugue on the Name ALAIN is a tremendous achievement. Seeing his name come up here makes me want to explore his stuff that I haven't yet heard.

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    Yes his Requiem is renowned as one of the greatest pieces of music put to paper

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    Senior Member Joachim Raff's Avatar
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    Grammy Awards
    62nd Awards (2020)
    Winner - Best Choral Performance

    https://d27t0qkxhe4r68.cloudfront.ne...jpg?1549359921

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joachim Raff View Post
    Grammy Awards
    62nd Awards (2020)
    Winner - Best Choral Performance

    https://d27t0qkxhe4r68.cloudfront.ne...jpg?1549359921
    Hey, that's awesome. I'll have to check it out.

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Maurice Duruflé is among my ten favorite composers, I too have read the biography noted above. Duruflé was reluctant to publish new works because of his self-editing nature. Only until he was absolutely satisfied with a work did he release it into the world. I also think his religious nature created such a strong sense of humility this also underscored his own reluctance to write new works and pursue publication.

    His Requiem is a masterpiece, IMO, and one of the greatest choral works of teh 20th century. His other choral works are also wonderful, Messe cum jubilo, the Four Motets , Notre pere are especially nice. If you are not familiar with his organ music, you should definitely seek it out.

    This complete set of his choral works is excellent. The Requiem features Clare Wilkinson singing "Pie Jesu" in a manner I that find very moving and perfectly suited to the tone of the work. IMO too operatic of a voice ruins the music.

    41d0f4IX44L.jpg

    The Phillip Ledger recording, with Janet Baker, is also very good.

    A18g9W1hr5L._SX522_.jpg

    Both of these recordings of the Requiem are of the organ-only version (#2), which is my preferred way to hear the work. As you must know, Durufle made three versions: 1) full orchestra, 2) organ and 3) chamber ensemble.

    There was a good complete organ recording released in 2018, and which would satisfy anyone wishing to hear this music.

    71iXH1pDD4L._SS500_.jpg
    Last edited by SanAntone; May-24-2020 at 00:45.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    The complete organ works of Durufle are available on Amazon:

    Kh
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