Reviews

GMCD 7198 – Marcel Dupré – Organ Works Vol. 11

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 315 page 43/44 Feb – April 2001

The penultimate volume of Jeremy Filsell’s complete recordings of Dupré’s organ music contains three works based on plain chant, the Regina Coeli, Op 64, the Choral & Fugue, Op 57 (based on the Salve Regina) and the masterly Vêpres des Fêtes Commun de la Sainte Vierge, Op 18.All three works are performed with the sung chants on which they are based (four singers, including Mr Filsell), the chants from Vespers sung between the organ versets. As on the previous CDs in this series the organ is the large 3 manual Möller organ (1979) in the church of St Boniface Sarasota: this organ produces some wonderful sounds, but despite the French looking stop-list, is not as French sounding as it might be.

This disc is perhaps most interesting for the Vespers and it is probably that work that will influence your decision to buy it or not. There other recordings of this work, with or without the plainchant – for example Robert Delcamp’s performance on the Naxos label. If you have collected any of the other CDs in this series then you will probably want this one – it can’t be faulted on performance and the only reservation I have is a small one regarding the sound of the organ used.
DW


International Record Review January 2001

Comparisons. Dupré Op. 18:Chaisemartin (Motette) CD50251 Lefebvre (Herald) HAVPCD170

The penultimate volume of Jeremy Filsell’s acclaimed cycle of Dupré’s organ works principally comprises the set of 15 alternatim versets, Op. 18. After years of neglect, there are now a number of recordings of this liturgical cycle, which was originally improvised (like a number of Dupré’s organ works), this time at Vespers in Notre-Dame in August 1919. The service was attended by a Rolls- Royce director, Claude Johnson, who wrote to Dupré offering a fee of 1,500 francs for him to write them out: it therefore seems fitting that Guild’s Dupré’s cycle has been financially supported by the current Rolls Royce plc. Johnson hired the Royal Albert Hall the following year in order for Dupré to make his British début, and the Programme included these versets.

The music contains some of the composer’s happiest inventions, including a mystical ‘Nigra sum’, a charming ‘Andante con moto’ and an exciting toccata-style ‘Amen’ to the Ave maris stella. By comparison with his rivals, Filsell sounds marginally less improvisatory than Suzanne Chaisemartin (who also. has the -advantage of the magnificent St Ouen Cavaillé Coll at Rouen), but is no less inside the idiom than Philippe Lefebvre (recorded in Notre-Dame itself. Guild’s plainchant choir

(recorded in the slightly different acoustic of Charterhouse Chapel the following year) is a little small, with only four voices – including the disc’s producer and Filsell himself – and is capable rather than outstanding.

The couplings are a short Regina coeli, written two years before the composer’s death, in memory of a former organ pupil, and the seven-minute Choral’ et Fugue, Op. 57, originally improvised at a birthday concert in Saint- Sulpice in 1962, using the Gregorian plainchant Salve regina and Ite missa est. The story here is the same as for the Vépres des Fêtes du Commun de la Sainte-Vierge: Dupré’s improvisatory gifts so bowled over the listeners that the composer was asked to write the music down.

As usual, superlatives are exhausted with this series; Filsell’s effortless mastery of his instrument (the three-manual 1979 Möller of St Boniface, Sarasota in Florida) and understanding of the idiom are almost beyond. criticism. Would that many other deserving composers received complete recordings of this quality! And as ever, the recording and Guild’s documentation are first-rate – David Gammie’s detailed and informed booklet notes have contributed much to the value of this series.
Francis Knights


CLASSICAL MUSIC ON THE WEB – OCTOBER

With this CD, Jeremy Filsell reaches the penultimate stage of his vast task, the complete recording of Marcel Dupré’s compositions for organ solo. This volume is devoted to liturgical works and, as with so much of his output, they arise from improvisations which he was encouraged afterwards to try to commit to paper.The Vesper service gave ample opportunity for creative imagination and the major work in this programme came about in 1919 through the extraordinary chance that Claude Johnson, English director of Rolls-Royce heard Dupré play for the Vesper service at Notre Dame and commissioned him to write down his improvisations afterwards, as best as he could remember them, for the princely sum of 1500 francs. He was so satisfied with the result that he arranged the young organist’s Royal Albert Hall debut, with a choir of 600 voices singing the brief versets. This pattern is reproduced here, but with only four voices for the plainchant! Although those tracks can easily be programmed in or out (coded black & white alternately with the organ pieces), they are intended to be heard as given, because the pieces are derived from phrases in the particular chants.

The other works too are based on Gregorian Chant and presented with the plainsong which inspired them. The music is all tonal, often highly chromatic, and carefully worked out – his teacher father tolerated no self-indulgent rambling, and his famous son’s pieces are all strongly constructed.

The recording in Florida is excellent and the notes are full. Volume 10, Le Chemin de la Croix Op.29, was reviewed on MotW in October 2000, and provides further background information.
Peter Grahame Woolf