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Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)
Complete Organ Works
Prélude et fugue sur le nom d’Alain, Op.7 (1942) [12:19]
Scherzo, Op.2 (1926) [6:16]
Fugue sur le thème du Carillon des Heures de la Cathédrale de Soissons, Op. 12 (1962) [3:35]
Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le thème du ‘Veni Creator’, Op.4 (1930) [20:06]
Prélude sur l’introït de l’Épiphanie, Op.13 (1961) [2:15]
Méditation (1964) [4:15]
Suite, Op. 5 (1933) [23:35]
Chant Donné – Hommage à Jean Gallon (1949) [1:44]
Stéphane Mottoul (organ)
rec. Church of St. Laurentius, Diekirch, Luxembourg, 2017
AEOLUS AE11161 [74:36]

Maurice Duruflé’s compositional oeuvre is meagre to say the least. Perhaps his best-known work is the Requiem, published in 1948. He was best known as an organist, so the dearth of compositions for that instrument is surprising. It can be explained by the fact that he found composing difficult. He was immensely fastidious and self critical and unable to resist the temptation of constantly revising his work. Yet, on the plus side, what he did produce is of very high quality, abundantly varied and of exceptional interest. So, his complete organ works can neatly be accommodated onto a single disc. Much of the music is based on Gregorian chant, is harmonically adventurous and polyphonically daring.

The earliest work here is the Scherzo, Op.2 of 1926. Duruflé was 24 and a student at the Paris Conservatory, and he dedicated the short six-minute piece to his teacher Charles Tournemire “ grateful homage”. Yet, despite its brevity it runs a varied course, and the ingenuity and invention on display was probably a determining factor in why the composer decided later to orchestrate it. It begins calmly and quietly, but soon the surge, eddy and flow of the music becomes more acute. Before the end, a mystical chorale is heard, and Mottoul achieves some very effective diaphanous sonorities. In stark contrast, the Fugue sur le thème du Carillon des Heures de la Cathédrale de Soissons, Op 12 which follows is cast more along the lines of a showpiece. The theme is taken from the Cathedral at Soissons’ carillon. This undergoes a complete transformation by inversion, augmentation and stretto. The general mood is joyful, and the piece ends triumphantly with a powerful chord sequence.

Many had high hopes for the composer Jehan Alain, brother of the organist Marie-Claire Alain, but he met an untimely end at the beginning of World War II. In 1942, Duruflé composed Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain, Op 7 and dedicated it to his memory. It became one of the composer’s more popular pieces. ‘Alain’ is transformed into a musical theme by means of a code. The work, capturing the endearing qualities of his late friend, incorporates a double-fugue and makes reference to Alain’s Litanies.

Two large canvases form impressive edifices. The Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le thème du ‘Veni Creator’, Op 4 is an imposing tryptych with plainsong at its heart. The Préludes triplets have a fluid sense of movement, and Mottoul’s registration choices ensure that the music is awash with colour. An ethereal Adagio sits centremost. The last movement is a theme and four canonic variations on the Veni Creator melody. Considered as the summit of his achievements, The Suite, Op. 5 is the most substantial work on the disc. The instrument’s mighty bass resounds in brooding fashion for the Prélude’s funereal opening. The sound builds and eventually we hear the organ in its true splendour. The second movement Sicilienne provides welcome balm, and leads to the final Toccata, a dazzling, virtuosic show-stopper demanding a technical prowess which Mottoul is able to provide in full measure.

It’s worth my saying a few words about the organ of St. Laurentius Church, Diekirch. Originally built in 1870 by Dalstein & Haerpfer, it has recently undergone a complete restoration by Manufacture d’orgues Thomas. Considered as something of a hybrid, it combines both German and French influences. Its magnificence has been wondrously captured by the Aeolus engineers. Stéphane Mottoul’s imaginative choice of registrations ideally showcases both the music and the instrument.

Stephen Greenbank


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