Born at Louviers on 11th March 1902, Maurice Duruflé began his musical studies in Rouen. A chorister at the cathedral from 1912 to 1918, he studied at the same time the piano, organ and theory, under the direction of Jules Haelling, cathedral organist and former pupil of Alexandre Guilmant (1837- 1911). Encouraged by his teacher, the young musician went to Paris in 1919 to complete his education. There he studied the organ, at first under Charles Tournemire, whose assistant he was at Sainte-Clotilde, then under Louis Vierne, thus benefiting from the teaching of two leading exponents of French organ music. A year after arriving in Paris, he entered the Conservatoire and studied the organ there under Eugène Gigout, while receiving instruction in harmony from Jean Gallon, in counterpoint and fugue from Georges Caussade and in composition from Paul Dukas. Evidence of his exceptional ability as an organist is seen in the award of premier accessit in 1921 and first prize in 1922.
In 1929, after the competition organized by the Friends of the Organ, Maurice Duruflé was awarded a prize for interpretation and improvisation and the following year, in the same competition, he won the composition prize for his Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié du Veni Creator, Opus 4. It was at this time that he also became organist at the church of Saint-Etienne-du- Mont, a position he shared after 1953 with his wife Marie-Madeleine Duruflé- Chevalier. In 1943 he suceeded R Pech at the Paris Conservatoire and taught harmony there until 1969.
Maurice Duruflé had quickly made a name for himself as a virtubso organist and it was no accident that Francis Poulenc consulted him before writing his Organ Concerto, of which Duruflé gave the first performance in June 1939 at the Salle Gaveau. He was widely recognised beyond the frontiers of France and undertook many recital tours throughout Europe, in the Soviet Union and North America. Warmly welcomed at his first appearance in the United States in 1964, he returned thereafter every year until a car accident in May 1975 put an end to his career as a performer. He died on 11th June 1986.
In composition Maurice Duruflé can be compared with his teacher Paul Dukas. In common with the latter, he gave evidence always of great perfectionism and left a body of work characterized as much by its relatively small quantity as by its deep aesthetic demands.
It was in 1947 that Duruflé completed the work that has contributed most to his reputation, the Requiem, Opus 9. This was the original version, for full orchestra and organ. Two other versions followed, one only with organ, then, in 1961, the version recorded here, for a reduced orchestra and organ, restoring probably more faithfully the character of a work that the composer described as follows:
"This Requiem is entirely composed on Gregorian themes from the Requiem Mass. Sometimes the text has been respected as a whole, with no intervention from the orchestra, which plays a supporting rôle or comments on the proceedings, or sometimes I am inspired or even completely carried away, as for example in certain developments suggested by the Latin text, notably in the Domine Jesu Christe, the Sanctus or the Libera me."
"Generally I have above all sought to enter into the particular style of Gregorian melodies and have been compelled to reconcile as far as possible the Gregorian rhythm, as established by the Benedictines of Solesmes, with the requirements of modem barring. As far as the musical form of each of the movements of the Requiem is concerned, it is inspired by the form suggested in the liturgy. The organ has only an episodic part to play. It intervenes not to support the choir, but only to underline certain accents or to bring momentary relief from the too human sounds of the orchestra. It represents the idea of peace, of faith and of hope".
Divided into nine movements, notably not including the Dies irae, the Requiem begins with an Introït. "Peace, faith, hope", the mood of Opus 9 is clear from this opening episode for the choir, as in the following Kyrie, in which one may admire the impeccable polyphonic skill of the composer. The Domine Jesu Christe, after the intervention of the organ and then the choir, calls for the baritone in the Hostias. The Sanctus follows, with music that runs on unimpeded, reaching a climax in the great crescendo of the Hosanna in excelsis. Nowhere else than in the Pie Jesu, for mezzo-soprano, does the relationship that has often been noticed between Duruflé's work and the Requiem of Gabriel Fauré seem so evident. Here too there is a "lullaby of death". Serenity in the face of death characterizes equally the following episodes. The Agnus Dei and the Lux aeterna are moving in the simplicity and delicacy of their writing. The baritone solo returns for the last time in the Libera me. The uneasiness expressed by the voice does not last. The faith of the believer returns in the In Paradisum, a final affirmation of the faith of the composer.
In 1960, one year before turning his attention to the final version of the Requiem, Maurice Duruflé composed his Four Motets on Gregorian Themes, Opus 10, for unaccompanied choir. As their title suggests, plainchant was again the source of inspiration and it is therefore no surprise that the Motets were dedicated to Auguste Le Guennant, director of the Gregorian Institute in Paris. Here there is an astonishing conciseness, with the Gregorian theme continually present in one or more parts. The first motet is based on the hymn for Maundy Thursday, Ubi caritas et amor. Sung by tenors and basses, the melody is later shared with sopranos and altos. Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, Tota pulchra es makes use of the higher voices, with the melody entrusted to the soprano. In Tu es Petrus, which follows, particularly striking is the concentration of thought and rigorous treatment, expressed in imitative writing. Finally the Tantum ergo brings a conclusion to the whole work, offering a magnificent example of polyphonic writing, with the chant entrusted to sopranos and tenors, while the harmony is enriched by altos and basses.
"To my dear master Charles Tournemire, in grateful homage", wrote Duruflé at the top of the score of his Scherzo, Opus 2. Completed in 1926, this early work bears witness, indeed, to the influence of his teachers, but nevertheless is attractive in its flexible writing and freedom of mood, owing to its many modulations and frequent changes of tempo.
The last work published by Duruflé was his Notre Pére, Opus 14, written in 1976. Conceived for unaccompanied choir, it expresses with equal intensity and purity of line the faith and hope contained in the prayer that is its inspiration.
The death of Jehan Alain in 1940 had a profound effect on Maurice Duruflé. In 1942, in homage to his friend and colleague, he wrote his Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d' A.L.A.I.N., Opus 7. In D minor, the Prélude makes use of a theme derived from the name Alain, as well as a second motif taken from a work by Alain, Les litanies. The motif A.L.A.I.N. again provides the material for the fugue, which, with great rhythmic subtlety, culminates in a grand D major peroration.
(English version by Keith Anderson)
The organist Eric Lebrun was one of the last pupils of Gaston Litaize. He studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris under Michel Chapuis and completed his studies in organ and other branches of music with five first prizes. In 1990 he was honoured as Laureate in the Chartres International Organ Competition and was in the same year appointed organist at the church of Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts in Paris, with its Cavaillé-Coll organ. He enjoys an international concert career and has worked extensively with Michel Piquemal.
Béatrice Uria Monzon
Trained at the Ecole d' Art Lyrique of the Paris Opéra, Béatrice Uria Monzon made her operatic début in Lyon and at the Aix Festival. After her great success as Carmen at the Paris Opéra under Myung Whun Chung in 1994, she recorded the same rôle with the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux under the direction of Alain Lombard. In 1995 she sang Marguerite in The Damnation of Faust at the Paris Opéra and in Lisbon. Béatrice Uria Monzon also has a concert repertoire of French and Spanish songs and appears regularly in oratorio, notably under Michel Piquemal.
Didier Henry studied at the Coneravtoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris and also with Cathy Berberian, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Irmgard Seefried and Camille Maurane. In 1987 he sang the rôle of Pelléas in Debussy's opera in Moscow under Manuel Rosenthal and in 1990 recorded the same rôle for Decca with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, under Charles Dutoit, a recording that won important awards in Germany and in the United States of America. Didier Henry has a busy national and international career. He has recorded for Marco Polo Le miracle de Saint-Nicolas of Guy Ropartz, under the direction of Michel Piquemal.
Ensemble Vocal Michel Piquemal
Michel Piquemal established his vocal ensemble in 1978, an adaptable group that could perform unaccompanied, or with piano, organ or orchestra, available for a wide repertoire of choral music. The Ensemble has appeared with the most distinguished orchestras and conductors and in concerts and festivals as far afield as Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, Indonesia, Singapore and Canada. Recordings have included performances under Michel Piquemal of music by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schubert and Rossini, as well as of the Magnificat of Jean Louis Florentz with the Ensemble Orchestral of Paris under the direction of Armin Jordan. The Ensemble Vocal Michel Piquemal is supported by the Ministère de la Culture et de la Francophonie and receives a subsidy from the city administration of Paris.
Orchestre de la Cité
The Orchestre de la Cité is associated with the work of the Ensemble Vocal Michel Piquemal and of the Choeur Régional Vittoria d’lle-de-France. The players are principally drawn from gifted young professionals trained at the national Conservatoires of Paris and Lyon.
Born in Ariège, Michel Piquemal was a pupil of Pierre Bernac and, at the Salzburg Mozarteum, of Suzanne Anders and Paul von Schilawsky. From 1968 to 1973 he was an assistant to Jacques Jouineau with the choir of Radio France and established the Choeur Vittoria d'Argenteuil, which won a reputation under his direction for its performances of oratorio. In 1978 he set up the Ensemble Vocal Michel Piquemal. In 1985 he was appointed teacher of choral singing at the Paris Conservatoire and in 1987 accepted the position of conductor of the Choeur Régional Vittoria d’lle-de-France and of the Choeur Régional Provence Alpes Côtes-d'Azur. Michel Piquemal has conducted oratorios with a number of well known orchestras and his recordings include a wide repertoire both as a singer and as a conductor.
Cover picture: Dernière souffrance by Francis Montanier
(Photo by Michel Piquemal)
Production: Ensemble Vocal Michel Piquemal
Artistic direction: Michel Piquemal, Christine Lajarrige, Yves Rousseau
Editing: Laurent Pélissier
Organ Tuning: Yves Fossaert
Registration Assistants: Claude Boischot, Jean Frohlich, Emmanuel Hocdé
The Aristide Cavaillé-Coll Organ of the Church of Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts in Paris
When the building of the Church of Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts that had started in 1903 was coming to an end, thought was given to the donation of an organ. A parishioner, Count Christian de Berthier de Sauvigny, bought, or received as a gift, the organ from the private concert rooms of Baron de l'Espée on the Champs-Elysées and offered it to the parish.
In 1894 the Baron, a very rich man and a music-lover, wanted to play at home the music of his idol, Richard Wagner. He had an auditorium built and commissioned an organ with 2800 pipes from the famous organ-builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. He did not stop there, but ordered from Cavaillé- Coll an enormous organ for his château at Biarritz. This instrument is none other than the organ now in the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre. In the catalogue of instruments built by Cavaillé-Coll there is also listed an organ for Baron de l'Espée for the Island of Oléron and another for his property at Belle Ile, with even a fifth instrument.
The Merklin company moved the organ and installed it in the church in 1909, without making any major change. The instrument had 44 stops (23 of them expressifs, corresponding to the positif and récit manuals), with three manuals and a pedal-board. The casing was built by Merklin and the organ now has 47 stops.