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Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)
Works for Organ: volume 1

Three Preludes & Fugues (op 7): no 1 in B major; no 2 in F minor; no 3 in G minor
Fifteen Versets for Vespers of Common Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary (op 18)
Cortège et Litanie (op 19)
Variations on a Noël (op 20)

Jean-Pierre Lecaudey (organ)
Recorded in the Collegiate Church of St Martin (St Rémy-de-Provence, France), 7-9 November 1996
PAVANE RECORDS ADW 7382 [67:05]

 

Experience Classicsonline

Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) is one of music’s greatest unsung heroes. Virtually unknown outside the ranks of organ aficionados, he was an exceptional teacher (Messiaen was amongst his pupils), an indefatigable international recitalist (an interesting programme-note records that shortly before his death he gave his 2,178th recital) and, in his mastery of improvisation and counterpoint, worthy to be bracketed with no less a figure than J.S. Bach.

Unfortunately, little of his other music is heard in this country (though the magnificent Westminster Cathedral Choir 1997 disc of French church music - Hyperion CDA66898 - included his splendid Four Motets op 9) and it would be fascinating to hear some of his orchestral compositions.

For this recording Lecaudey has chosen another recently (1977-83) rebuilt instrument by Pascal Quoirin. This is considerably larger than the Castres organ (his recital on which I have reviewed elsewhere): its fearsome collection of reeds including a mighty 32’ Bombarde. I find its full organ tone much more agreeable than that of the Castres organ.

Once again Lecaudey displays a dazzling technical mastery and an imaginative command of the tone-colours at his disposal. The first and third of Dupré’s early Three Preludes and Fugues are well known; equally welcome is the less familiar second, much less flamboyant than the other two, in Lecaudey’s immaculate performance: for balance and clarity of line, it could not be better done. The organ is equipped with a particularly rich department of flute stops, heard to brilliant effect in the mercurial G minor prelude, whose relentless torrent of semiquaver triplets is delivered with remarkable rhythmic accuracy (sample 1).

The Versets originated as improvisations and provide eloquent testimony to Dupré’s astonishing prowess in that art. Rooted in plainchant, they are mainly devotional in character, though they conclude with a typically brilliant Toccata. The hypnotic little motif which dominates Cortège et Litanie bears a striking resemblance to Alain’s later Litanies (sample 2).

Finally we have one of Dupré’s best known works – his Variations sur un Noel, which is a vehicle for both his contrapuntal ingenuity (canons at the second, fourth and octave, for instance) and deft colour-contrasts. It too ends with a blazing Toccata in which the 32’ Bombarde comes into its own. (In passing, I must commend Lecaudey for his consistently crisp endings: not for him that absurd prolongation ad infinitum of final chords so beloved of many English organists who really ought to know better – sample 3).

Excellently recorded, thoroughly recommended. I hope that the second volume of this important collection comes my way!

Adrian Smith

 



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