GMCD 7193 – Marcel Dupré – Organ Works Vol. 10
Jeremy Filsell – Organ
Essex Chronicle 4th May 2007
Taking the Organic Approach Classical Sounds with Chris Green
ARE you old enough to remember that Peter Sellers’ track about Balhain “Gateway to the South”? I have never been to Balham, but the late organist and composer, Healey Willan did achieve that. In fact, he was bom there in 1880. Financial insecurity eventually led him to ‘inigrating to Canada where he took up an appointment as head of the theory department at the Toronto Conservat0I’¥ of Music. For decades he also presided in the organ loft at St Mary Magdalene in the city, and soon was regarded as one of Canada’s foremost living composers – even though it started.in Balham. I mention all this, because today I am focusing on “0” for “Organs”, and amongst the new recordings is one featuring compositions by Dr Healy Willan and played by Patrick Wedd on an organ simi1a.l’ to the one on
which Willan performed, but located in Eglise Saint Jean-Baptiste, Montreal. Willan died in 1968 and by that time had composed two symphonies, two operas, dozens of instrumental works, and compositions for the organ of which a dozen are featured here including Five Preludes on Plainchant Melodies – plain chant was something which certainly influenced him. It may be my imagination, but there’ does seem a. strong French influence in his writing. Listen tQthe passacaglia from an Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, and there textures and timbres are more Gallic than English. The recording is spacious without’ muddying the warmth of this instrument which was built in 1914 and restored in 1995 (Naxos 8.557375).
Now to France, and a series featuring the complete organ works of composer and organist, Marcel Dupre (1886-1971), making him a near contemporary of Will an. Numbering twelve in total, the CDs feature Jeremy Filsell playing the organ of St Boniface Episcopal Church, Sarasota, Florida, an instrument built in 1979. Jeremy Filsell admits in the sleeve note that he is a Dupre anorak,and there is no denying that, unless one is such, then the best way to enjoy these well-recorded and balanced CDs is to sample them. There is a certain uniformity of approach to the melodic form, and, at times, one longs for the explosions of, say, Widor. In short, the compositions are “fit for purpose”, occupying a place in the church rather than the concert hall. Having said that, Dupre was respected world-wide as a recitalist clocking up 2,178 recitals and filling the big spaces with enthusiastic audiences. In addition, he occupied a post as Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatoire and. succeeding Widor as Organist at Saint Sulpice in Paris. Well done, Guild. Records in undertaking this venture, and full marks to Jeremy Filsell for turning his enthusiasm to such distinguished performances. All the CDs are available on’the Guild label. If I was going to start somewhere, it would be with the 14 Stations of thll Cross (GMCD 7193) which occupies Volume 10.
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.
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