Guild might well be labelled,
or claim to be, 'The Dupré Specialist', having recorded all his
solo organ works. Dupré did not consider himself a 'composer'
in the orthodox sense. The usual informative Guild booklet quotes his
self deprecating comments, made in 1942 at the height of his career:-
'I do not think of myself as a composer ... I have specialised in the
organ, and I do not have the reputation that composers have'. That is
as maybe, but the major work on this CD, claimed as 'A World Premiére
Recording' is his Opus 49 written in 1952-53. It was written, like his
other major choral work, 'Die Profundis', in response to the
ravages inflicted on the people of France by two World Wars; in this
case in response to the devastation wreaked on Rouen Cathedral by Allied
bombing. It was also a tribute to Dupré's birthplace and was
completed in time for the joint celebration of the restoration of the
Cathedral and the 500th anniversary of the official pardon of Joan of
Arc in 1956. The movements of the work are dedicated to six French saints
plus 'Prologue' and 'Final'. The full French texts are given with English
An extract from Au
Calvaire appeared on this label, with the same forces, in the
autumn of 2001, and was justifiably acclaimed. Here, the full work is
dramatically overwhelming with the choir moving through many emotions
with well-articulated sonorous singing. The organ accompaniment receives
full due in this recording but it is the musical marrying of the choir
with the instrument that makes such an impact. The male soloists could
be steadier (tr.1 and 2) whilst the soprano floats her 'Sainte Clotilde'
(tr.6) on a silvery tone of voice. The mezzo, as 'La France',
is grander in tone and declamation (tr.11). Above all it is Jeremy Backhouse
and the Vasari Singers that make this work an overwhelming experience.
I am all in favour of filling
discs. My first thoughts were that the three motets should have been
placed to follow the Dupré. Second thoughts prevailed; the motets
would sound even more trite in comparison with the main work. They are
worthy, but distinctly lesser works. Nonetheless they are given the
full 'Vasari' treatment and benefit from it, as does our enjoyment.
The recording is resonant
but well balanced clear and airy.
Robert J Farr
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