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Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971)
Complete Piano Works
Variations in C-sharp minor op. 22 (1924) [15:12]
6 Preludes op. 12 (1916) [20:02]
4 Pieces op. 19 (1921) [14:27]
Gracieuse (four-hands) [1:44]
Berceuse [4:03]
Ballade pour piano et orgue op. 30 (1932) [10:33]
François-Michel Rignol (piano)
Lorraine Lacaze (piano) (Gracieuse)
rec. 2017, L'église St-Félix du Domaine de Bayssan à Béziers
SOLSTICE SOCD348 [66:12]

Applause for Solstice in coming up with a whole disc of piano music by a composer whose name will always be associated with organ or choral music. I would happily have left a write-up to others had this been another Dupré organ or choral disc but this for me unexpected connection with piano music made this a must-hear. The works belong to the composer's thirties.

Most of Rouen-born Dupré's output comprised works for the organ. Among other things there are some songs, chamber duos, a violin sonata (1905), a Fantaisie for piano and orchestra (1912) and a reputedly impressive De profundis for soli, chorus, organ and orchestra (1916), in addition to these works for solo piano. The Variations were written for an American tour. This was dedicated to the Québecois composer, Alfred La Liberté (1882-1952). Like the rest of the music here, no part of this score is impressionistic. There is plenty of fantasy but it is moody, angular, abrupt, mysterious, bardic but not dissonant. Strangely enough the Variations at times reminded me of Bax in Celtic mood with infusions of Rachmaninov (8:45) and of Aubert (Sillages). The war-time Six Preludes are painted in subtle shades and subdued colours with a completely unbombastic nobility, all tenderly understated. Once again Bax comes strongly to mind as does Fauré. The Preludes are dedicated to the pianist Louis Diémer (1843-1919), who was also the dedicatee of Franck's Symphonic Variations and of piano concertos by Saint-Saëns (5), Lalo and Massenet.

The Four Pieces of 1921 are just as complex but a degree or two warmer than the Preludes. With its harp imitations, the Cortège et Litanie (the second of the Four Pieces and also laid out for organ and orchestra) is most touchingly done. The final Air de Ballet trips and twirls along, lighter but by no means trivial. Then follow two pieces for piano four hands: a delicate yet steady Gracieuse and an umbrageous Berceuse written with an eye to the elegiac. These are all early-ish works. The exception at the end of the disc is the 46 year-old Dupré's Ballade pour piano et orgue which is the only organ-related orphan here. Apart from its intrinsic merits it is only here because the organ shares the limelight with the piano. This 11-minute item also has a special standing as it is a 1956 recording made by the composer's wife (piano) and Pierre Cochereau (1924-1984). The recording has been tenderly processed. It is a tribute to Dupré, these two musicians and Solstice that the awkward blend of these two instruments works so well. A nightmare apparition haunts the scene at about 3:20 onwards but the piece ends in joyously smiling fashion. Let's now hear his other works for these two awkward instrumental cousins: Variations on Two Themes (1938) and the Sinfonia (1946).

François-Michel Rignol feels utterly in command of these scores and the demands placed on him by the composer. He is very strongly and warmly recorded - a rooted, secure and centred sound.

The handy and unstintingly detailed booklet is in English and French. The former section runs to eight pages. The whole is elaborated with resonant pictures of the composer. The essay is by Michael Roubinet. Cochereau and Dupré are pictured on page 11.

The piano music of an organ habitué gets its place in the sun.

Rob Barnett



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