Album Review

Posted: Thursday 11th October 2001
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Dupré: Choral Works – Gramophone

For all but a handful of devotees Marcel Dupré is inseparably associated with the organ. Dupré himself conceded this: ‘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.’ However, any thoughts that Dupré’s choral music might merely be organ music with words are immediately quashed by even the briefest snatch of the extended De Profundis (particularly the thrilling ‘Et ipse redimet Israel’ with the organ’s great pillars of sound underpinning the richly textured and rhythmically exhilarating chorus). Here is truly impressive choral music, every bit as impressive as Pizzetti’s unaccompanied setting of the same text. True, the organ does feature prominently, occasionally (as in the fourth of the Op9 Motets) assuming a decidedly virtuoso role, but it is clearly always the servant of the choir, and for the most part it is the choral lines rather than the organ accompaniments which require the greatest virtuosity.

To this end it is hard to imagine a choral group more ideally suited to the task. We know from their already impressive discography that the Vasari Singers are one of the most accomplished small choral groups of our time and for this compelling, passionate, often deeply moving and always technically demanding music, every ounce (sorry, gramme) of their artistry, control and tonal variety is called in to play.

What, I think, distinguishes this disc above many others from the Vasari Singers – and which leads me to suggest it will make a strong contender for the next Gramophone Awards – is Guild’s wonderfully spacious yet crystal-clear recording and Jeremy Filsell’s immaculate organ support. He knows he has a supporting rather than a solo role here, and seems content to take a back seat. But there again, with 12 outstanding discs of Dupré’s complete organ music recently released, he can afford to rest on his laurels and allow others to bask in the limelight.

Marc Rochester