Requiem - Maurice Durufle (1902 - 1986)

Like his mentor, Dukas, Duruflé was incredibly self-effacing, and spent considerable time re-working his compositions until they achieved what he felt was the correct level of perfection; in fact, there are only 14 published Opus numbers to his name. Duruflé's early musical training was at the cathedral in Rouen, where there was a famous school of Gregorian chant. This repertory of liturgical song had become something of a French speciality in the 19th century, and among the scholars working on the chants were a group of Benedictines at the French monastery of Solesmes, who developed a theory of chant rhythm as a free succession of notes of mostly equal value in groups of two and three.
The Solesmes school of chant restoration and performance achieved widespread acceptance in the Catholic church and even some Protestant congregations. After a thorough steeping in this tradition, Duruflé came to Paris and studied at the Conservatoire, where he confronted the tradition of Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel. When he came to write his Requiem in 1947, like the earliest composers of polyphonic Requiems, Duruflé took the Gregorian plainchant Mass for the Dead as his raw material. His declared intention was 'to reconcile, as far as possible, Gregorian rhythm…with the exigencies of modern meter.' That is, he did not transcribe literally the original melodies with their irregular alternation of twos and threes; he adjusted the rhythms subtly so that larger metric patterns emerge, but still he allowed the meter to shift frequently so that a sense of spontaneity is preserved. At the same time, he clothed the sometimes archaic-sounding melodies in sophisticated harmonies of the early modern school. Although he came from a different liturgical tradition, Duruflé used similar texts to those used by Fauré in his requiem.
The piece is in the true tendresse style, leaving out the chilling full Dies Irae and accentuating the aspect of forgiveness through the inclusion of a separate Pie Jesu and through constant repetition of the phrase 'Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine'. Duruflé published the Requiem in three versions: for organ alone; for full orchestra and for organ and string quintet with harp, trumpets and timpani ad libitum

 Barry Creasy


Collegium Musicum of London


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