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Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971)
Three Preludes and Fugues Op. 7 (1912)
Prélude et Fugue en si majeur [6:27]
Prélude et Fugue en fa mineur [9:40]
Prélude et Fugue en sol mineur [6:14]
Cortège et Litanie Op.19 (1921) [5:10]
Variations sue un vieux Noël Op. 20 (1922) [12:38]
Symphonie-Passion Op. 23 (1924) [29:42]
Pierre Cochereau (organ)
rec. February and March 1975, Notre-Dame, Paris
SOLSTICE FYCD820 [70:51]

The influence of Marcel Dupré on organ playing and composition cannot be over-estimated, and what we have here is a direct link between composer and maestro performer Pierre Cochereau. In a statement dated March 1975, Cochereau points out that the tempi are “clearly faster than those indicated” for the Preludes and Fugues as well as the first movement of the Symphonie-Passion. Dupré was consulted by Cochereau, and the composer was “completely in accord” with these changes in tempi. Cochereau was also aware that the composer “has always shown extreme tolerance with regard to the registration of his works”, so he “did not hesitate to take certain liberties with the indications noted on the score.”

The results are lively and exciting as well as musically expressive. There are a few moments where editing has clearly been required, but with very decent recording quality and an on-the-edge feel of improvisation and spontaneity this is a document which every Dupré fan and performer should enjoy, and of which they should take careful note.

Good music is also tolerant of differences in interpretation, but after hearing the first Prelude and Fugue in B major from Cochereau the competition can sound rather tame. Good performances from the likes of Janette Fishell on Naxos 8.553919 sound a bit static by comparison, though Christian Praestholm only comes in a few seconds slower on ClassicO CLASSCD680. This release also has the Symphonie-Passion, and it is here that Cochereau’s 5:48 in the first movement is telling against Praestholm’s by no means sluggish 7:06. Naxos has Stefan Engels performing the Symfonie-Passion on 8.553920 in another decent performance, though his contrasts are more ironed-out with a more cautious sounding first movement and a rather more brisk third movement Crucifixion. Cochereau’s characterisation of this work explores greater extremes, grabbing us in an opening Le monde dans l’attente du Sauveur which is agitated and at times almost violent. The Nativité is not without tenderness, but has more darkness than light. The weight of the Crucifixion is doom-laden beyond any other performance mentioned here, Cochereau defining the shape of the pedal lines with tragic clarity, the growing sense of angst and agony a grim but compulsively organic ordeal. The final major tonality of the Résurrection is hard-won and by no means entirely victorious, but this is an inspired and inspiring work which keeps us guessing – avoiding cliché and resolutely evading resolution until the very last chord.

This is a release packed with fine music. Aside from the famous filigree of the Prelude and Fugue in G minor we have the beautiful and impressive Cortège et Litanie written during Dupré’s first tour of the United States. The popular and colourful Variations sur un vieux Noël Op. 20 also belong to this period, and who amongst us would not want to have these pieces played on the great Notre-Dame organ by an acknowledged master who had been taught by Dupré himself at the Paris Conservatory. This is a recording which exudes the vibrancy of composer and performer in a synergy rarely heard anywhere. The analogue recording works in sympathy with this rather than standing in the way of our appreciation of such a fine cultural artefact.

Dominy Clements