Reviews

GMCD 7203 – Marcel Dupré – Organ Works Vol. 12

Jeremy Filsell – Organ

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Organists’ Review – February 2002

These three discs mark the conclusion of Jeremy Filsell’s project to record the complete works of Marcel Dupré. That all twelve discs were recorded in the space of a fortnight in September 1998 makes the task even more remarkable.

Dupré’s Le Chemin de la Croix remains one of the great French programmatic works for the organ, a work that had profound influences on later works by composers such as Messiaen and Duruflé. Jeremy Filsell gives a highly convincing account here, with a well-paced performance which emphasises the drama in the sequence of movements. The M P Möller organ, built in 1979 with some later tonal revisions, is well-suited to this repertoire and the recordings allow a sense of space as well. The playing is always precise, perhaps on occasions clinically so, though to a certain extent this suits the Dupré idiom. There are

some memorable moments, and the build-up in intensity to each of the falls – movements 3, 7 and 9 – displays great control and sense of drama. In contrast there is an almost magical transformation into the more comforting colours of Jésus console les filles d’Israël qui le suivent.

Volume 11 is devoted to the liturgical organ musie, in particular his Vêpres des Fêtes du Commun de la Sainte-Vierge. In this recording the individual organ movements are interspersed alternatim with plainsong verses (sung by a small group including Jeremy Filsell) from the Vespers service. As with much of Dupré’s music this work had originated as an improvisation, in this ease at Vespers for the Feast of the Assumption in August 1919, at which time Dupré was standing in for Louis Vierne at Notre-Dame in Paris. Dupré was afterwards asked to write the pieces down, having been offered a considerable fee to do so by an English visitor. The next year this same benefactor was to arrange a performance of the work in the Royal Albert Hall, with the versets being performed by the choir of the Gregorian Association, a concert which was to be Dupré’s British debut, and one which launched his international recital career.

It is good to hear these short movements in context here, and Filsell’s performance is exemplary. There is plenty of contrast, from the opening grand tutti procession through the more reflective flute timbres to the colourful, mutations used in the central movements based on Ave Maris Stella – especially in the coloratura ornamented chorale on the Cornet.

The other two works on the disc, the 1969 Regina Coeli and the slightly earlier Choral et Fugue originating from a 1962 improvisation at a recital in Saint-Sulpice to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organ), again demonstrate Filsell’s empathy with this music and its many demands. The final Fugue develops from its initial typically gritty counterpoint to a grandly paced conclusion.

Dupré’s 79 Chorales Op 28 make up the final volume of this series. At first sight this might appear to be a disc that could perhaps be omitted from one’s collection. However Filsell turns this into an encyclopaedic journey through the wide range of registrational colours. It is perhaps fitting that the collection which Dupré himself saw as purely and simply pedagogic should make up Volume 12, as in many ways it is his legacy as a teacher that carries as great, if not greater, importance than his performing. None of These works were intended to be played in recitals, and most of them would hardly be long enough for liturgical use, but there is much to savour here. Some are solidly simple, such as Ach Gott und Herr with its solid foundation sounds, whilst others such as In dir ist Freude display considerable jubilance – here including the use of the Cloche Etoile carillon! All in all a worthy conclusion to a marathon project.
Michael Harris


The Organ Vol. 80-No.316-Summer 2001

With this volume of Dupré’s organ music, Jeremy Filsell reaches the collection of 79 Chorales, Op 28, producing a very well filled disc indeed!

These very brief pieces were written in 1931 for a businessman friend who was interested in playing the chorale preludes of Bach but did not have sufficient ability to do so. Dupré’s resulting collection of small-scale works is based on all the chorale melodies Bach used, most works only a page long. But there is nothing boring or uninteresting in these pieces, Dupré varying his settings greatly, from trios to five part pieces including one with double pedalling. He actually thought little of these works, considering them unsuitable for public performance: happily, Dupré changed his mind, even recording some himself. Mr Filsell’s performances show us that these are not trivial works and, by varying the composer’s original registrations, he well shows off this interesting American organ – I rather liked his use of the Chimes in chorale No 52!

Naxos are aIso issuing a complete Dupré series, but there, these chorales are used as CD fillers – if you want the whole collection in one go, then this would be a worthy addition to your CD collection.
DW


Gramophone June 2001

Thinking about 20th-century French music after Debussy and Ravel, the names of Messiaen and the members of Les Six would probably spring to mind. However, at the same time organists like Vierne, Tournemire, Alain, Laglais and Dupré himself were writing music every bit as original and as intense as the aforementioned composers. One of the many benefits of Guild’s series (which concludes with these three volumes) is the opportunity to discover just how fine a composer Dupré was. Perhaps more than any of his contemporaries he managed to embrace both the sacred and the secular with utter conviction.

Le chemin de la croix Le chemin de la croix is one of his major works and is a landmark piece of musical drama. One can hear links with the Symphonie-Passion of six years earlier, and Davie d Gammie in his comprehensive accompanying notes points out the influence of these works on Duruflé’s Requiem and Messiaen’s Les corps glorieux. Filsell gives a suitably dramatic performance with some telling rallentandos at climactic moments. is one of his major works and is a landmark piece of musical drama. One can hear links with the Symphonie-Passion of six years earlier, and Davie d Gammie in his comprehensive accompanying notes points out the influence of these works on Duruflé’s Requiem and Messiaen’s Les corps glorieux. Filsell gives a suitably dramatic performance with some telling rallentandos at climactic moments.

All three compositions on Volume 11 were inspired by Gregorian chant, and each movement is preceded on this CD by the singing of the verse on which it’s based. The vocal quartet includes the CD’s producer Adrian Peacock and Filsell himself – an inspired and approp0riate piece of programming. Listening to Filsell’s flowing, atmospheric playing it’s easy to imagine oneself sitting in a vast, incense-laden Parisian church, with glorious improvised music coming from the west-end grand orgue.

Dupré is remembered for writing music of extreme technical complexity, but Volume 12 shows that he was well capable of composing pieces for organs and organists of modest resources. The 79 Chorales take hymn tunes which were all used by Bach as the basis for chorale-preludes. Many of Dupré’s chorales are effective Bachian pastiches, but a handful of them have the unmistakable 20th-century French idiom. Again, Filsell’s performances are beyond reproach, and he shows that Durpé was able to match JSB for solemnity and piety.

As is so often the case Naxos provides healthy competition, and Volume 11 of its Dupré series has a very fine performances of Le chemin de la croix from Mary Preston. She brings a greater clarity to the music, helped by the drier acoustic of the Meyerson Symphony Center at Dallas. However, Filsell in the more resonant acoustic of St Boniface Church, Sarasota, Florida brings more warmth, passion and drama to his interpretations, and this, coupled with Gammie’s excellent insert-notes sways the balance in favour of the Guild series.

In all 12 volumes Filsell’s playing has been consistently superb, and what has been most impressive is that his virtuosity has always been the servant of the music. The St Boniface organ may not have the éclat of a Cavaillé-Coll, but its clarity and attack enhance Dupré’s complex textures, and the recordings are suitably warm and atmospheric. One hopes Guild will now record Dupré’s vocal, chamber and orchestral works; meanwhile we must salute Filsell for one of the greatest achievements in organ recordings.
Christopher Nichol


Classic FM Magazine March Issue

The final volume of Filsell’s Dupré organ odyssey is a discovery. The 79 featured chorales – written by Dupré in 1931 to give his pupils a good grounding in basic organ technique- are and inconsistent lot. But among the short melodic pieces are some of the most intriguing and beautiful elaborations in the organ repertoire. Filsell brings the experience alive with some imaginative playing.
Oliver Condy