Beyond his nonpareil virtuosity, Marcel Dupré, one of the greatest organists of the 20th century,
was also a master improviser. Because he flourished in the earlier part of the century, most of
these improvisations are lost. Towards the end of his life, he was afflicted with crippling arthritis
which made playing exceedingly difficult. Consider this improvisation, made at the age of 79,
which is a double fugue based on the Gregorian chant melody 'Regina Coeli.' As is the practice
in such affairs, the music he has on the stand is that chant melody and nothing else.
In France, this practice of improvising based on submitted themes is one of the responsibilities
expected of the major organists' positions (Notre Dame, Chartres, St Sulpice, St Eustache, &c).
Dupré, who was the titular organist at St Sulpice for many decades, by any standard or tastes,
was among the best such improvisators of all time even if one's tastes lean toward the less