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ClassicsOnline Home » DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 9
By Roger Fisher
"Naxos have put us in their debt by providing a substantial organ repertoire with fine players and excellent recordings. Not least of their achievements is this latest disc, which gives us an extra dimension, by including works for organ and strings. Such pieces are not always easy to perform for practical reasons, so Dupre's effective works for these combinations of instruments are not heard as much as they might be. These pieces will repay investigation and, at budget price, don't hesitate."
Works for Organ, Vol.
Marcel Dupré was the musical successor to that great trio of Parisian
organist-composers, Louis Vierne, Charles-Marie Widor and Alexandre Guilmant,
all of whom taught him at the Paris Conservatoire. A brilliant recitalist,
improvisateur and composer in his own right, Dupré also presided at the organ
of St Sulpice Church in Paris from 1934 until his death. His many compositions
in several liturgical and symphonic forms reflect a classical, orderly mind-set
and a compositional style very much concerned with structure and traditional
counterpoint but nonetheless enriched by an advanced, and sometimes polytonal,
Dupré's works for organ reflect his equal concern for the liturgical and
concert rôles played by that instrument. A mind as searching and humanistic as
his would not have been content with restricting the organ to its typical
ecclesiastical confines (though what he does to revive the art of the church
organist is on a par with Bach's work); rather, Dupré answers the urge to
explore the outside world, to see what might transpire when organ and other
instruments (beyond the voice) combine. Thus we are presented with the three
major chamber works on this recording, while his compositions also include two
concertos for organ and orchestra and three works for organ and piano.
The Sonata in A minor for violoncello and organ, Op. 60,
is the last of Dupré's chamber works and is dedicated to the cellist Paul
Bazelaire, a colleague at the Paris Conservatoire. It is a work of lyrical
charm and very clear structure, the outer movements being in sonata form, with
two contrasting themes. The middle movement, in ABA structure, achieves its
contrast through a careful metrical shift that keeps the inner pulse constant
but relaxes the outer. Waltz becomes song before reverting back to waltz – all
with wit and ease.
The Trio for violin, violoncello and organ, Op. 55, is dedicated
to Louis Chacaton, another colleague, and assistant director at the Paris Conservatoire.
Elusive in structure and advanced in harmonic language, the three movements of
the Trio nevertheless convey a strong forward thrust and make of the
organ an equal partner to the demanding lines of the stringed instruments. The
eerie writing for the strings at the end of the first movement, on the one
hand, and the rambunctious presto finale of the third movement, on the
other, illustrate the broad range of Dupré's musical mind.
The Quartet for violin, viola, violoncello and organ, Op. 52, is
the earliest of the chamber works recorded here and, in some ways, the most
easily comprehended. A hard-edged Preludio gives way to an airy,
light-headed Scherzando. The Larghetto has all the charm and
beguiling simplicity of folk-song and ends on an almost unresolved note in the
organ part. The Rondo has an open-air feel about it and seems worlds
away from the composer's more typically intellectual mode.
Regina Coeli, Op. 64, dates from the final years of Dupré's life and is dedicated to
the memory of Denise Raffy, organist of the church in Elbeuf where Dupré's
father had begun his career as an organist. Of the four Marian antiphons
traditionally sung at the evening office of Compline, Regina Coeli is
the one set aside for Eastertide. The alleluias of the text notwithstanding,
Dupré seems to be charting a more meditative course than might be suggested by
this tune and text at a superficial first liturgical glance. The almost
hymn-like texture of the organ setting reflects a quiet joy and confidence in
the resurrection and perhaps a certain reverence for the dedicatee, whose
ecclesiastical association may have struck Dupré as poignant.
The Seventy-nine Chorales, Op. 28, represent an outstanding
pedagogical achievement on the composer's part: not only do they serve the
purpose of introducing to the beginner the chorale melodies employed by Bach;
they also demonstrate to the organist how to compose or improvise on a given
theme using a single motivic device – a great encouragement to those of us
whose creativity needs occasional trimming. In this sense, this collection is
Dupré's Orgelbüchlein and, like Bach's work, a generous nod toward the
Protestant tradition of hymn-singing from the pen of a devout Catholic steeped
in the ancient chant of the Church.
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DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 9