GMCD 7180 – Marcel Dupré – Organ Works Vol. 7
Jeremy Filsell – Organ
The American Organist – June 2001
Dupré composed two sets of “Variations on a Noël,” this second one in 1948 for his daughter Marguerite to play during her first Christmas as volunteer village organist (she was a superb pianist by training). Graham Steed, friend and pupil, helped achieve a posthumous publication for the score in 1996 here in The American Organist. These four pages are not at all easy, but at least the pedal part is relatively uncomplicated. Everyone must begin somewhere, and Dupré’s Op. 2, his first published organ score, is so unassuming as to give no hint at all of the supremely assured young virtuoso who would finally burst on the scene with his Op. 7 Preludes and Fugues in 1912. (They’re in Filsell’s Vol. 1, Guild CD-7156.) But the ferocity of the subsequent Op. 16, which is as far away from anything light-hearted and jovial as you can imagine, amply predicts a brilliant future for a composer-performer who by then was in his mid-30s and deserving serious attention. His future was so bright, and so demanding, that during the 1930s, when he was in his 40s, Dupré’s time available for organ composition was limited, and the three Élévations may have been created as little island of self-preserving calm in an otherwise harried period. They are a balm of soothing simplicity. For all his Frenchness, Dupré prospered during his many international tours and responded to friendly foreign environments and individuals with memorable performances and, eventually, new compositions. Each of the Seven Pieces is dedicated to a noteworthy personality, such as the organbuildes Henry Willis and Ernest Skinner, West Point Cadet Chapel organist and host Frederick Mayer, Dupré’s American agent Alexander Russell, and others. Since the two most difficult pieces in this Op. 37 are occasionally played and recorded. I’ve never understood why more recitalists have not worked up the entire set. Yes, none of these movements is easy, but the chunky charm of the Canon, the bucolic fragrance of the Pastorale, and the haunted melancholy of Souvenir (dedicated to the memory of Canadian, virtuoso Lynnwood Farnam, one of Dupré’s few peers) deserve more exposure than they have been given. Well, you can hear them all in this CD production. Several more Filsell albums await issue, as two other “complete editions” of Dupré’s music on CD find their way to the marketplace, too. Do we need them all? Why not? Comparisons create clarity, Jeremy Filsell’s work is a marvel, a wonderful encouragement to our fuller appreciation of the Dupré legacy, and a treasure for any to whom the organ’s art is a perpetually fascination adventure. To borrow a line from Paul Claudel (from another, related context): “How revealed (and revered) is this man Dupré, and how profound!”
Organists Review – May 2001 See GMCD 7173
American Record Guide September/October Page 132
This is Volume 7 in Filsell’s series of Dupr6’s compiete organ works. In keeping with earlier installments the program includes both familiar fare and some seldom-heard compositions. The approach makes good sense-listeners will find ample variety in each volume. A good ease in point is the Variations. Dupr6 wrote it for his daughter Marguerite, who took an organist’s job in a small parish with a very poor instrument. Pere Marcel still owned a two- manual Cavai116-Coll tracker and had it restored and sent to her church. The Variations were written with limited organ re- sources in mind-four brief variations on a well known tune in the style of Daquin. It was never intended for publication, but it was published in The American Organist of December 1996. The gentle and ultra-brief variations conclude with a rousing finale.
Over 20 years separate the Opus 2 Elevation and the three Elevations that make up Opus 32 (1935). The simple musings that characterise Opus 2 become somewhat more pensive in Opus 32. All three of the latter are appropriately subdued, but the harmonic language is more searching and shifting. These are lovely miniatures not often heard.
Seven Pieces from 1931 is known primarily for the ‘Carilion’ and the ‘Final’, but there is considerable melodic interest in ‘Souvenir’ and the tone colors in ‘Pastorale’. Each of the seven pieces is dedicated to a friend of Du- prd’s, The Moller instrument heard here has plenty of variety available, and the solo stops are particularly effective in these quieter pieces. Filsell delivers a commanding interpretation of the’ Carlion’, a knuckle-buster with a non-stop pattern of descending fourths in the manuals. He captures the sense of swinging bells admirably and offers goad competition for Delcamp (Naxos 554026).
A superb performance of the rarely heard Scherzo is given here, a kind of perpetual motion exercise of devilish difficulty. Chromaticism and roller-coaster runs abound, but the clarity is maintained. Filsell continues to impress with each volume in this series. The organ sounds wonderful here.
With the release of these volumes we are now almost halfway through Jeremy Filsell’s survey of Dupre’s organ works, and what an outstanding series this is turning out to be. Filsell’s technical ability is second to none, as he is able to tackle the most complex musical figurations with what appears to be relative ease. The musicality that shines through in these recordings provides a fresh approach, bringing new life to some of Dupre’s best known works. His use of rubato can seem a little excessive at times, as what on a first hearing sounds exciting and thrilling may jar on the listener as something approaching a performance mannerism. However, this is a small detail in comparison to the wealth of superb performances on these discs. The highlights are to numerous to mention, and each volume has a careful balance of the known and less well known. The recordings are wonderfully clear, and every single note can be heard.The rhythmic vitality is never lost, and the tempi are pushed to the limits without being too fast as to lose any detail. I cannot recommend these recordings highly enough. Quite superb!
Andrew Bryden – Andrew is assistant cathedral organist at Ripon Cathedral and head of music at the Cathedral Choir School
Gramophone May 2000
Written in 1929 for his first American recital in three years, Dupré;s Second Symphony is, in the words of David Gammie’s eminently readable notes, the work of ‘a composer at the height of his powers, secure in his inspiration and rejoicing in his own virtuosity’.
Since dupré was arguably the greatest organ virtuoso of the 20th century the technical demands of the work are, to put it mildly, daunting, but after decades of neglect by recording artists, the Symphonie is at last become well represented in the catalogue. I described John Scott’s performance of it as ‘stunning’, and for me his is still a revelatory performance, reaching into the heart of a work in which, again to quote Gammie ‘there are dark forces at work’. Wayne Marshall took virtuosity to new heights with his breathtaking account; one which for sheer technical bravado and almost superhuman energy is unlikely ever to be matched. The sound of the organ in St. Boniface, Sarasota (on which the complete Dupré cycle has been recorded), is less impressive than that of St. Paul’s Cathedral (for Scott) and Filsell’s playing lacks the impact or thrill of Marshall’s, but this latest addition to the works’s discography is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.
Filsell has lived, slept and breathed Dupré in the months (years?) leading up th this astonishing recording project (12 discs recorded in the space of just two weeks) and plays with unique understanding and insight. Yes, he’s a brilliant virtuoso for whom the ‘Everest-like’ technical demands of Dupré’s music hold no terrors, but he is also a sensitive and perceptive musician who, in true Dupré fashion, sees virtuosity merely as a vehicle for committed musical interpretation. For that reason Filsell non only impresses in the great show-piece toccatas (such as the dazzling ‘Final’ to the Sept pièces) but gives equally compelling and persuasive performances of simple little trifles.
Volume 6 begins with eight simple Gregorian Preludes while Volume 7 kicks off with a nice little set of Daquin-esque variations on Il est né le divin enfant, written for Dupré’s daughter to play on the small church organ of the village where she lived. Irrespective of the music’s technical demands, Filsell lavishes painstaking care and attention on everything; consequently, works which might seem worlds apart technically sit happily and congruously side by side.
Although there is not apparent logic in the selection fo music for each disc (these two volumes, for example, rance in time from Dupré’s first published work – a lovely little Elévation – to the short Méditation which he composed in his 80th year, and from the brief Chiorales – each lasting barely 90 seconds – to the 20 minute Symphonie), the range of moods and styles on each makes for compulsive listening. And enhanced by Filsell’s astonishing interpretative and technical skills, not to mention Guild’s gloriously full-bodied recording, this disc makes one of the most impressive organ recording ventures in recent years.
International Record Review – April 2000
Jeremy Filsell has now reached the mid-point of his heroic single-handed traversal of Dupré’s complete organ music for Guild (an ongoing rival series on Naxos is shared between half-a-dozen players). Filsell – one of those rare keyboard players with equal facility on both organ and piano – has been a devotee of Dupré’s music since his school- days, and has every musical gift needed to do justice to the composer’s varied demands. He is alive to each nuance of tone and texture, although in the shorter pieces his basic pulse can be rather free, sometimes unsettlingly so. His articulation is very clear, even spiky (the Marche from Sept Piéces for example), and thus rather more ‘modern’ than Dupré’s own recordings from the 1920s and 1930s: Dupré gave us Romantic Bach, but Filsell counters with Baroque Dupré! Both discs were recorded on the Möller organ of St Boniface Episcopal Church at Sarasota in Florida. This may seem an unusual choice of instrument when there is such a wealth of suitable authentic French organs to hand just across the Channel, but this 62-stop organ has a specification very much in the French manner and boasts an enormous pedal department. It is well equipped and powerful in tone but not especially characterful, an instrument to be impressed by rather than warm to. The church acoustic is clear and not very resonant, and some listeners may regret the lack of cathedral-like mystery in this repertoire.
The principal work on Volume 6 is the Second Symphony, the remainder of the disc consisting of short works or sets of short works averaging a couple of minutes in length. Dupré was a legendary improviser, and many of the slighter works here sound much like notated improvisations. The Eight Gregorian Preludes, Op. 45, that open the recital are appealing and deliberately accessible miniatures on Gregorian themes, attractively registered by Filsell using the St Boniface reeds, tremulant and chimes. The Six Antiennes, Op. 48, are more modern in style, although they, too, are plainchant-based; while the chorales ‘Freu dich sehr, O meine Seele’ and ‘Liebster lmmanuel’ from Op. 59 sound almost like satires on Bach, emphasized by Filsell’s cheeky registration. The Second Symphony is on a completely different scale, a dark-toned work with a wild, improvisatory feel to it. The central Intermezzo, a theme and variations, includes some extraordinary textures, while the concluding Toccata in C sharp is like a demonic march à la Prokofiev. Filsell handles the technical and musical demands with aplomb – this is a performance that demands to be heard. The Second Symphony has fared well on disc in recent years, and the recordings by Thomas Trotter and John Scott, too, are superb.
The seventh disc has slightly less of a claim on the collector’s purse, including as it does only shorter compositions. The Sept Pièces of 1930 are an extended set of concert works dedicated to Dupré’s friends, including the organ builders Henry Willis and Ernest Skinner, the organist Lynnwood Farnham and the Bach scholar Albert Reimenschneider (the tumultuous Final dedicated to the latter includes the BACH motif worked into the texture). The Canon – at the seventh – and the Carillon from this set are also impressive. Of the other works on Volume 7, the most important is the toccata-like Scherzo, a semiquaver moto perpetuo demonstrating Filsell’s impressive prestidigitation; Dupré wrote this at the time he was deputizing at Notre Dame for the ailing Vierne.
Ken Blair’s recording is absolutely first- rate, capturing all the range, power and colour of this fine organ, even if distracting stop clunks in several of the works might have been edited out. David Gammie’s booklet notes are detailed and informative, a model of their kind. This series, a landmark in the recorded organ literature, is scheduled to stretch to 12 discs, but at only 51 and 57 minutes in length, respectively, these two really are unacceptably short; surely Guild didn’t need to spread its wares so thinly.