The four rarely performed motets by Marcel Dupré form a fascinating postscript to the other works. Dupré was the son of a distinguished organist, and his path in life was mapped out almost from birth, for he was only three days old when the bearded figure of Alexandre Guilmant peered into his cradle and pronounced: ‘He will be an organist.’ Acquainted from an early age with both Cavaillé-Coll (who called him ‘le petit prodige’) and Widor, Dupré became the most gifted student of his generation. He studied the organ with Guilmant and Vierne, and composition with Widor who, having lost his first protégé, was to treat him like a son for the rest of his life. Dupré was barely twenty years old when he suddenly found himself Assistant at Saint-Sulpice, playing the organ that was to remain his greatest joy until the day of his death. It was about ten years later, during the First World War, that he wrote these motets. Dedicated to Bellenot, the first piece (choir and organ) is an ardently lyrical, almost sensual setting of O salutaris hostia
; maybe an uneasy combination to modern ears, but it is certainly a good tune. The enigmatic Tantum ergo
(choir and two organs) seems to be a deliberate departure from more conventional versions of this text; the converging chromatic lines recall Vierne’s Kyrie, and the dedication to Abbé Renault may indicate that Dupré had Notre-Dame in mind, for it was about this time that he began to deputize there during Vierne’s protracted absence due to recurrent problems with his eyes. The third piece (boys’ voices and organ) is a sombre, dark-hued Ave Maria
, very different from Vierne’s innocent vision, with a striking premonition of Poulenc at ‘ora pro nobis’. The final Laudate Dominum
(choir and two organs) is an exultant outburst of praise, with another memorable tune; toccata figuration on the Grand Orgue and some unconventional and demanding vocal writing contribute to the impressive effect of the whole. There is a distinctly vulgar streak in this uninhibited romp, which almost brings us full circle; Widor’s reaction has not been recorded.
from notes by David Gammie © 1997