Easter ended with the last mass of the day at Sainte Étienne-du-Mont. By that point in time, Maurice Duruflé was bedridden. He had never recovered from the nearly fatal automobile accident that he and Madame suffered in the Midi a decade before. Marie-Madeleine Duruflé was not only his principal caregiver, but she had also taken over playing services at the church.

 

As the sun set, she dutifully played the post Vatican II liturgy, which included a painful response “Merveille est le Dieu” sung by Père Chang. She came into her own realm, however, at the Sortie - the Tournemire improvisation on Victimae paschali. Her playing was hair-raising to the point that the ascending augmented triads at the end of the piece made it feel as if the nave vaulting might lift into outer space!

 

After the mass, I spoke with Madame Duruflé. Doubtless she was exhausted, but she took the time to speak to me of her husband’s work, including the Triptique on Veni Creator, which she admitted was so hard that she really had to practice it, especially the registration changes. After some hesitation, (she said she had not had time to get to the hairdresser in ages) she let me take her picture.

Madame Marie-Madeleine Duruflé

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