Marcel Dupré

Marcel DupréMarcel Dupré (May 3, 1886–May 30, 1971), was a French organist, pianist, composer, and pedagogue.

Marcel Dupré was born in Rouen (Normandy). Born into a musical family, he was a child prodigy. Dupré entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1904, where he studied with Charles-Marie Widor, Alexandre Guilmant, Louis Vierne, and Louis Diémer. In 1914, Dupré won the Grand Prix de Rome for his cantata, "Psyché". In 1936, he was appointed professor of organ performance and improvisation at the Paris Conservatoire.

Dupré became famous for performing more than 2,000 organ recitals throughout Europe, the United States, and Australia, which included a recital series of 10 concerts of the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1920 (Paris Conservatoire) and 1921 (Palais du Trocadéro), both performed entirely from memory.

In 1934, Dupré succeeded Charles-Marie Widor as titular organist at St. Sulpice in Paris, a post he held until his death in 1971.

From 1947-1954, he was director of the American Conservatory, which occupies the Louis XV wing of the Château de Fontainebleau near Paris. In 1954, Dupré succeeded Claude Delvincourt as director of the Paris Conservatoire, where he remained until 1956. He died in 1971 in Meudon (near Paris).

As a composer, he produced a wide-ranging oeuvre of 65 opus numbers, and also taught two generations of well-known organists such as Jehan Alain and Marie-Claire Alain, Pierre Cochereau, Jeanne Demessieux, Rolande Falcinelli, Jean Guillou, Jean Langlais, and Olivier Messiaen, to name only a few. Aside from a few fine works for aspiring organists (such as the 79 Chorales op. 28) most of Dupré's music for the organ ranges from moderately to extremely difficult, and some of it makes almost impossible technical demands on the performer (e.g., Évocation op. 37, Suite, op. 39, Deux Esquisses op. 41, Vision op. 44).

His most often heard and recorded compositions tend to be from the earlier years of his career. During this time he wrote the Three Preludes and Fugues, Op. 7 (1914), with the First and Third Preludes (in particular the G minor with its phenomenally fast tempo/figuarations and pedal chords) being pronounced unplayable by no less a figure than Widor. Indeed, such is their difficulty that Dupré was the only organist able to play them until several years later.

In many ways Dupré may be viewed as a 'Paganini' of the organ - being a virtuoso of the highest order, he contributed extensively to the development of technique (both in his organ music and in his pedagogical works) although, like Paganini, his music is relatively unknown to musicians other than those who play the instrument for which the music was written. A fair and objective critique of his music should take into account the fact that, occasionally, the emphasis on virtuosity and technique can be detrimental to the musical content and substance. However, his more successful works combine this virtuosity with high degree of musical integrity, qualities found in works such as the Symphonie-Passion, the Preludes and Fugues, the Esquisses and Evocation, and the Cortege et Litanie.

As well as composing prolifically, Dupré prepared editions of the organ works of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Schumann, César Franck, and Alexander Glazunov. He also wrote treatises on organ improvisation in two volumes (1925 and 1937), harmonic analysis (1936), counterpoint (1938), fugue (1938), and accompaniment of Gregorian chant (1937), in addition to essays on organ building, acoustics, and philosophy of music.

Although his emphasis as composer was the organ, Dupré's catalog of musical compositions also includes works for piano, orchestra and choir, as well as chamber music, and a number of transcriptions.


Organ solo
Elevation op. 2
Trois Préludes et Fugues op. 7 (1914)
Scherzo op. 16 (1919)
Fifteen Pieces op. 18 (1919)
Cortège et Litanie op. 19 No. 2 (Transcription of the piano version, 1921)
Variations sur un Noël op. 20 (1922)
Suite Bretonne op. 21 (1923)
Symphonie-Passion op. 23 (1924)
Lamento op. 24 (1926)
Deuxième Symphonie op. 26 (1929)
Sept Pièces op. 27 (1931)
Seventy-Nine Chorales op. 28 (1931)
Le Chemin de la croix op. 29 (1931)
Trois Élevations op. 32 (1935)
Angélus op. 34 No. 1 (1936)
Trois Préludes et Fugues op. 36 (1938)
Évocation op. 37 (1941)
Le Tombeau de Titelouze op. 38 (1942)
Suite op. 39 (1944)
Offrande à la Vierge op. 40 (1944)
Deux Esquisses op. 41 (1945)
Paraphrase on the Te Deum op. 43 (1945)
Vision op. 44 (1947)
Eight Short Preludes on Gregorian Themes op. 45 (1948)
Épithalame without opus (1948)
Variations sur 'Il est né le divin enfant' without opus (1948)
Miserere Mei op. 46 (1948)
Psaume XVIII op. 47 (1949)
Six Antiennes pour le Temps de Noël op. 48 (1952)
Vingt-Quatre Inventions op. 50 (1956)
Triptyque op. 51 (1957)
Nymphéas op. 54 (1959)
Annonciation op. 56 (1961)
Choral et Fugue op. 57 (1962)
Trois Hymnes op. 58 (1963)
Two Chorales op. 59 (1963)
In Memoriam op. 61 (1965)
Méditation without opus (1966)
Entrée, Canzona et Sortie op. 62 (1967)
Quatre Fugues Modales op. 63 (1968)
Regina Coeli op. 64 (1969)
Vitrail op. 65 (1969)
Souvenir op. 65bis (1965)

Organ with other instruments
Cortège et Litanie op. 19 for organ and orchestra (Transcription of the piano version, 1921)
Symphonie G minor op. 25 for organ and orchestra (1927)
Ballade op. 30 for organ and piano (1932)
Concerto E minor op. 31 for organ and orchestra (1934)
Poème héroïque op. 33 for organ, brass and field drum (1935)
Variations on two themes op. 35 for organ and piano (1937)
Sinfonia op. 42 for organ and piano (1946)
Quartet op. 52 for violin, viola, cello and organ (1958)
Trio op. 55 for violin, cello and organ (1960)
Sonata A minor op. 60 for cello and organ (1964)

Choral Music
Les Normands op. 1 for choir and orchestra (1911)
Psyché op. 4 for voices and orchestra (1914)
Quatre Motets op. 9 for voices and two organs (1916)
De Profundis op. 17 for soli, choir, organ and orchestra (1917)
Ave Verum op. 34 Nr. 2 for voices and strings (1936)
La France au Calvaire op. 49 for soli, choir, organ and orchestra (1953)
Deux Motets op. 53 for soprano and choir (1958)

Piano solo
Six Préludes op. 12 (1916)
Marche militaire op. 14 (1915)
Quatre Pièces op. 19 (1921)
Variations C# minor op. 22 (1924)

Chamber Music
Sonate G minor op. 5 for violin and piano (1909)
Quatre Mélodies op. 6 for voice and piano (1913)
Deux Pièces op. 10 for clarinet and piano (1917)
À l'amie perdue op. 11 for voice and piano (1911)
Trois Pièces op. 13 for cello and piano (1916)

Miscellaneous Works
Élevation op. 2 for harmonium (1913)
Fantaisie B minor op. 8 for piano and orchestra (1912)
Marche militaire op. 14 for orchestra (Transcription of the piano version, 1915)
Orientale op. 15 for orchestra (1916)