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Sylvain DUPUIS (1856-1931)
Symphonic Works and Concertos
Pour un drame - symphonic overture (1880s) [7:35]
Macbeth - symphonic paraphrase (1880) [10:09]
Invocation for cello and orchestra (1924) [4:18]
Prélude et Danse for violin and orchestra (early 1920s) [8:42]
Suite in D (Pantomime (Profane et Sacre); Intermède; Danse des Sorcières) (1893) [15:58]
Légende for cello and orchestra (1920s) [4:06]
Poème for cello and orchestra (1920s) [5:40]
Suite in B flat major (Grave, tempo di minuetto; Adagio affetuoso; Marcia) (1880s) [15:11]
Moïna, poème héroïque: Danse armée (1885) [3:09]
David Cohen (cello)
Richard Piéta (violin)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège et de la Communauté Wallonie-Bruxelles/Jean-Pierre Haeck
rec. 2004, Salle Philharmonique de Liège
MUSIQUE EN WALLONIE MEW0421 [75:41]

This CD is the focus for a collection of shortish orchestral works by a Liège composer with feet planted firmly either side of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A traditionalist, he belongs, it seems, alongside other Belgians including Biarent, de Boeck and, to some extent, Jean Rogister (1879-1964), the latter championed by Musique en Wallonie and Koch International. Dupuis was a very considerable voice in Belgian musical life. Amongst much else, he had major stage works to his name and conducted many operatic premieres in the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie. He died in Bruges.

Pour un drame broods purposefully amid what feels like a warm summer night. It then gathers itself at 3.10 for a fugal flight. Along the way it pumps alternating anger and sweetness (5.20) and ends in an accelerating tempest (6.58). The whole work is solidly orchestrated and prompts thoughts of Brahms' Tragic Overture and Franck's Symphony.

Macbeth opens, as befits its subject, with a sour and slow fanfare. Dastardly deeds and high anxiety are afoot. A ponderous pizzicato accentuates the gloom despite honeyed woodwind musings. A skeletal French horn denotes pregnant tension. There is about this a touch of the darker passages from Tchaikovsky's Hamlet and Francesca (5:30). This is not the work's first recording. Ricercar recorded it with the same orchestra but directed by Pierre Bartholomée. It is CD13 in the Liège orchestra's 50-CD box.

The disc lets us hear three works for cello and orchestra. Invocation sets out its stall in treacly seething defiance. However, the cello line is confiding, sweet and sustained. It is rather akin to Bruch. The Légende is a toothsome confection where, once more, memories of Bruch are never far off. Here they are tempered by an equally soothing Tchaikovskian cantabile. The piece ends with a conventional orchestral thunderclap. The Poème is a thoughtful piece. It is as if a young poet is leaning out from a high balcony above a vista criss-crossed with mingling streams of melancholia and honey. Unlike the Légende it reaches its destination in peace.
 
The Prélude et Danse yearns away in a less complicated atmosphere than Invocation, although Bruch is again in evidence. It ends light on the foot and the whole work functions rather like a concerto in miniature. There is a strange, high tinkling alarm bell as part of the percussion in the background just before the final pages.
 
The early Suite in D is inflected by dance. The Pantomime suggests an Alpine milieu with mountains looking down in majesty on village celebrations. The sweet and hesitant Intermède would work well with Massenet. It's all very romantic and boasts an intricately clever ending after pages where the oboe prominently engages in country terpsichore. The fairy Mendelssohnian Danse des Sorcières suggests the supernatural. Soon it takes on the rowdy orchestral intimations of Mussorgsky but glimpsed through Schumann's palette. There's a nice steadily pulsed fanfare at 1:51.
 
The Suite in B flat major at first intimates a grave affair. Dupuis is a practised hand at suggesting oppressive clouds. However, from this background comes a winsome melody like Binge but then darkening in the manner of Elgar's Wand of Youth suites. The movement ends in a protesting forte. The Adagio affetuoso is dominated by a chilly but touching violin solo. The final Marcia is slowly and stiffly stepped out. Its fabric has a strand of sentimentality - even absurdity - woven in among the pride and bombast. There's a crash and smash ending (1:29).
 
Moïna, poème héroïque: Danse armée (1885) is just a short part of a larger work written for orchestra and voices. It’s a stirring Elgarian march, rowdy and loud, with twittering woodwind decoration.

This is not quite the only Dupuis tackled by MusicWeb International. There are five songs on another Belgian CD (review). Their heavy Germanic aspect is leavened by a ready lyric talent. This stands between a perfumed Debussian voice and the livelier songs of Fauré.

The whole of this superbly presented and luminously recorded disc is also to be found as part of the extravagantly attractive Liège Orchestra's 1960-2010 celebratory box. There it is on CD44.

The indispensable booklet notes in French, Walloon and English are by Michèle Isaac.

Rob Barnett

 

 




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