Born into a musical family, he was a child prodigy. His father Albert Dupré, organist in Rouen, was a friend of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, who built an organ in the family house when Marcel was 14 years old. He entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1904, where he studied with Louis Diémer and Lazare Lévy (piano), Alexandre Guilmant and Louis Vierne (organ), and Charles-Marie Widor (fugue and composition). In 1914, Dupré won the Grand Prix de Rome for his cantata, <i> Psyché</i>. In 1926, he was appointed professor of organ performance and improvisation at the Paris Conservatoire, a position he held until 1954.
After World War I, Dupré rapidly established his reputation as a concert artist following his performance (from memory!) of the complete organ works of Bach in a series of recitals in Paris. Throughout his life, he performed a total of 2178 recitals in Australia, the United States, Canada and Europe. In 1934, Dupré succeeded Charles-Marie Widor as titular organist at St. Sulpice in Paris, a post he held until his death in 1971.
As a composer, he produced a wide-ranging œuvre of 65 works, and also taught two generations of well-known organists such as Olivier Messiaen, Jehan Alain and Marie-Claire Alain, Jean-Marie Beaudet, Pierre Cochereau, Jeanne Demessieux and many others. His most often heard and recorded compositions tend to be from the earlier years of his career.
In many ways Dupré may be viewed as a 'Paganini' of the organ - being a virtuoso of the highest order, he contributed extensively to the development of technique (both in his organ music and in his pedagogical works) although, like Paganini, his music is relatively unknown to musicians other than those who play the instrument for which the music was written.