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Maurice Duruflé


About this Artist

According to his own account, on Easter Day in 1912 at the age of ten, Maurice Duruflé’s father took him to the High Mass in Rouen, not far from their hometown of Louviers. Duruflé had been steeped in the liturgy and music of the Catholic Church since birth but was deeply moved by the beauty and simplicity of the plainsong (or “Gregorian chant”) he heard sung in the gothic cathedral. Little did he know that he would be staying in Rouen for an extended period. Having enrolled young Maurice in the choir school several days earlier, his father wished him well and returned home, leaving him in the care of the school’s choirmaster. Years later, Duruflé wrote, “I needn’t say what my reaction was. That night in the dormitory I sobbed on my bed.” Duruflé soon adapted to his new life and thrived. Looking back on the episode he said, “a great page opened in front of me.”

At Rouen he was immersed in the medieval language of the church and exposed to the modally inflected harmonies of composers such as Gabriel Faure and Paul Dukas, who would become his teacher. He continued his piano and organ studies and, beginning in 1919, traveled regularly to Paris where he studied with the great organist and composer Charles Tournemire. With Tournemiere he prepared for his entrance examination at the Paris Conservatoire which required an extended organ improvisation on plainsong melodies. In 1927 he was named assistant to Louis Vierne, organist at Notre Dame, and later became organist at the Parisian church of St-Etienne-du-Mont, a position he held until the end of his life. He became Professor of Harmony at the Paris Conservatory in 1943 and remained there until 1970.