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Organ Symphony No.2 in C Sharp Minor Op.26,First Movement

Marcel Dupré (1886 - 1971)

Organ Symphony No.2 in C Sharp Minor Op.26, First Movement - Preludio

The Second Organ Symphony was the last of three great symphonic works which Marcel Dupré composed during the 1920s; in harmonic language and technical wizardry it represents a striking advance on the first two (the picturesque Passion Symphony of 1924 and the Symphony for Organ & Orchestra of 1927). When he gave the premiere in New York on 30th September 1929, Dupré was making his first American appearance since his appointment as Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatoire three years earlier, and in this work he gives the impression of a composer at the height of his powers, secure in his inspiration and rejoicing in his own virtuosity. But this three-movement symphony is not about superficial display. Behind the dazzling invention there are dark forces at work, and the ferocity of much the music disturbs and thrills in equal measure.

The Preludio, in C sharp minor, immediately lays down the gauntlet in its dissonant opening flourish. This movement is constructed in a kind of modified sonata form, with the exposition introducing three separate themes which are strongly contrasted in sound and texture; the first is an aggressive motif of two repeated notes followed by a downward rushing scale; the second is a delicate, chattering étude for flutes; and the third is a richly harmonised chordal theme for strings. Only the first two themes are involved in the central development, where the repeated-note motif inspires a new march-like idea. The powerful rising modulations of this march propel the music to a torrential climax, which then subsides into the reprise of the flute and the string passages from the exposition. But they are rudely interrupted by the angry flourish and the modulating march, as the music suddenly explodes into a thunderous final coda.

© David Gammie

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