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Posted: Sunday 10th August 2003
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Dupré: La France au Calvaire – Church Times

I much admired the Vasari Singers’ Gramophone Choice Guild recording of De Profundis (GMCD 7220), Marcel Dupré’s setting of Psalm 130, composed late in World War I and dedicated to France’s soldiers who died in that carnage.

La France au Calvaire (GMCD 7239) is Dupré’s even more powerful response to the Second World War, especially the devastation of Rouen, and was composed for the reopening of the city’s restored Norman cathedral. An oblique, poetic text begins at the foot of the cross; what follows is a fascinating, medieval-infused evocation of France’s patrons, St Denis, Ste Clotilde, the sainted King Louis, Ste Thérèse of Lisieux, and Joan of Arc.

It’s a deeply passionate work, richly chorded; and Jeremy Backhouse’s Vasari forces, abetted once more by the considerate organ texturing of Jeremy Filsell, deliver a deeply affecting performance in this first recording. The darkly glowing tenor narrations are exquisitely sung by Matthew Beale. Midway the work marginally loses momentum, regaining it in the finale, in the ringing solo evocations of a personified France and Christ himself. A fine discovery, tenderly sung and beautifully recorded.

Roderic Dunnett
Church Times