The Kennedy Center

Marcel Dupré


French organist and composer, Marcel Dupré was born on 3 May 1886 in Rouen. His father, Albert, was an organist and his mother, Marie-Alice Chauviére, was a cellist. In 1888 he began his organ studies with Alexandre Guilmant and gave his first public performance in 1894. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire in 1902, receiving First Prize for piano in 1905, for organ and improvisation in 1907, and for fugue in 1909.

In 1906 he was appointed Widor's assistant at the church of St Sulpice, in Paris, and was awarded the Prix de Rome in 1914 for his cantata Psyché. In 1920, he performed from memory the complete organ works of J. S. Bach in a series of ten recitals at the Paris Conservatoire, an achievement that brought him world recognition. His American début soon followed in 1921, and the first transcontinental tour of America in 1922.

In 1926 he was appointed Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatoire, succeeding Eugené Gigout, and later served from 1954 to 1956 as Director of the Conservatoire. In 1934 he succeeded his long time friend and mentor, Charles-Marie Widor, as organist of the Church of St Sulpice in Paris, a post he held until the last day of his life.  As a composer, Dupré left a succession of works which, along with those of Messiaen and Alain, represent some of the last great examples of the virtuoso symphonic tradition in French organ music.

Outstanding among the earlier pieces are the Three Preludes and Fugues op.7 and theVêpres du commun des fêtes de la Sainte-Vierge op.18, theVariations sur un Noël op.20, the Suite bretonne op.21, the Symphonie-Passion op.23 or theEsquisses op.41. In Nymphéas op.54 the title alludes to the pictorial play of colours that these ‘eight impressions after Claude Monet' suggest by the evocative means available from Dupré's Meudon instrument. The stained-glass windows of St Ouen in Rouen inspired Vitrail op.65, his last work. Marcel Dupré died quietly at his home in Meudon on 30 May 1971.
Marcel Dupre


  • Évocation (poème symphonique) Op. 37