Sunday, July 12, 2009

Duruflé’s Connecticut Connections

This year, CONCORA devotes its Summer Festival (July 19-25) to a celebration of the glorious music of French organist, composer, and teacher Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986, shown at left). The program, which will be presented on July 25 (details below), includes his masterpiece, the incomparable Requiem (1947), as well as the four unaccompanied motets Ubi caritas, Tota pulchra es (for women’s voices), Tu es Petrus, and Tantum Ergo. The men of the Festival Choir will open the concert with Duruflé’s setting, in French, of The Lord’s Prayer (Notre Père). CONCORA welcomes Larry Allen, its founding accompanist, as organist for Festival 2009; Mr. Allen will perform the Prelude and Fugue on the Name A-L-A-I-N for organ solo.

“Every work,” says CONCORA Artistic Director Rick Coffey, “whether for choir, organ, or both in combination, is a masterpiece. Festival 2009 will be one of emotional, musical, and spiritual ecstasy – nothing for a lover of great choral and organ music to miss.”

It was my privilege to prepare the program notes for this concert, and over the next week or so, I’ll share some interesting bits and perspectives. I’ll also be singing in the Festival Chorus, so perhaps some additional insights will emerge as the music begins to take shape.

One of the things I love about researching and writing program notes is the discovery of connections and influences between and among the people, places, and events that form the context of a composer’s life. Here’s something that should be of interest to everyone who participates in CONCORA’s Summer Festival or attends our concert.

Today’s audiences know Duruflé primarily as a composer, but during his life he was acclaimed as an organ virtuoso and was much in demand as a recitalist and teacher. Louis Vierne (1870-1937), one of Duruflé’s teachers and the principal organist at Notre Dame in Paris (where Duruflé was once his assistant), called him “the most brilliant and the most original of the young generation of organists.”

In 1942, Duruflé joined the faculty of the Paris Conservatoire, where he taught organ, as well as harmony and improvisation. Among his organ pupils was the acclaimed Marie-Claire Alain (b. 1926, shown at left), the most recorded organist in the world and a gifted teacher.

Among her students were CONCORA Artistic Director Richard Coffey (at right) and our Festival organist Larry Allen (below), both of whom are, through Marie-Claire Alain, our own living links to Maurice Duruflé.

You can see Rick's and Larry's names on this list of Marie-Claire Alain's "Principaux élèves" (principal students):

There are some other Hartford-area connections, as well. Duruflé’s wife, Marie-Madeleine Duruflé-Chevalier, was also a virtuoso organist. Together, the Duruflés shared the post of principal organist at St. Étienne-du-Mont in Paris and enjoyed many successful tours together, including several to the United States. Madame Duruflé-Chevalier continued touring after her husband’s death in 1986, including stops at Hartford's historic Center Church (performing the Requiem and other works, 1974) and at New Britain’s South Church (recital, Music Series, 1992).

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah,

    Sorry for the random post, but The Stamford Advocate and Ct Post are looking for local CT writers to share their reflects on the day Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Your article will appear on line and be considered for print publication in the Sunday edition:


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