Composers Datebook®

Durufle’s 'Organ Suite'

Composers Datebook - Jan. 23, 2024


On today’s date in 1935, at the Church of St. François-Xavier in Paris, organist Geneviève de la Salle gave the first complete performance of the three-movement Organ Suite, by French composer and virtuoso organist Maurice Duruflé.

If you sing in a choir or are a fan of choral classics, you probably know Duruflé’s serene and tranquil Requiem, which premiered about 12 years later.

Now, if Duruflé’s Organ Suite, Op. 5, premiered in 1935 and his Requiem, Op. 9, in 1947, you might reasonably conclude the composer was a slow, meticulous worker, which he was. In all, Duruflé’s output comprises less than 15 published works, of which seven are for organ. His Organ Suite consists of a brooding “Prélude,” a “Sicilienne” — which evokes the harmonies and inflections of Ravel — and a brilliant, concluding “Toccata.”

Duruflé’s music is firmly embedded in the French tradition of organ composers such as César Franck and Louis Vierne, and Duruflé’s composition teacher, Paul Dukas. The great French organist Marie-Claire Alain described Duruflé’s music as “perfectly honest art.”

“He was not an innovator but a traditionalist,” she said “… Duruflé evolved and amplified the old traditions, making them his own."

Music Played in Today's Program

Maurice Durufle (1902-1986) Organ Suite; Todd Wilson (Schudi organ at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Dallas, Texas) Delos 3047

On This Day


  • 1752 - Italian composer Muzio Clementi, in Rome;

  • 1878 - English composer Rutland Boughton, in Aylesbury;


  • 1837 - Irish composer John Field, age 54, in Moscow (Julian date: Jan.11);

  • 1908 - American composer and pianist Edward MacDowell, age 47, in New York;

  • 1981 - American composer Samuel Barber, age 70, in New York;


  • 1724 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 73 ("Herr, wie du willst, so schicks mit mir") performed on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany as part of Bach's first annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1723/24);

  • 1729 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 156 ("Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe") probably performed in Leipzig on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany as part of Bach's fourth annual Sacred Cantata cycle (to texts by Christian Friedrich Henrici, a.k.a. "Picander") during 1728/29;

  • 1895 - MacDowell: Suite No. 2 (":Indian"), at the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, by the Boston Symphony, with Emil Paur conducting; On the same program, MacDowell appeared as the soloist in his own Piano Concerto No. 1;

  • 1933 - Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 2, in Frankfurt, with Hans Robaud conducting and the composer as soloist;

  • 1936 - Chavez: "Sinfonia India," on a radio broadcast by the Columbia Symphony, conducted by the composer;

  • 1948 - Diamond: Symphony No. 4, by the Boston Symphony, Leonard Bernstein conducting;

  • 1963 - Peter Mennin: Symphony No. 7, by the Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell conducting;

  • 1973 - Elliott Carter: String Quartet No. 3, in New York City, by the Juilliard String Quartet; This work won the Pulitzer Prize for music in that year (This was Carter's second Pulitzer Prize);

  • 1999 - Thea Musgrave: "Three Women," in San Francisco, by the Women's Philharmonic, A. Hsu conducting;


  • 1894 - Czech composer Antonin Dvorák presents a concert of African-American choral music at Madison Square Concert Hall in New York, using an all-black choir, comprised chiefly of members of the St. Philip's Colored Choir; On the program was the premiere performance of Dvorák's own arrangement of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home," which featured vocal soloists Sissierette Jones and Harry T. Burleigh;

  • 1943 - Duke Ellington and his orchestra present their first concert at Carngie Hall in New York, presenting the "official" premiere of Ellington's "Black, Brown and Beige" Suite (This work had received its world premiere at a trial performance the preceding day at Rye High School in Rye, New York).

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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