I am an almost complete neophyte when it comes to the organ music of Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986). I've heard only one of these pieces in recital as far as I can recall; that was 'Prélude et fugue sur le nom d'Alain, Op. 7,' played by Duruflé's widow, Marie-Madeleine Duruflé-Chevalier, toward the end of her life. I later heard it played by the very fine organist at my church. But the other works here are terra incognita for me, although, having sung the 'Requiem' recently, the musical language was in general quite familiar to me. That said, I must try to contain my enthusiasm for having made the discovery of this music. And since I've not heard other recordings or performances, I have nothing to compare them with.
Duruflé wrote slowly and carefully and did not leave very much music. This disc contains ALL of his organ music. One wishes he had written (or preserved) more. The two big pieces here are the early Suite, Op. 5, and the 'Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur la thème du "Veni Creator", ' Op. 4. The Toccata in the former, reminding one of Gigout's famous Toccata, and the Choral varié in the latter are particularly memorable, and expertly played by organist Friedhelm Flamme. There are a number of much smaller pieces, most memorable of which are the 'Chant donnée - Hommage à Jean Gallon,' exquisite for its short 1 1/2 minutes, and the previously mentioned Prelude and Fugue on the name of [Jehan] Alain. Characteristic of Duruflé writing is the extremely subtle mix of colors; he was very careful to prescribe registrations and there are certainly some organs that cannot supply the color required. The organ here, a new Mühleisen (of Strasbourg) Organ installed in 2000 at the Stiftkirche in Bad Gandersheim, Lower Saxony, is perfectly suited, it sounds to me, for the delicacy of Duruflé's music.
I wish I could describe the effect Duruflé's style has on me; it is both exquisitely wrought and delicate, and at the same time highly emotional (in that oh-so-French way); it has much the same effect on me that the Ravel of, say, 'L'Enfant et les sortileges' or the Satie of 'Socrate' does. I've been playing this disc in my car and at home for a couple days and can't seem to get enough of it. I have been playing the audio CD layer of this hybrid SACD disc and the sound is exemplary; I can only imagine how it would be in SACD sound.