A contextual and analytical investigation of the organ music of Marcel Dupre
There is an absence of critical writing on the organ music of Marcel Dupre (1886-
1971), despite its significance for the evolution of the organ and its music in the
twentieth century. Fundamental to this thesis is an exploration of the historical
context of this music and poietic analysis which attempts to reveal its stylistic
features. That Dupre's organ music reflects contemporaneous influences from
outside and beyond the organ loft has been hitherto unacknowledged and so there is
an attempt to identify the more cosmopolitan influences exerted on his music by the
wider artistic culture of his time. An overall aim within the study is to consider
whether Dupre's stylistically diverse music, in its embodiment of both a nineteenthcentury
linguistic conventionality and a more contemporary style in the twentieth,
was in any sense stylistically paradoxical and indeed, whether the organ as
instrumental resource played a role in this stylistic plurality.
Dupre's self-confessed aim was to raise the organ's status in artistic terms and his
music exemplifies important developments in both organ design and pedagogy over
the course of the twentieth century. Thus, in light of the contextual and analytical
investigations, an attempt is made to ascertain the extent to which Dupre influenced a
succeeding generation and whether his pedagogical, playing and creative legacy
holds important implications for musicians today. There is also an intent to address
issues regarding the performance and recording of Dupre's works in esthesic terms,
for it is hoped that the recordings forming an integral part of this thesis endorse, in
their representation of analytical discovery in sonic form, certain thoughts and
conclusions contained herein.
Part 1 forms an appraisal of Dupre's musical and artistic milieu. After the
Introduction in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 elucidates the stylistic antecedents of his music
and Chapter 3 identifies a specifically organ-based aesthetic. Chapter 4 examines the
pedagogical methods that reflected Dupre's high artistic purpose and which formed
the backbone to his creative idiom. In Part 2, Chapter 5 elucidates an analytical
method before Chapters 6,7,8 and 9 discuss the primary characteristics of his
compositional language with musical examples drawn from across the oeuvre.
Chapter 10 presents four Case-studies by examining in analytical detail, four of the
six Symphonic works. These I have deemed to be of seminal importance for in them
is the Dupre aesthetic arguably best exposed.
In Part 3, chapter 11 engages with interpretative and esthesic matters in performance
and recording before the interpretative issues in Dupre's works are considered in
Chapter 12. Chapter 13 forms a Conclusion. Appendix A is a biographical timeline,
Appendix B contains organ specifications referred to in Chapter 3 and Appendix C
cites a lecture given by Dupre to Paris Conservatoire students in 1954. It is a
document which expounds elegantly, and in Dupre's own words, the kernel of his
artistry. Appendix D is a discography, Appendix E catalogues the complete Dupre
oeuvre and Appendix F comprises miscellaneous and supporting documents.