Dupré, Marcel

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Dupré, Marcel

Dupré, Marcel, celebrated French organist, pedagogue, and composer; b. Rouen, May 3, 1886; d. Meudon, near Paris, May 30, 1971. At age seven, he began his musical studies with his father, Albert Dupre, a church organist. At 12 he became organist at St. Vivien in Rouen and also began private organ lessons with Guilmant in Paris. In 1902 he entered the Paris Cons., where he studied piano with Diemer (premier prix, 1905), organ with Guilmant and Vierne (premier prix, 1907), and fugue with Widor (premier prix, 1909); he also received training in composition from Widor, winning the Grand Prix de Rome in 1914 with his cantata Psyche. He was interim organist at Notre-Dame in 1916; in 1920 he gave a cycle of ten recitals of Bach’s complete organ works at the Paris Cons., playing from memory; that same year, he became asst. organist under Widor at St. Sulpice. On Nov. 18, 1921, he made his U.S. debut in N.Y., followed by a transcontinental tour, performing 94 recitals in 85 American cities; a 2nd U.S. tour in 1923 included 110 concerts; he made his 10th tour of the U.S. in 1948. In 1939 he gave 40 concerts in Australia on his world tour. He had, meanwhile, been appointed prof, of organ at the Paris Cons, in 1926; in 1934 he succeeded Widor as organist at St. Sulpice, continuing there until his death at the age of 85. He became general director of the American Cons, in Fontainebleau in 1947 and was appointed director of the Paris Cons., in succession to Delvincourt, in 1954 (until 1956). Dupre wrote his first work, the oratorio La Vision de Jacob, at the age of 14; it was performed on his 15th birthday at his father’s house in Rouen, in a domestic production assisted by a local choral society. Most of his organ works are products of original improvisations. Thus Symphonie-Passion, first improvised at the Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia (Dec. 8, 1921), was written down much later and performed in its final version at Westminster Cathedral in London (Oct. 9, 1924). Similarly, Le Chemin de la Croix was improvised in Brussels (Feb. 13, 1931) and performed in a definitive version in Paris the following year (March 18,1932). Among precomposed works were two syms. for Organ: No. 1 (Glasgow, Jan. 3, 1929) and No. 2 (1946); Concerto for Organ and Orch. (Groningen, April 27, 1938, composer soloist); Psalm XVIII (1949); 76 chorales and several a cappella choruses; also numerous “verset- Préludes/’ He was the author of Traite d’improvisation a I’orgue (Paris, 1925), Methode d’orgue (Paris, 1927), and Manuel d’accompagnement du plain-chant gregorien (Paris, 1937). R. Kneeream ed. and tr. his autobiography as Recollections (Melville, N.Y., 1975).


R. Delestre, L’Oeuvre de M. D. (Paris, 1952); B. Gavoty and R. Hauert, M. D. (Geneva, 1955); M. Murray, M. D.: The Work of a Master (Boston, 1985); C. Colleney, M. D., 1886–1971, ou, Le cause de I’orgue (Bordeaux, 1987).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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