"Te Deum laudamus": chant fragments in four organ works by Tournemire, Langlais, Dupré, and Demessieux
Teel, Christopher Brown
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The Gregorian chant “Te Deum laudamus” has been sung by the Roman Catholic faithful for over 1000 years. Consisting of 29 verses, the “Te Deum” is variously a song of praise extolling God’s goodness and might, and a song of supplication asking for God’s mercy and benevolence. Several composers in twentieth-century France— composers who were also organists serving the Roman Catholic Church in Paris—wrote organ pieces based on this ancient chant. This treatise examines four settings of the “Te Deum” for organ, each by a different French composer who made unique contributions to organ performance and composition: Charles Tournemire, Jean Langlais, Marcel Dupré, and Jeanne Demessieux. Chapter 1 begins by examining the specialized training in organ improvisation at the Paris Conservatory. The chapter continues by exploring how the composers in this study used this training to meet the demands of their church positions. Chapter 1 closes with a discussion of the roles of Gregorian chant and of the organ in the Roman Catholic mass in mid-twentieth-century Paris. The treatise continues with a literary and musical exegesis of the “Te Deum” chant, placing it in its historical context (Chapter 2). Chapters 3-6 then present a biography of each composer and an analysis of each organ Te Deum. The analyses demonstrate how these four composers differently manipulate fragments of the “Te Deum” chant in their organ works.