Cortège et Litanie, Op. 19, No. 2
by Marcel Dupré [playing time 6:06]  [Download the MP3]

Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)

One of the great 20th century organ virtuosi, Dupré was a prolific recitalist and composer. His music is technically quite difficult, but is harmonically ingenious and brilliantly composed. Many of his works - in particular the Op. 7 preludes and fugues and the magnificent Variations on a Noel - are concert favorites for displaying both the skills of the organist as well as the resources of the instrument. Dupré received numerous prizes for his work and playing and succeeded no less than Charles-Marie Widor as the organist at St. Sulpice in Paris, a position he held for some 37 years until his death in 1971.

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This beautiful work is one of Dupré's most popular. The Cortège appears at the start, stated as a chorale of glowing beauty. Its steady reliance on the second degree of the scale gives it a gently propulsive character, and the harmonization is exquisite. At 1:35 the Litanie enters in a quiet single voice, and it sings its chant relentlessly for the remainder of the work, prompting Dupré scholar Graham Steed to describe it as "the ecclesiastical equivalent of Bolero."

The development of the Litanie from its initial entrance to the spectacular conclusion is a joy to hear. As the texture gradually thickens, the Litanie appears in canon, and finally, at 4:17, it is combined with the Cortège. This glorious final statement employs a sonorous double pedal line and dissolves at the end into tumbling chords in the manuals that suggest a joyful pealing of bells.

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