Marcel Dupré

Variations on an Old Noël, for organ, Op. 20

    Description by James Reel

    In the early 1920s, Marcel Dupré was making his name primarily as a performer, offering the complete works of Bach from memory in ten Paris recitals and then embarking on a tour to conquer the United States. He nevertheless found time to compose, and one of his most popular works from that period is this set of variations on an old French Christmas tune. Dupré somberly sets out the simple melody, then proceeds with ten brief variations. On paper, the approach looks academic, with a variation in canonic form, one in thirds, and so on. Aurally, though, the set is quite rich and Romantic. The theme itself rarely strays far from its original form, but is pictured in a series of increasingly fantastic harmonic and accompanimental landscapes. Some are whimsical, begging for reedy registrations; others are gnarled and mildly dissonant; one imitates the procedures and sonorities of medieval organ music, while another calls to mind a circus calliope. The ninth variation, a muscular little fugue, leads to the finale, a grand, loud restatement of the theme under a frantic babble of notes. Dupré was a gifted improviser and it was surely music such as this, performed off the cuff, that particularly impressed Americans during the tour that immediately preceded the notation of this work.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Thema
    2. Variation 1
    3. Variation 2
    4. Variation 3
    5. Variation 4
    6. Variation 5
    7. Variation 6
    8. Variation 7
    9. Variation 8
    10. Variation 9
    11. Variation 10

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Pavane ADW 7581
    2014 Sony Classical 88883796882
    2014 Sony Classical G010003051941C
    2010 D.E. Versluis 1001
    2010 Pro Organo 7234
    2009 Rondeau ROP 6017
    2009 Gothic Records 48629
    2007 Priory Records 6007
    2006 MSR Classics 1162
    2006 Priory Records 866
    2006 Loft Recordings 1080
    2006 Hyperion 22059
    2006 Signum UK 089
    2005 Pro Organo 7198
    2005 MDG 3161288
    2003 Pro Organo 7147
    2001 Naxos 8 555367
    2001 Psallite 60211
    2000 Motette 12581
    2000 Pavane 7382
    2000 Pro Organo 7066
    1999 Naxos 553920
    1999 Guild 7157
    1996 Gothic Records 49083
    1996 Amphion 139
    1995 Cedille Records 015
    1995 BIS 7
    1995 Point Records 5096
    1994 BIS 177
    1994 Delos 3129
    1994 Motette 11491
    1993 Priory Records 237
    1992 Delos 3503
    1988 Delos 3049
    REM 311252
    B&V Recordings 100
    Fugatto 4
    Hyperion 66205
    Koch International Classics 7008
    Arkay Records 6152