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Bryan Holten plays Duruflé Op. 4 Veni Creator

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Published on May 10, 2012

Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) was a French composer and organist. His early background in choral plainsong at the Cathedral Choir School in Rouen clearly had a profound influence on his compositional style, as evidenced by the prevalence of plainsong in his few but very memorable works. A classic example is his Requiem, Op. 9, today one of the most cherished and oft-performed works in the genre, which ingeniously weaves original plainsong melodies into a texture spun in Duruflé's unique compositional language.

Duruflé first performed his Prélude, adagio et choral varié sur le Veni Creator, Op. 4 (1930), for the 1930 Amis de l'Orgue competition. James Frazier has noted that, though the first two movements were newly composed, the chorale variations were composed earlier, probably in 1926, when he performed them at a recital in Louviers.1 This explains a marked stylistic difference between the Choral Varié versus the Prélude and Adagio, which are decidedly more symphonic in their approach to harmony, timbre, and texture. The work takes as its seed the plainsong melody Veni creator spiritus, appointed for use at second vespers at the feast of Pentecost. The Prélude is an elaboration on various fragments of the melody (for example, the "Earth and all Stars" motif first played by the feet). The tune in its entirety does not appear until the beginning of the Adagio movement, where it is paired with lush and characteristically "French" harmonies. The Choral Varié begins with a grand processional and is followed by four variations, the last of which culminates in a fantastic crescendo.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Rochester, NY / 14 April 2011 / organ by Paul Fritts and Co., op. 26 (2008)

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