GMCD 7188 – Marcel Dupré – Organ Works Vol. 9
Jeremy Filsell – Organ
Gramophone April 2001
Dupré’s wonderfully colourful Les nymphéas crowns this revelatory disc from FilsellIt’s sometimes the case that the reputation of great composers rests on a handful of works. With Dupré it’s the two symphonies, the Op 7 Preludes and Fugues and the Noël Variations for which he’s best known, but these compositions form a tiny proportion of his entire output. One of the many benefits of Guild’s series is the discovery of hidden treasures, and much of the music on Volume 9 deserves to be heard more frequently.
The revelation on this CD comes from hearing Les nymphéas. This is a beautiful work which I feel is as original as Debussy’s Images, Nocturens or the quieter moments of Jeux. It would make a marvellous orchestral suite; indeed, much of Dupré’s organ writing has a quasi-orchestral character, and reflects his love and knowledge of the vast tonal palette of 20th-century instruments. You can also tell that, like Messiaen, he was an experienced writer of piano and chamber music.
We’re indebted to Filsell for his special arrangement of Les nymphéas for this CD, and for his excellent performances throughout this volume. The choice of the organ at St Boniface, Florida, was a good one as it provides sensuous colours for the softer movements, plus glockenspiel effects for the Suite bretonne. The playing is backed up by fine recorded sound and comprehensive programme notes. There’s no doubt that this series is setting the standard for Dupré interpreters of the future and will be a landmark in the history of organ recordings.
American Record Guide November / December 2000
The program is mostly unknown pieces, especially the Nympheas, The opening three-part work was written in response to his publisher’s request for music suited to organists with average abilities. The ‘Entree’ is plain enough to have been written by countless composers of service music. Only the concluding ‘Sortie’ is taxing. Here is a bright, sounding, clean interpretation equalled by Preston at the Meyerson Center
Suite Bretonne, while inspired by the Breton region, is far less obvious in that respect than Langlais’s 8 Breton Songs. ‘Berceuse’ is a soothing lullaby; the concluding ‘Carillon’ is not a rollicking toccata but a quiet, atmospheric pastorale using the organ chimes constantly (too much for me). The centerpiece of the Suite is the ‘Spinning Song’ (Fileuse), a splendid perpetual-motion gem that, like Omphale’s Spinning Wheel of Saint-Saëns, weaves a de- lightful web of unmistakable programmatic accuracy. Cochereau once recorded it at Sym-phony Hall, Boston. (Try finding that one!) Filsell is every bit up to that stiff competition.
Poème Heroique was written for the re- stored Cathedral of Verdun in 1935 for organ, brass, and percussion. It was later arranged by the composer for organ solo. The sentimental underpinnings of the piece far outweigh the musical value. The original version can be heard in a fine performance on Naxos 553922 (Nov/Dec 1998). The organ-only reduction, when performed on an instrument with the reeds heard here, is nearly as effective. Only the martial cadence of the drums is missing.
Les Nympheas is an unpublished work from 1958-59, created with Dupré’s own home instrument in Meudon in mind. It was rebuilt with unusual couplers and combination toggle switches unlike any church installation. The only recording of this lengthy series of eight pieces (over half an hour) was done by Dupré’s student Rolande Falcinelli at Meudon. Filsell transcribed this performance edition himself. The separate pieces are roughly based on Monet’s large waterlily pictures in the Orangerie in Paris. Dupré, a amateur artist, and watercolour lover, composed these atmospheric, amorphous musical pictures to evoke the spirit-not the detail-of such titles as ‘Sunbeams’, ‘Oppressive Weather’, and ‘Golden Haze’. This is Dupré as most of us have never heard him. No fugues here or complex polyphonic lines; just shifting, meandering musical aquatints. How Filsell was able to get this on paper escapes me. Very haunting. Filsell continues to impress the listener with his interpretations, aided by a technique that never fails.
The Organ Vol79 No.314 – Page 221
Volume 9 of Jeremy Filsell’s 12 CD cycle of Marcel Dupré’s complete organ works will be welcomed by Dupré fans and Filsell admirers alike. All were recorded in September 1998 on the 3 manual Möller organ (1979) at St Boniface Episcopal Church, Sarasota, Florida, USA. Equipped with its 60 speaking stops – 23 for the pedals alone! – plus chimes and 12 Bell Cloche Etoile, Filsell’s playing is colourful and articulate throughout on this tonally bright and powerful instrument. In a previous review, I described this as an eclectic American organ with a French accent, perhaps lacking only that generous acoustic that French Churches and Cathedrals provide.
Much of the music here was new to me, and consequently I turned to the excellent and informative booklet for a fascinating read as David Gammie explains the background to each work. The Entrée, Canzona and Sortie Op 62 are three little-known liturgical pieces written in the later years of Dupré’s life. Lively and joyful in nature, the Entrée and Sortie sandwich a lovely little Canzona, in which Filsell allows an orchestral reed to ride over the undulating harmonic background.
There follows the extraordinary 32 minute work Les Nympheas Op 54. Discovering that these pieces were inspired by the eight huge Monet paintings which hang in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, I listened to them whilst contemplating the Monet works (alas only in a book) – a fascinating exercise! Dupre was not only a lover of Impressionist art – he enjoyed painting with water-colours himself – he also had a passion for organ development. This began in 1921 following his encounter with electric action and flexible stop-control on British and USA organs. This led Dupré in 1934 to redesign his house-organ at Meudon, to include 73 note keyboards, numerous couplers, sustainers – as found on some theatre organs – manual dividers, electric adjustable combination switches, and even a magnetic tape device which was really a forerunner of the present day sequencer! Dupré believed the day would come when through technological advances for stop-changing, more extensions and even an individual swell box for each stop, the organ would become a thoroughly flexible orchestra to the organist. This of course turned out to be only a dream, the organ world, instead of moving along with Dupré’s ‘organ of the future’ ideas, moved back in favour of the simplicity of mechanical action. Dupré found this incomprehensible. As Dupré’s ‘futuristic’ organ at Meudon is the only instrument on which this work can be played in its original form, Filsell has written his own arrangement for conventional organ. He obtained a copy of the original through the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, where it remains unpublished and only exists in Dupre’s hand. I found this work fascinating listening, and tried to imagine what gadgetry may have been used in the original – I didn’t get too far!
Suite Bretonne Op 21 follows an orchestral theme, with Dupré exploring tonal colours and technical possibilities discovered on his visits to the USA, including the chimes! It’s a very beautiful work. The CD closes with Poème Héroïque Op 33, originally written for the inauguration of the restored Verdun Cathedral in 1935, with brass and percussion joining the organ. In this triumphant work Filsell makes good use of the Trompette en Chamade, bringing the whole performance to a grand climax. I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing this CD and recommend it for all the reasons shared above.
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW – JULY
Jeremy Filsell made his 12-disc set of Dupré¹s complete solo organ works during a marathon two-week series of sessions in September 1998, and Guild has been issuing the individual discs gradually over the last year or so; this new volume represents the three-quarter point. Filsell again uses the fine 62-stop Möller organ of St Boniface Episcopal Church at Sarasota in Florida, a powerful instrument with a very French specification and an enormous pedal department. The acoustic is clear and focused rather than resonant and evocative, so listeners should not expect the aural perfume of a Beauvais Cathedral.
Little of the music on Volume 9 is currently available on disc. The two shortest pieces here are the patriotic Poème Héroïque, originally written for the inauguration of the restored war-ravaged Verdun Cathedral in 1935 and then arranged for organ solo, and a late trilogy entitled Entrée, Canzona et Sortie. The earliest work is the delightfully picturesque three-movement Suite Bretonne, a work inspired by Dupré¹s encounter with orchestrally conceived American organ-building traditions in the early
Fully half the disc is taken up with the massive unpublished suite Les Nymphéas of 1958/59, which is based on a set of eight late Monet canvases on display at the Orangery in Paris (a 1973 recording made on Dupré¹s own Cavaillé-Coll house organ at Meudon by Rolande Falcinelli was played thrice-weekly at the Orangery for many years). It represents a kind of fascinating cul-de-sac of the possibilities of coloristic organ writing. Filsell has had to make his own version of this work, for Dupré believing that he was designing the Œorgan for the year 2000¹ had his instrument rebuilt in 1934 with extended keyboards, extra couplers, sustainers (as used on cinema organs) and divided registers, and Meudon is the only place it can
actually be performed as written. Dupré anticipated the day when sophisticated stop-changing devices, extensions and an individual swell box for each stop(!) would make the organ ever more like an orchestra, but instead lived to be perplexed by the triumph of the back-to-Baroque organ movement.
David Gammie¹s detailed and informative booklet notes again contribute greatly to an understanding of this repertoire, and Ken Blair¹s recording is, as usual, first-rate. Anyone coming new to this fine series might be advised to start with Volume 6, which contains the remarkable Deuxième Symphonie; those already collecting this landmark cycle will know exactly what to expect from Filsell and Guild in this latest instalment, and will not be disappointed.