Excerpts from the Book
Quickly jump to a section:
- THE INTRODUCTION
- CHAPTER TWO: LIFE AT THE CATHEDRAL CHOIR SCHOOL
- CHAPTER THREE: LESSONS WITH CHARLES TOURNEMIRE
- CHAPTER FOUR: LESSONS WITH LOUIS VIERNE
- CHAPTER FIVE: THE CONSERVATOIRE STUDENT
- CHAPTER EIGHT: DURUFLE'S PERFORMING CAREER
- CHAPTER NINE: THE ORCHESTRAL MUSICIAN
- CHAPTER ELEVEN: PROFESSOR OF HARMONY AT THE PARIS CONSERVATOIRE
- CHAPTER TWELVE: MARIE-MADELEINE CHEVALIER
- CHAPTER THIRTEEN: OVERVIEW OF DURUFLE'S COMPOSITIONS
- CHAPTER FIFTEEN: DURUFLE'S ROLE IN THE PLAINSONG REVIVAL
- CHAPTER SIXTEEN: THE VICHY COMMISSIONS
- CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: THE REQUIEM
- CHAPTER TWENTY: DURUFLE AS ORGANIST AND TEACHER
- CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: THE CHURCH IN TRANSITION
- CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: THE MAN DURUFLE
Duruflé's own guarded account of his life is too sketchy for us to quicken a living impression of him. And to understand his life strictly through his career is to ignore a vast part of that life, for a fuller grasp of which we must also consider four areas of what may at first appear to be far-flung territory, specifically, the Roman Catholic liturgy and its evolution; the world of French choral music; the architectural heritage of France; and the country's bewilderingly complex political, social, and cultural history, within which Duruflé spun out his life and career. These four areas affecting his life have been ignored in the existing brief accounts. But they are germane to his multifaceted biography, as I shall here explain, giving brief attention to each.
The Roman Catholic liturgy plays so prominent a role in Duruflé's life that to ignore its triumphs and its tragedies in this narrative would be substantially to misrepresent Duruflé himself. The link between the liturgy and the music composed for it was a compelling consideration for him, and thus for the character of his music. And though that link is generally appreciated at a superficial level, it has not adequately been explored in studies of French organists from the early twentieth century, a period in the church's history when that link was beginning to dissolve.
Moreover, the formal training of the organist in France almost completely lacked any sturdy grounding in what is today called liturgical studies, by which a true understanding of the essential link between music and the liturgy can be achieved. Though Duruflé's early formation was more richly liturgical than that of his forebears and colleagues, his eventual disenchantment with the church proved that the link binding the music to the liturgy as he knew it had been broken, not only for him, but for most French organists of his generation.
The world of choral music is also featured in this biography, for two principal reasons. The first is that several choral societies in Paris, and one particularly renowned church choir, played a seminal role in the revival of early music in the first decades of the twentieth century, a role that has been sorely underestimated for how it advanced modern music. The Chanteurs de Saint Gervais, based at the church by that name, revealed medieval plainsong and Renaissance polyphony to the impressionable Debussy and Ravel, who were important influences in Duruflé's musical maturity, thus performing a truly inestimable service to modern music as late as the 1930s. And for that we must acknowledge the influence of this choir and others like it.
There were countless ordinary church choirs in Paris, to be sure, which were lackluster by comparison. For a realistic picture of these lesser choirs, I have referred to Joris-Karl Huysmans's acerbic descriptions of them, which he served up in his book En Route (1895), an account of his conversion to Roman Catholicism. Although Huysmans's work predated Duruflé by several decades, his description of these choirs helps explain how Albert Schweitzer could legitimately ask why it was so difficult to form good choirs in Paris. Indeed, the very mediocrity of most French choirs raises the inevitable question as to how it happened that Duruflé's renown as a composer should depend on his having written a major choral work.
Duruflé's conservatory training was as an organist and a composer, not as a singer or choral director, and until he produced the Requiem, in 1947, all his previously published works were for instruments. That the refined choral mastery and idiomatic vocal writing evident in the Requiem should issue from the pen of a composer with no professional vocal or choral experience as an adult, in a city known for its poor choirs, only raises our regard for the accomplishment that the Requiem represents.
How it came to be lies in the broad and exacting choral experience that Duruflé had as a boy chorister at the cathedral in Rouen. This is the second point that needs to be made about choral music in this biography. At least until his change of voice, Duruflé was a singer, and some of his greatest musical experiences as a youth were choral. Singing the Gregorian chant ordinaries and propers, and choral mass settings by Beethoven and the modern French masters, brought him a kind of intense joy that remained with him throughout his adulthood, even if good choirs in Paris were in short supply.
The third area, the architecture of medieval and Renaissance France, played a critical role in the way Duruflé heard and conceived music. He had a keen eye for architecture, and was captive to its allure. His father was an architect, and one of his brothers studied architecture and worked in the building trade. Duruflé's drawings include a sketch of a well-known flamboyant gothic staircase in Rouen, which obviously impressed him. He had the great fortune to spend his entire life singing and playing in architectural masterpieces from the middle and late gothic, and early Renaissance periods, in the three cities where he lived all of his life: Louviers, Rouen, and Paris. Over time, Duruflé's built environment brought him to an appreciation for musical architecture, evident in the strong architectural component of his compositions. The architectural mastery of Duruflé's oeuvre was no accident, nor was it merely the result of his having studied composition with the likes of Louis Vierne and Paul Dukas, whose teaching stressed the importance of sonic architecture.
The love-hate relationship between church and state in France is quite unlike that of any other country. Indeed, the national psyche of France has influenced the music of the French church in a way that eludes easy grasp by anyone not born into it. This is the fourth area to be included in this life of Duruflé. The music of the church has been influenced, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively, by shifting sociopolitical and cultural forces. Because the church was at odds with the secularist Third Republic, for example, there was a growing urgency among the hierarchy and church musicians of that era to promote a music that was distinctly countercultural and ecclesiastical in tone, free of secular and republican values and the clichés of opera and ballet. Chant and polyphony therefore enjoyed a heyday in the first half of the twentieth century. But during the Vichy era, when the Nazi-run government befriended the church, that ecclesiastical music, in an astonishing turn of events, won the favor of the government, which deemed it not only beneficial for French culture, but appropriate for a country on its knees after the humiliation of national defeat. The French organist has therefore felt torn by a divided allegiance: he is at once a servant of the church and a servant of French culture and identity.
It was exactly this aforementioned ecclesiastical music that so many of the French clergy came to believe was out of step with their congregations beginning in the late 1940s. When the Second Vatican Council finally gave its imprimatur to indigenous, vernacular music, in 1963, the French clergy saw classically trained church musicians as the enemy, because they continued to defend a style of music that had successfully isolated itself from secular culture. Duruflé became disillusioned with the direction church music was taking, at least in part because the clergy had so effectively scuttled the music to which he had been attached since his childhood. These, then, are the four areas woven into the context of Duruflé's life and work.
By about 1914, Gregorian chant was well established in the services of the [Rouen] cathedral, after its restoration by the Benedictines in Solesmes, but the choir continued to sing works by Bach, Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, as well as modern settings of the mass, and motets, by Gounod, Franck, Saint-Saëns, and Fauré, among others.
As exciting as Duruflé found all of the choral and organ music that surrounded him, he particularly loved the ceremonies themselves, which "absolutely cast a spell over me."
The young organist was deeply impressed but intimidated by his new teacher [Tournemire]. "This quick-witted, good-natured man had a very exuberant and high-strung temperament, passing abruptly from calm to fury-all of which frightfully intimidated me. However, my first lessons always ended in an atmosphere of confidence and cheerfulness."
Duruflé's lessons with Tournemire followed a course of study similar to that of the organ class at the Conservatoire: "the accompaniment of a Gregorian antiphon followed by a short free improvisation on the same theme, a fugue d'école, and a free improvisation in the form of a classical sonata first movement built on a single theme, then a prepared piece." The prepared pieces generally went well, and fugue went without upset, because Tournemire "was not particularly attracted to this austere and scholastic form of improvisation. He carried it out himself in a very free manner. . . ." But Duruflé's improvisations often provoked a stormy response from the impatient Tournemire. He would push Duruflé aside and embark on an inspired improvisation on the same theme he had given his student, form mattering little to him.
Despite their sometimes rocky relationship, Duruflé remained devoted to Tournemire, dedicating a composition to him, playing movements from his L'Orgue mystique in both service and concert, transcribing five of his improvisations from recordings, engaging him as consultant on organ projects, and even sharing the bench with him in Louviers. As late as 1977, he acknowledged, "I have never forgotten anything that I learned from my cherished Master, Charles Tournemire."
From the very beginning of their relationship, however, Tournemire was evidently less than fond of Duruflé. Though they continued to have professional dealings until Tournemire died, the latter expressed his dislike of Duruflé, not only to him directly, but privately to other organists, and, indeed, to his other students, as we shall see below.
Vierne considered Duruflé "the most brilliant and the most original of the young generation of organists . . . a first-class performer, and an improviser with abundant and varied imagination. Utterly sensitive and poetic, he has a rare, perceptive gift for composition," and observed that Duruflé's tryptich on Veni Creator "is now in the repertoire of every artist capable of playing it and in the libraries of the others."
Duruflé considered [Eugene] Gigout a decisively lesser influence upon him than Vierne and Tournemire. Having continued his private lessons with Vierne through the two years he was in Gigout's organ class, Duruflé attributed to Vierne, not Gigout, his success in the competitions. Duruflé remarked many years later, "I always regretted not being able to work with Dupré. I would much rather have worked with him than Gigout, who was a fine man, but that is all." Duruflé said that Dupré, "who is called the Liszt of the organ, caused performance technique at the organ to advance considerably to a level of virtuosity unknown before him, thanks to his works. It resulted in new sonic effects. A whole generation of today's organists who had been his students benefited from this evolution."
But for some reason Duruflé flatly denied he had been a pupil of [Charles-Marie] Widor: "I knew Widor the last year that he was professor of composition at the Conservatoire. I was not his student; I was a student of Paul Dukas who was his successor." In fact, Duruflé received two prizes in composition while he was a student of Widor, one in 1926 and another in 1927, and in both cases the official Conservatoire records identify him as a student of Widor. Moreover, on October 4, 1929, Widor wrote to the priest at Saint Étienne-du-Mont recommending him for the post there, and identifying him as "my former student (at the Conservatoire)."
On Saturday, August 26, 1944, the day after the liberation of Paris, well over a million people lined the parade route from the Arc de Triomphe to Notre-Dame Cathedral. Though the service at the cathedral was to be a victory Te Deum, the church hierarchy had been so discredited by its support of Vichy that General de Gaulle refused to permit Cardinal Suhard to attend. Nor did the cathedral organist, Léonce de Saint-Martin, play for the service. Indeed, he was away from the cathedral for four of the war years, and was reproached for having his photograph taken at the side of some German organists in military uniform. Whatever the reason for Saint-Martin's not having played for the Te Deum at Notre-Dame, either because of his personal sympathies or merely because of his association with France's premier cathedral, Duruflé was invited to play the organ instead, implying his political innocence.
But outside the cathedral, the Forces françaises de l'intérieur began firing at the towers. Members of the Jewish platoon concentrated on the north tower, by which access was obtained to the organ tribune. Inside, policemen and soldiers trying to protect De Gaulle shot up into the vaulting of the cathedral, bringing down chunks of masonry. Members of the congregation threw themselves to the floor, or tried to hide behind pillars, or under chairs. Despite the mayhem, De Gaulle walked forward up the aisle to the high altar where the service was to begin. Duruflé, on the other hand, was unable to make his way inside the tower stairs because it was blocked by armed guards.
Duruflé was for many years the house organist for the orchestra of the Paris Conservatoire, the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. The oldest orchestra in Paris, the Société was long considered the best in the city. Duruflé's first season with the orchestra was in 1939-40, succeeding Georges Jacob, and his first appearance was probably on December 4, 1938, when he would have been needed to play organo ad libitum for the first French performance of Karol Szymanowski's Stabat Mater, and the organ continuo for Bach's Cantata 55: Nun ist das Heil, under the direction of Charles Münch. The first time he was featured as a soloist with the Société was during the war, on December 22, 1941, when he played a repeat performance of the Poulenc Organ Concerto, under Münch's direction.
Duruflé rode his bicycle to the school, wearing a hat, even during his last year there, when he was sixty-eight years old. He thus presented a picturesque image over the years, with his hat, his black leather briefcase stitched with fine beige thread in his hand, and his pants legs held up with the clips customary at the time, shuffling his bike through the entrance hallway to the courtyard, at the foot of the monument to the dead.
He would greet his students with a powerful handshake and then sit promptly at the piano, with his class seated in a circle around him to study the work set before him. "He played slowly, measure by measure, the homework of a pupil. Sometimes he would call out, 'Oh no . . . not that!' " One day he was reviewing someone's homework that was "marred by a serious gaffe in the writing." Duruflé reportedly took mischievous pleasure in replaying the offending passage before asking the unfortunate composer, "And you find this beautiful?" The pupil, flushed with embarrassment, replied in the negative. Duruflé retorted, "Then why did you write it?" According to one student, Duruflé gave few compliments to his pupils, and sometimes, through a mix of frankness and cautious reserve in his manner of expression, there was an awkwardness in the comments he gave, sometimes discouraging the fragile ego of the student in question.
For the cycle préparatoire, Duruflé used Théodore Dubois's Traité d'harmonie (1921) and gave his pupils sometimes as many as seventeen exercises that they worked on at home, harmonizing either chants donnés or basses données. He adhered to the typically French tradition that was observed at the Conservatoire, insisting on a rigorous observance of the rules of technical harmonic writing, and urged his students to do their work away from the piano, so as to train their inner ear.
Duruflé's approach in the cycle supérieure was to focus on a particular concept, so that one year it was Bach and the next year it was Schumann, perhaps, or Mozart, Chopin, Fauré, Debussy, or Ravel. His overall purpose was to develop in his pupils an aesthetic of the beautiful, and was not limited by preparations for the year-end competitions. Over time, the students absorbed what they called "un style Duruflé": a writing style influenced by the organ; by Bach, Fauré, and Ravel; and by a modal language.
By virtue of their intimate partnership, first of all as husband and wife, but also as musical colleagues, Maurice Duruflé and Marie-Madeleine Chevalier came to be regarded as a single, complementary entity. He provided the music that became her career, and she was his foremost interpreter. The difference that each made to the other was incalculable, such that neither could have made as profound an impact alone, outside of their alliance. This is not to deny the virtues and gifts of each, but merely to assert that by their companionship they constituted a miracle of collaboration. It is impossible to imagine what Duruflé's influence as a composer would have been without his wife, the organist, who gave perfect expression to his compositions, or what Chevalier's career would have been without her privileged access to him, to his organ, and to his music. She taught his private organ pupils before they advanced to study with him. She spoke for him, and, it must be said, she protected him from the public and was a keeper of his secrets.
On May 29, 1975, the couple were returning to Paris from their vacation home in Ménerbes, driving in heavy rain on a highway in Livron, just south of Valence, when they were hit by an intoxicated driver in a Mercedes taking a curve from the opposite direction at 150 km per hour. He lost control of his car, crossed the median, crashed into the Duruflés' Renault 4L, and was killed upon impact. Maurice and Marie-Madeleine were critically injured, he being thrown from the car onto the highway with both legs broken, and she sustaining serious breaks to the shoulder, pelvis, and ribs, with wounds to her scalp. They were rushed to a hospital in Valence for emergency surgery, but it was not equipped to treat them adequately. Mme Duruflé said later that her husband suffered so much pain that "it would have been better if he had died in the accident."
An interesting anecdote reveals the extent to which Mme Duruflé was a virtuoso of the organ art. Rodger Vine heard her play Vierne's Carillon de Westminster one Sunday as a postlude at Saint Étienne-du-Mont. He asked if there wasn't something "different" about it. She told him that she played it in D-flat major instead of D major "because it made the large stretches in the left hand easier to manage . . . it was a 'good exercise' in transposition!"
The poignant words that Mme Duruflé addressed to one of her American students, saddened that his year's study with her had come to an end, were as apropos at the time of her death: "Oh no, don't be sad. We have played the prelude to a friendship; we have all of life for the fugue."
In 2004, when asked what she believed characterized the art of Duruflé and of his musical and spiritual message, Marie-Claire Alain replied that "it is a perfectly honest art. . . . He did not seek to innovate; he was searching only to be sincere with himself."
Nevertheless, numerous critics have pointed out that Duruflé was a conservative composer. Marie-Claire Alain, for instance, wrote, "He was not an innovator but a traditionalist. At a time when [Jehan] Alain and Messiaen broke all preconceived ideas, Duruflé evolved and amplified the old traditions, making them his own." She noted further that "at the end of the 1940s it was very difficult to write what one was thinking. The dodecaphonic method was invading the air waves, and every composer who was not writing according to the serial technique was taken to be old-fashioned."
Asked why he wrote in a relatively conservative language, Duruflé replied, "It is because I have always been surrounded by Gregorian chant, which is of course rather traditional." Later in his life Duruflé had second thoughts about the pervasive influence that Gregorian chant had upon his compositions, and regretted having confined himself to a musical language based, as strictly as it was, on the modality of Gregorian chant.
When asked about the influence that the harmonic language of Ravel, Debussy, and Fauré had upon him, he replied, ". . . above all Ravel, and Debussy, naturally. Less Fauré. I like Fauré less than I like Ravel or Debussy." He admired Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé,Le Tombeau de Couperin, and Ma Mère l'oye, and Debussy's La Mer, singling out his Prélude à " L'Après-midi d'un faune" as Debussy's masterpiece. But he never pointed to any work of Fauré as bearing influence upon him.
While there is common consent that Duruflé was influenced by the harmonic language of Debussy, little has been made of the influence of another feature of Debussy's musical language, namely, his well-developed concept of arabesque, whose influence upon Duruflé was conspicuous and fundamental. If Debussy's notion of arabesque is crucial to an understanding of his art, as François Lesure has written, the same is true of the art of Duruflé. And through a consideration of arabesque we are ultimately drawn to a discussion of the religious inspiration of Duruflé's oeuvre.
Though music is ephemeral and aural, it is no less capable of luminosity, if analogously so, than glass or stone, or bread and wine. This is precisely why music, in order to be liturgically suitable, must be construed by the composer and mastered by the performer in such a way that it can be "seen through," giving it a sacramental verity. To say that Duruflé's oeuvre constitutes a kind of sacramental system, then, is to say that he handled the "stone" of musical arabesque, and employed a diaphanous type of construction, such that it allowed for the passage of a kind of light. In this way, his work bears the attribute of luminosity universally attributed to it. It remains for the listener to label the experience musical or architectural, and religious or aesthetic.
The church's effort to rid itself of banal secular influences and reappropriate the music proper to its worship began deep in the early years of the nineteenth century, and even earlier. After the French Revolution the musical practice of the church found itself in dire straits, and reformers took years to locate, research, revive, and experiment with the practice of plainsong so that it could effectively counter the republican tunes, the secular airs, and the trivial pomp that had become so popular in its wake. All of this was, in Duruflé's view, a "true revolution."
By the 1920s, the stage for Duruflé had thus been set by the reforming movement that reestablished plainsong and polyphony as the treasury of church music par excellence. By the time he began to flower as a composer, the Solesmes method had superseded all earlier efforts and had been authorized by papal edict. Although he never had the occasion to train a choir in the subtleties of chant or to write a treatise on the subject, Duruflé would exercise his refined compositional sensibilities to give Gregorian chant a contemporary use, both reflecting the warm reception Pius X gave to modern music in the church, demonstrating the relevance of chant to modern harmony, and eschewing the profane theatricality of the past, of which Duruflé proved himself eminently capable. In so doing, he not only brought to full flower the modern implications of the Solesmes method, and introduced the sacred and the secular into a unique accommodation of each other, but he was thus the last great partisan of a movement which, though it looked to the past, could be called progressive and even revolutionary. The sad irony is that Duruflé's success at composing music properly sacred for the church was trumped in the second half of the twentieth century by another period of decline, in which the church's inclination to musical recidivism triumphed through another round of tunes all too similar to those that had failed in the nineteenth century.
The new Vichy regime, formally established in July 1940 after France's defeat by Germany, continued the program of commissions established by the now displaced Third Republic. It spent a considerable amount of money to relieve the severe unemployment in France, awarding a total of eighty-one commissions throughout the war to composers needing financial incentive to produce new works. Because the Vichy government took music seriously for its propaganda value, it generally restricted its awards to composers who upheld the conservative, antimodernist, and pro-Catholic sentiments of the regime. The government offered 10,000 francs for a symphonic poem, 20,000 francs for a symphony, and 30,000 francs for an opera or similar work. The monetary awards for the commissions were not intended to be generous, but were large enough merely to free the composer to devote his or her time to the composition for as long as needed, roughly six to twelve months. The first Vichy awards were given on May 16, 1941. Composers Louis Aubert, Tony Aubin, Louis Beydts, and Jeanne Leleu were commissioned to write operas or similar works, and Ermend-Bonnal and Lucien Haudebert symphonies of at least three movements. Henri Challan, Yvonne Desportes, Pierre Lantier, Gaston Litaize, and Maurice Duruflé were commissioned to write symphonic poems.
Duruflé took some six years to complete his work, far longer than was anticipated by the authorities. The war had ended by then, and a new French government had replaced the Vichy regime. On January 21, 1948, Duruflé submitted a certificate to the Administration des beaux-arts of the new Fourth Republic, indicating that he had completed his commission by writing the Requiem and requesting payment of the agreed amount. Duruflé was one of few composers whose submitted certificate indicated the name of the piece that fulfilled the commission, thus leaving no doubt as to which piece he had composed under commission.
Duruflé was ultimately paid 30,000 francs, instead of the contracted 10,000 francs, for writing what proved to be the greatest composition of his career.
Duruflé's greatest composition, the Requiem, Op. 9, completed in September 1947, enjoys a reputation as one of the undisputed masterpieces of the twentieth-century choral repertoire. The single piece most responsible for establishing his fame worldwide, it continues to enjoy frequent performances in the West and the East alike. Reviewers have described it as softly luminous, sumptuous, suffused with a tender radiance, of a noble and restrained eloquence and a sweet and serene light, a work of scrupulous craft and exquisite sensibility, having beautiful unity and real grandeur.
Duruflé submitted his completed score to the reading committee of the radio for their consideration. They accepted the work and the first performance of the Requiem was broadcast to a national (not merely a Parisian) audience over French radio, on November 2, 1947, on the observance of All Souls Day, the day on which the Roman Catholic Church prays for the dead in purgatory. The performance took place at Salle Gaveau. On the same program were the Sixth Symphony, "In memoriam" (1944), a four-movement work composed by the Polish composer Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986) in memory of those who had died for France, and In memoriam, by the Hungarian composer László Lajtha (1892-1963). Roger Désormière conducted the large Orchestre national, with the Choeurs de la radio (Yvonne Gouverné, director), soloists Hélène Bouvier (whom Duruflé did not know personally, but whose voice was exactly what he was looking for) and [baritone] Camille Maurane. Henriette Roget played the organ.
With his wife, Marie-Madeleine, Maurice Duruflé was arguably the last great proponent of the French romantic school of organ playing. An uncompromising artist, he performed with impeccable virtuosity, and with the same eloquent lyricism, the same poetry, and the same sense of nobility and grandeur for which his predecessors were renowned. Moreover, his supple playing exhibited a controlled sensitivity and an apollonian personality that neither intruded upon the works he played, nor distracted attention from their composers' purposes.
Duruflé considered his wife's playing superior to his own. He told Lilian Murtagh so in 1963. While it is difficult and ultimately fruitless to argue style, his was elegant and lyrical while hers was rhythmically intense. With her formidable technique she was able to play with "that remarkable 'internal flame' so well known by her audiences."
As a centrist, Duruflé was not opposed to the reforms outlined in [the Second Vatican Council's document] Sacrosanctum Concilium. What he opposed was the way he felt the French clergy disposed of the past, demeaned their congregations, and introduced trivial musical fare into the liturgy. But because he was so vociferously opposed to what he considered the clerical misinterpretations of the council's dictates, he was labeled a reactionary, even by an otherwise informed organ world. The truth was rather more complex than that. Even though Duruflé actively promoted the Latin liturgical and musical traditions in the decade following the council, his writings, as we shall see, prove his receptivity to vernacular forms such as chorales and hymns, whose value had been tested for four hundred years by Protestants.
With a theological insight that was rare among musicians during the debate, Duruflé asked why choirs should be opposed to congregations. "We must not forget that the parish choir is part of the people. It is an emanation of it, a delegation." When the choir sings, he added, the congregation gives its momentarily silent assent, which is as spiritually valuable as if it were singing the proper itself. In churches that had no choir, Duruflé believed the best solution for the proper lay in the chorales and the mélodies populaires-hymns-whose musical value in Protestant worship he found to be incontestable. Few musicians or clergy were as receptive as Duruflé was to borrowing from the hymn and chorale tradition of Anglicans and Lutherans. He wrote: "At least with the marvelous chorales that J. S. Bach introduced in his Cantatas and his Passions, we will have music of quality that is easy for people to sing because their melodic line is simple and clearly designed. The experiment made in this area among Protestants is favorably conclusive."
Maurice Gustave Duruflé was a complex man. Of a dark and brooding temperament, he had a keen intellect, a breadth of character, a penetrating soul, and a rich cultural aptitude. Though short as to physical stature and retiring by nature, he had the disposition of a great man. And though his musical and spiritual imagination were vast, they were not prolific.
Despite his serious demeanor, Duruflé was not unemotional. He told his wife Marie-Madeleine that when he was writing the Requiem he was sometimes brought to tears by its melodies.
He was an exacting perfectionist whose high standards exceeded his perceived grasp. Some considered him an always worried, pathological perfectionist. Most of his acquaintances saw a pessimistic streak in him. To whatever other causes one may attribute his refusal to produce only about a dozen opus numbers, his oversevere estimation of his ability lay at the heart of it. Mme Duruflé believed he was too severe with himself, and toward the end of his life he wished he had written more music, and, by implication, been less severe with himself. With the wisdom of age he could admit that it did not have to be an impediment to creative expression, or a renouncing of his standards, that his vision exceeded his reach.