GMCD 7164 – Marcel Dupré – Organ Works Vol. 5
Jeremy Filsell – Organ
The American Organist – June 2001
During the war, with his Conservatoire classwork curtailed and his young male pupils in uniform, Dupré focused upon Jeanne Demessieux who, at age 20, had taken the premier prix in his organ class in 1941. The two worked almost constantly together for the next five years in a true passing of the torch, and the young woman’s series of debut recitals was at least as sensational as Dupré’s had been three decades earlier. Demessieux’s journals indicate that the ten movements encompassed by Dupré’s Op. 39-40-41 likely were intended as elements of a cycle of twelve transcendental etudes, which was not published as such (nor fully realized) because Dupré instead, wanted Demessieux to compose such works herself (which she did – her Six Études). The supreme technical and emotional challenges Dupré created for his prize student do not at all inhibit Filsell from divining their poetic heart, too. The three austere Offrandes, with different demands, function together as a kind of slow “middle movement” to the mostly intense, kinetic activity generated by the opening Suite and concluding Esquisses. To play any of these pieces is impressive; to hear them all in sequence is astonishing. Never a modernist. Dupré nevertheless evolved a harmonic language and cogent structural sense that was by no means conservative or, as in the works of his later years, particularly populist. For instance, the wistful, fragile diptych of Opus 56 from 1961, his impression of two figures in da Vinci’s Annunciation, takes us into vague, ethereal realms akin to (but only hinted at in) the quiet tolling of the more approachable Angélus from 1936; rarefied emotion replaces subdued emotionalism. Perhaps even more graphic in contract are the stark heroics of the 1946 postwar The Deum and the sweet simplicity of the unpublished Épithalame from 1948, a disarmingly charming set of classical variations on a theme from Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notsbook that Dupré improvised upon the engagement of his daughter Marguerite, and subsequently composed as a wedding gift for her. Even in this single album there is so much to discover, absorb, comprehend, and appreciate. Thank you, Jeremy and Marcel.
Gramophone March 2000
There are at least three complete cycles of Dupré’s organ music appearing at the moment: four, if we include John Scott on Hyperion. Each tackles the project in a different way. Naxos uses different organists each bringing something fresh to their allotted works. Ben van Oosten (Dabringhaus und Grimm) concentrates on atmosphere with a genuine Cavaillé-Coll mistily recorded, while Jeremy Filsell has decided to undertake the task in one intensely concentrated go, recording the complete Dupré organ oeuvre in just two weeks. (John Scott took 12 years over the first two discs in what may prove to be a 12 disc series, on which form it seems unlikely he will finish the task within any of our lifetimes : I would, though, recommend the purchase of a rejuvenating drug since I suspect in the long run his will be something very special.)
As things stand, however, my preference is very much for Filsell especially since he is supported by outstanding recordings of a bright, crystal- clear 20-year-old Florida organ, and by Guild’s booklets and general presentation which put all the competition into the shade.
The benefits of Filsell’s approach are most evident in this fifth disc where much of the music represents Dupré at his least enchanting. Filsell does not try to find hidden significance in such (dare I say mundane?) pieces as Annonciation or Epithalame, and is content to let the music flow, knowing that it is as much a part of the Dupré persona as the big spectacular works by which he is best known. Filsell has a phenomenal technique, and while he comments on the music’s Everest-like technical demands, he is clearly one of those fellows for whom no Sunday afternoon would be complete without a gentle stroll up Everest. His innate feel for the music, a mixture of genuine enthusiasm which permeates every note of every performance and total immersion in the sound world of Dupré, turns these into truly distinguished, compelling and unquestionably authoritative performances. I eagerly await the next release which will feature somewhat more mainstream compositions
Classic CD February 2000 – Page 78
Previous volumes in Jeremy Filsell’s Dupré series havebeen highly impressive, and this new one is no exception It starts flaringly with Dupré’s trademark stabbing staccato accents in the fine Paraphrase sur le Fe Deum of 1946, immediately balanced by the Messiaen-like serenity of the succeeding Angélus, where Filsell’s control and synchronisation of the ubiquitous bell-like pedal-note is so unobtrusively expert as to almost slip the notice.
The virtuosity that hides virtuosity (so necessary in Dupré who said music should be a caress for the ear”) is again central to Filsell’s interpretation of the main items an this programme, ten shortish pieces grouped collectively as Op. 39 – 41, and developed from a series of wartime studies Dupré wrote for his then student Jeanne Demessieux.
The Opening Allegro agitato of Op.39 Suite, likened by Demessieux to “The agitation of millions of melecules in a forest”, is flicked off by Filsell with tremendous nonchalance. He never over registers Dupré’s music, and charted wonderfully its haunting harmonic uncertainties. An immaculate recital by an immaculate organist
More masterly playing by Jeremy Filsell in a Dupré series which is fast becoming definitive ALTERNATIVES: None of this programme
American Record Guide Janurary/Feburar 00 Page 90/91
Volume 5 was recorded in late 1998 in St Boni- face Episcopal, Sarasota. Unlike the earlier vol- urnes, this program offers only one plece that is al all famfliar, the Te Deum paraphrase. But there is a good blend of quiet, introspective pieces with works that are virtuosic in nature. Angelus (1936) certainly qualifies for the first category, a lovely, siow piece with delicate reg- istration. The Angelus bell is implied with a repeated note in the upper Pedal.
Dupré wrote Epithalame (1948) for his daughter’s wedding, basing it on some improvisations he had done earlier to celebrate her engagement. Itrelly doesn’t sound much like Dupre, but the sentiment shines through. Continuing the subdued mood, Annonciation (1961) is in two parts, inspired by the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin seen in da Vinci’s “Annunciation”. Dupre enjoyed art and even dabbled a bit in painting. This would be a fine Advent prelude, even though it has no familiar carol or chant theme.
Offrande (Op. 40) is a three-part tribute to three Dupré students killed in the Second War (Jehan Alain, Jean-Claude Touche, and Joseph Giles). The opening ‘Virgo Mater’ is relaxed and contemplative;’ Mater Dolorosa ‘is more unsettling, leading to a reed solo of considerable poignancy, the melody line simply interrupted by ambiguous chords; the final ‘Virgo Mediatrix’ for flutes and strings is subdued and wholly chromatic, belying perhaps lis origin as one of a set of etudes. This movement seems to float effortlessly, the mood unchanging from its original peacefulness. We’re informed that these three along with the two Esquisses (sketches) were part of a set of 9-12 transcendental etudes Dupré wrote for Jeanne Demes- sieux. Like her own set of 6 Etudes, these were intended to both develop and stretch the performer’s already astonishing ability. Something went awry between the two, and the etudes were never published as such, but were separated into Suite, Offrande and Deux Esquisses. After Dupré’s death, executors found a third “sketch” in his library, left unpublished and heard here as No. 1. One gets a hint of what will follow from this opening study in C major-an emphasis on Pedal technique, but rather brief, concluding quietly. In contrast, the second in E minor uses repeated notes, both singly and in sixths, with a Pedal that at first is simplicity itself only to suddenly require a long pattern both legato and vivace. Filsell is especially convincing here, even though the 16′ and 8′ Pedal registration makes the line extremely blurred. The concluding “sketch’ (anything but) in B- flat minor is closest in kind to Demessieux’s etudes. Here alternating chords and endless octave patterns dominaate. A slight diminishing of the onslaught in the middle is short-lived, for the patterns return, then change to octave tremolos (!) in the manuals against Pedal runs in octaves. This is a legitimate tour de force, and Filsell plays it brilliantly.
The Suite is cut from a similar bolt. The four movements present fiendish technical demands. The opening is based on an inverted pedal point in the right hand, descending chromatic thirds in both hands, and finally Pedal scale patterns ascending, all coupled together-not to mention the density of accidentals in every measure to further confound the player. A Cantabile is east as a six-part ricerare, the slow tempo and quiet dynamic masking the complexity. A short but impish scherzo follows, which uses thirds and sixths in both hands and feet. It has a bit of the flavour of the composer’s Fileuse. A concluding’ Mar- cato’ is less satisfying than the rest. Difficult, to be sure, it emphasises articulation in a swaggering sort of march. This is the most demanding volume in the set by Filsell, and one must envy his technique. The playing is accurate, properly registered, and with a sense of what Dupré is all about.
Some other, interpretations deserve mention. For the Esquisses, Vaucher (Gallo 743) is slightly slower yet retains the spirit; Meldau (Motette 40111) may be the best. He does more with the musical architecture, and the numerous Pedal runs are clearer than from Filsell,. In like manner, the Te Deum can be heard from Roth at St Sulpice (Motette 10981) in a performance that profits from generous acoustics; a fine interpretation comes from Fisheil (Naxos 553919) on a large Casavant in Nashville, with miking much closer than from Roth. Filsell’s version lies somewhere in between.