Seen and Heard Review

Marcel DUPRÉ De Profundis Op 17 Trinity College of Music Symphony Orchestra and Choir, Ely Cathedral Choir/Martien van Woerkum Chapel of the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich 17 May 2001 (PGW)

This concert, which had been given at Ely Cathedral the previous Saturday, was the second event in a week during which Seen&Heard had welcomed visitors from East Anglia to Greenwich . It was the first event in an ongoing collaborative partnership with the Cathedral, and.the Ely singers made a wonderful splash of colour in their scarlet robes. Trinity College of Music will become resident at King Charles Court in the autumn, and their events at the Old Royal Naval College have already enriched the local scene; Goldsmith's College is close by, and the two will provide a focus for innovative college music making that should draw audiences to the area. Mozart's Requiem Mass was preceded by the first UK performance in its full orchestral version of Marcel Dupré's De Profundis, a major choral work of 1916 which played for just over 50 mins. It is believed that prior to these performances this important work had only been resurrected in the USA by Philip Brunelle in the '80s.

There are nine movements, with three soloists (Ella Draycott, sop, Mark Bushby, ten & Russell Matthews, bass) contributing to three of them. As a trio they were dominated by the soaring soprano, but the men came into their own in later appearances. The mood of this psalm setting is generally sombre, the idiom less dissonant and angular than some of Dupré's organ music, sometimes close to Vaughan-Williams and Fauré. The Si iniquitatesi has urgent brass and drums, Quid apud te was a consoling tenor solo with trombone, the chorus Sustinuit anima mea leads from unaccompanied chorus with effective antiphony and organ interludes, rising to a climax with the orchestra joining in and a gradual reversal of that pattern to a quiet ending. A duo for soprano and bass has a strong, memorable melody and features the oboe in the accompaniment, and the penultimate Et ipse redimet Israel has stabbing dramatic off-beat chords which made me think of Berlioz and Lalo, with an acceleration to the finish, preceding the final Requiem aeternam in which the soloists join the choir, with a pleasing organ accompaniment, which brought to mind Fauré's Requiem, for the lux aeternam passage.

Under conductor Martien van Woerkum, formerly teacher of choral conducting and now Dean of Brabants Conservatory, the widely dispersed forces (the organ at the opposite end of the Chapel) were well co-ordinated. I did wonder whether it might benefit from more forward flow in the conductor's direction. At Greenwich, local authority fire regulations unfortunately limited the number of singers allowed to appear, so Trinity may be well advised to present some of their larger concerts at Blackheath Halls, where they have previously given successful concerts.

At a time when complete recordings of Dupré's organ music are available (Jeremy Filsell's is now complete) consideration should be given to a recording of Dupré's De profundis based upon this enterprising première.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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