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Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971)
Works for Organ Vol. 12

Suite Bretonne Op 21 [15.51]
Trois Esquisses Op 41 [12.25]
In Memoriam Op 61 [28.26]
Suite Op 39 [14.59]
Robert Delcamp, recorded Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 27-28. 9. 1999
NAXOS 8.554209 [71.40]
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Listed Comparison;

In Memoriam Op 61
Jeremy Filsell, Complete Organ Works Vol. 2, St Boniface Episcopal Church, Sarasota, Florida, USA rec.9.98.
Guild GMCD 7157.

Who would have thought, a few years ago, that two rival Dupré cycles of 12 CDs (and more for Naxos) would be slugging it out finally, appropriately, in the Old West. And one of them mightily attractive at budget price. In the Guild corner we have some of the most attractive CD packaging for an organ, with Jeremy Filsell giving in one month, September 1998, the Complete Organ Works at St Boniface Episcopal Church, Sarasota, Florida, USA. It's been rightly lauded. Naxos, also using American and other French churches, have assembled several soloists. Some like Mary Preston cut two discs. She was acclaimed and for many having the edge in some of her recitals. Robert Delcamp was another called back to record three so far; after his first he moved after this present organ was restored in 1996. Unlike some early Naxos recordings, this organ has been selected, and cast from strength.

This time the pieces are conveniently substantial, none of that splitting the Op 28 Chorales between different players. An excellent idea in one sense, though I prefer them tidily on one disc, as Filsell manages. The Suite Bretonne is the earliest, which isn't that early - 1923 - a work dedicated, like the larger Op 61, to a woman, though in happier times. This was Hilda Gelis-Didot, part of the Institute of France publishing family. It's cheerful domestic programme music, but very attractive. A Berceuse wanders happily, followed by a more playful and characteristically fleet Fileuse (spinning) which does what it says. An excuse is made here to incorporate descending chromaticisms in silvery stops and suggests gnomic dances with silvern things outside the window. Les Cloches de Perros-Guirec naturally carillon the ending. This is wonderfully memorable. The suite contains, in the last two particularly, some of Dupré's most attractive music. Les Cloches de Perros-Guirec is one of Dupré's best things, like the Op 7 Preludes and Fugues (particularly Op 7/3 in g minor). Delcamp has a true sense of the processional nature of this piece too.

The Trois Esquisses Op 41 are late war work, from 1945-46, and dark. The first in C major, hardly sound it with tuggings into chromatic scales that defy such centred affirmation. The composer suppressed it, oddly, perhaps surprised at its dark uncertainties; but it was brought to light in 1975. The next two keys confirm the minor-hued language of the time. The second in e minor is sardonically playful. A memorable invention, rising to suggestion of Mephistophelean laughter. The last, in b flat minor, alternates in coruscating scherzi material. It is an agitated marcato movement, quite sinister, ominous with athletic powers that in their timbres and melodic cut recall Jehan Alain (1911-40). I wonder if this triptych is a response to Alain's own masterly final work before being killed on his dispatch motorbike by a shell in May 1940. It's a worthy counterpart.

In Memoriam Op 61 is a tragic work of great stature, Dupré's last major work, dating from 1965, and commemorating the premature death of Dupré's daughter, his gifted accompanist on many tours. She died from cancer on 26th October 1963, aged just 51. Filsell manages some very delicate flute and high stops in the opening 'Prelude', though the acoustic is very similar. It quotes an earlier Lamento which he had played at his daughter's funeral. This is a profound, exploratory oscillation between high and low sonorities striving not so much against each other but making sense. It builds up to a memorable peroration. It is literally a De Profundis Clamavi of an anguished father. Filsell, slower than Delcamp by 47", compensates with his inevitable speeds. And it's here that he takes 33" longer than Delcamp. Delcamp though is engaged less in evincing the plangent luxury of the chords than steering through them with harmonic transparency. Even this is to polarise the two approaches too readily. Filsell is more playful in the 'Allegretto' that follows, depicting infancy. Delcamp's baby gallumphs rather, and takes 4'57" as opposed to 3'28". 'Meditation' finds the tempi reversed again (4'48" Delcamp; 6'09" Filsell). What emerges is Filsell's greater extremes of tempo. It seems right, yet occasionally one longs for Delcamp's brisker approach in the slow parts. 'Meditation' shows the young girl growing to thoughtfulness, and the following two sections, where Delcamp is also swifter, 'Quod libet' and 'Ricercare' see the approach to womanhood, maturity, and professionalism as her father's other pair of arms; she played a piano to his organ. And again play is a key ingredient here, emergent virtuosity in 'Quod libet'. 'Ricercare' seems a bright church-like meditation too, perhaps reflecting fulfilment. The strange, Dies Irae-like scherzo of the 'Postlude' coruscates with a defiant apologia for Dupré's and his daughter's musical lives. Filsell in this movement shaves six seconds off Delcamp's 4'32" and to be honest, Filsell's more recessed recording is as good as Delcamp's and vice-versa. There's nothing really to choose here except the price and the attractiveness of the jewel cases. Filsell brings out some colours, and the reverb is attractive. But Delcamp is fully his equal; so is the organ and recording.

The Suite Op 39 is another dedicated to a woman, Marguerite Pascouau-Laborde. It was published in 1945. The four movements are part of a 12-movement etudes, the Op 41 being another culmination designed for Dupré's prize pupil, Jeanne Demessieux. Nine survive. It begins with a flickering and dark frost murmur, in thirds and sixths. Cantabile consists of chromatic harmony in six parts, between upper part and right foot. The scherzando bubbles along and is quite memorable. The final is somewhat 'gruff' as Delcamp notes, full of marcato; but it ends in joie-de-vivre of a post-war, slimmed down kind.

The recording, after Naxos's fashion, is pretty close. This doesn't detract from the acoustic. In sum, this is a commanding cycle, with slightly various results. Buy all and invest in Filsell in this Vol. 2 which contains the famous two: Op 20 Variations and Cortège et Litanie Op 19; and the Miserere Me Op 46, and fittingly the Lamento Op 24, as well as the Op 61. Or try at least one of his other discs, perhaps the complete Op 28. Alternatively you can invest in the superb Scott recitals on Hyperion.

Simon Jenner

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