Duruflé and St Pius X


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 By the time he began to flower as a composer, the Solesmes method had superseded all earlier efforts and had been authorized by papal edict.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.




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