Today (February 10th) is Ash Wednesday.
"Attende Domine" is often sung today and throughout the Lenten season. The text, "Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have sinned against Thee," is well-known, as is the Gregorian melody. This tune is very unusual because it contains two consecutive "descending perfect fourths". These unusual intervals give the melody a unique identity.
Jeanne Marie-Madeleine Demessieux (1921-1968) entered the Montpellier Conservatory in 1928. Four years later, she obtained first prizes in solfège and piano. In 1933, Demessieux was enrolled as student at the Paris Conservatory. The same year, 1923, Jeanne Demessieux was appointed titular organist at Saint-Esprit, a post she held for 29 years. Between 1936 and 1939, she studied organ privately with Marcel Dupré, whose organ class at the Conservatoire she joined in 1939. After receiving a first prize in organ performance and improvisation in 1941. She studied five more years privately with Marcel Dupré, and played more than 700 concerts in Europe and the USA.
In 1962, Jeanne Demessieux was appointed titular organist at La Madeleine in Paris. In addition, she was Professor of organ at Nancy Conservatoire (1950-1952) and the Conservatoire Royal in Liège, Belgium (1952-1968). Owing to health problems, Demessieux was obliged to limit her performance activities. Aside from her organ compositions, she wrote pieces for piano, numerous songs and choir works including an oratorio, and orchestral works.
"Attende Domine" (Choral paraphrase) was published in 1950 by Sumy-Birchard Inc.(Warner Bros.) as part of "Twelve Choral Preludes on Gregorian Chant Themes for Organ".
The composer does a rich harmonization of the melody, before combining the two motives (the refrain and the verse) simultaneously.
I played the chant melody before the actual piece, in case you are not familiar with the theme.
I wish everyone a beautiful and holy Lent.