“An immaculate disc of spellbinding music wonderfully sung and superbly recorded.”
Marc Rochester, Gramophone
“Unless you have a very hardened heart you will, you must, respond warmly to this angelic music.”
David Wright, Classical Musicweb
- Conductor: Jeremy Backhouse
- Organist: Jeremy Filsell, Ian Curror
- Soloist: Helen Neeves (Soprano), Matthew Beale (Tenor), Colin Campbell (Bass)
Released by Guild
- Recorded at Douai Abbey, Upper Woolhampton, Nr. Reading, Berkshire, February 2001
- Recorded in 24-bit resolution
- Monitored using PMC Loudspeakers
World Premiere recordings for all repertoire.
Dupré Choral Works
An immaculate disc of spellbinding music wonderfully sung and superbly recorded
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.
“I do not think of myself as a composer”, Marcel Dupré humbly admitted at the height of his career. Clearly, even with his great musical gifts, and undoubtedly affected by the devastation of war, he was not prepared to enter the hurly-burly arena of the jobbing composer. His early choral music, however, contains beautifully crafted melodic lines and the closely-knit harmonies of the period. It has a wistful, lonely, almost tragic quality sung here by very English sounding singers accompanied by a distinctly non-Cavallé-Coll organ
Two of these compositions were sparked off by events of the two World Wars. Unlike Lili Boulanger’s contemporaneous setting of Psalm 130 in the French language, Marcel Dupré’s De Profundis of 1917 uses the Latin text, supplemented by the responsory from the Requiem Mass. Although Dupré scored his 45-minute work for orchestra and organ, he authorised the solo organ accompaniment which Jeremy Filsell plays here with verve. The scale of the design is justified by the range of expressive contrasts, from the funeral tread of the opening verse to the elevated close in transfigured light. The second verse features a solo trio, the fourth a tenor solo and the sixth a duet for soprano and bass. The musical language is late-Romantic with modal elements. The choir displays sensitivity and steel; Helen Neeves, Matthew Beale and Colin Campbell are stylish soloists.
Completed in 1953, the oratorio La France au Calvaire employs the French tongue for the most part. An allegorical prologue is followed by tone portraits of six French saints and a final dialogue between France (soprano), her people (double chorus) and Christ on the Cross (bass). Because of the subject matter this work was never calculated to gain a wide circulation, but the finale is proof of the mature Dupré’s dramatic power.
The motets show a similar diversity of technique. Filsell is joined by second organist Ian Curror in two of the Quatre Motets of 1917. The sopranos shine darkly in Ave Maria. Ave verum corpus dates from 1936, the devoutly Marian Deux Motets from 1958. For Dupré admirers, essential listening.
This is a welcome disc, perfectly recorded with exemplary performances. The sound of the organ, the king of instruments, is choice.
The intonation of this fine ensemble of singers is laudatory and their varied colour a delight. The conductor has notable interpretative skills and his understanding of tempi is spot on.
This is choral singing at its best and I still have the sound of that superb organ ringing in my ears.
I found a few pages of the 45 minute De Profundis sometimes rather ordinary but, to compensate, the penultimate movement is very fine. The real quality of Dupré’s music is that it is usually strong and the continuity is good. There is no going off at tangents, paddings out, nauseous wallowing but straight music with clear direction and purpose. The design and craftsmanship is unobtrusive and, as a result, very effective.
The early Quatre Motets of 1916 are, to my mind, the most appealing work. Yes, they may be eclectic but none the worse for that. The opening organ solo sets the scene and the organist’s registration throughout is very well chosen. The music has a very telling spiritual feel without sounding remote as much religious music can. The simplicity of the settings never makes the music banal and, at times, the music is, in fact, very moving. To my taste, it is music like this that has that rare ability to elevate our desire for the Eternal. Listen to the opening of the second motet and enjoy the sheer beauty of the sound.
The final motet was a revelation. Perhaps I heard it at a time when I needed a musical tonic. Very special!
I could continue in this vein but I do recommend you make this discovery for yourself. Unless you have a very hardened heart you will, you must, respond warmly to this angelic music.
The great French organist Marcel Dupré has been enjoying a boom on CD in the last year, thanks mainly to two complete surveys of his organ works from Naxos and Guild. Guild hasn’t quite finished, though…here’s a disc of Dupré’s choral music, with the Vasari Singers and the organist who’s shown himself to be such a fine interpreter of Dupré’s music, Jeremy Filsell. Parts of the early De Profundis could almost be from the Durufle Requiem.
The first part of the De Profundis by Marcel Dupré, a large-scale setting of Psalm 130 from 1916, dedicated to the soldiers who’d been killed in the war he was unfit to fight in. The Vasari Singers meet all the challenges of this CD head-on, and apart from occasionally wishing for a more authentically French timbre, and more weight in the big moments, I enjoyed the whole thing. Jeremy Filsell is the organist, Jeremy Backhouse conducts. For anyone who likes the Faure and Durufle Requiems, or who’s got into Dupré’s organ music and wants to know what else he wrote…go right ahead. It’s new from Guild, and it matches their complete Dupré organ series, with one of Monet’s atmospheric studies of Rouen Cathedral on the booklet.
Celebrating the Vasari Singers’ 21st anniversary, this disc showcases both them and the choral works of Dupré excellently. Familiar repertoire such as the Quatre Motets (Op.9) and the Ave verum (Op.34 No.1) lies alongside the less well-known Final from his oratorio La France au Calvaire(Op. 49). Without doubt, the highlight is the De Profundis (Op.18) ; the solo singing is sublime (particularly in Fiant aures tua) and the chorus is always beautifully controlled and exciting. Jeremy Filsell brings the best out of the organ at Douai Abbey, exploring all the necessary colours in Dupré’s rich organ accompaniments, whilst never being obtrusive. An informative booklet completes this superb disc – highly recommended.