GMCD 7136 – Master Works II by Dupré, Gilles, Demessieux
Jeremy Filsell – Piano / Organ
Choir and Organ July/August 2000
Secondly, Filsell is undoubtedly one of the finest players of his generation and the exemplary playing from the orchestra make this a disc worth listening to. That fact underlines an opportunity missed. Dupré adored the US Skinner/Harrison sound as well as his beloved Cavaillé-Coll. The St. Jobhn’s Smith Square Klais does soound faintly comical at times and the dynamic balance relies on its upper work. Also a reed sounds decidedly vile during the slow movements of the DupréSymphonie, I would have gone elsewhere and avoided a sound similar to a badly loaded dishwasher.
Classic CD February 1998
Marcel Dupré’s Symphonie pour orgue et orchestre turns out to be a not especially attractive work: it has a fine slow movement, to be sure, but both the opening movements are melodically undistinctive and rhythmically rather monotonous and unvaried. The Symphonie for solo organ by Dupré’s contemporary Joseph Gilles (the only published composition of a composer who died in mysterious circumstances during World War Two) is a much more interesting and atmospheric piece; but again a certain aesthetic immaturity shows through in the juxtaposition of two not terribly dissimilar slow movements at the beginning of the work.
The performances are very good, but this is ultimately a disc for organ specialists.
Gramophone January 1998
While the nineteenth-century fashion for putting large organs in civic buildings inspired composers to write for organ with orchestra, the invention of digital recording has certainly been responsible for the recent upsurge of interest in these works. Record producers seem to be falling over themselves to find spectacular examples of the genre to put on disc. And they don’t come much more spectacular than Dupré’s G minor Symphony, with organ and orchestra vying to outdo each other in arrays of colours and numbers of decibels. It is also a well-crafted piece which can survive the closest scrutiny even when shorn of the outward manifestations of sonic spectacle. That is very much the treatment it receives here. Barry Wordsworth’s reading is intense and tightly argued and he receives outstanding support from a BBC Concert Orchestra on world-class form and from Jeremy Filsell, who handles the hugely demanding organ part with dazzling virtuosity.
When all is said and done, however, the work needs a certain element of extra-musical spectacle. Guild’s choice of St John’s, Smith Square, cannot begin to match Telarc’s Royal Albert Hall in terms of sheer aural opulence, and the mighty RAH organ sends shivers down the spine while its Smith Square counterpart seems more adept at setting the teeth on edge.
In 1986 when Telarc released their CD there was still a certain novelty factor about this new medium which they chose to show off in an unsubtle if vivid manner, by recording the sound of the RAH organ blowers being switched on. No such frivolities for Guild. They include the first-ever recording of Dupre’s orchestrated version of Cortège et litanie and the Symphony for solo organ by Joseph Gilles. Clearly Filsell’s performance of this highly performance of this highly impressionistic work has been immaculately prepared, but on this hard-toned and somewhat unlovely organ it seems merely cold and impersonal. Joanne Demessieux’s Poème, after a captivating start becomes not merely cold and impersonal but, as the decibels mount up, aurally quite offensive too. The sound is far too unyielding for comfort.
If ever a recording was spoiled by the choice of recording venue this is it, but if you can withstand this unfriendly environment you will be rewarded by some truly outstanding performances.
The Organ Vol 76 No. 301 Summer 1997
Few musicians feel confident enough on two instruments to entrust themselves to recordings and when the works in question are by Reubke it takes a bold artist indeed to place the piano and organ sonatas alongside each other in GMCD 7137. That they are both highly successful is a tribute to the communicative powers and technical skill of Jeremy Filsell.
As I seem to be hearing more Reubke in performance these days I assume that, he is becoming more popular which may make this new recording all the more timely. The only minor flaw is a purely technical one as each sonata is recorded as a single slab with no way of returning easily to particular sections should one wish to do so.
Any reservations I might have had about using the Kleis in St John’s, Smith Square, are proved groundless by the quality of sound produced on both recordings, which is remarkably clear and lively.
The works on GMCD 7136 are even more welcome as one so rarely gets a chance to hear them live. Dupré’s G minor Symphony is a splendid work which uses the organ as a balanced integral part of his overall composition and shows a remarkably fine ear for orchestral colour and detail.
Joseph Gilles has left us only the E major Symphony which is a deeply serious work, often quietly intense, and very moving.
Jeanne Demessieux’s poème sounds the more modern of the works included but was actually written in I949. This is a very valuable addition to the catalogue.