DUPRE: Works for Organ, Vol. 9 (Bruce Neswick/ Clyde Beavers/ Jennifer Rende/ Timothy Durbin) (Naxos: 8.554378)
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Works for Organ, Vol.
Marcel Dupre was the musical successor to that great trio of Parisianorganist-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, Dupre also presided at the organof St Sulpice Church in Paris from 1934 until his death. His many compositionsin several liturgical and symphonic forms reflect a classical, orderly mind-setand a compositional style very much concerned with structure and traditionalcounterpoint but nonetheless enriched by an advanced, and sometimes polytonal,harmonic language.
Dupre's works for organ reflect his equal concern for the liturgical andconcert r??les played by that instrument. A mind as searching and humanistic ashis would not have been content with restricting the organ to its typicalecclesiastical confines (though what he does to revive the art of the churchorganist is on a par with Bach's work); rather, Dupre answers the urge toexplore the outside world, to see what might transpire when organ and otherinstruments (beyond the voice) combine. Thus we are presented with the threemajor chamber works on this recording, while his compositions also include twoconcertos 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 Dupre's chamber works and is dedicated to the cellist PaulBazelaire, a colleague at the Paris Conservatoire. It is a work of lyricalcharm and very clear structure, the outer movements being in sonata form, withtwo contrasting themes. The middle movement, in ABA structure, achieves itscontrast through a careful metrical shift that keeps the inner pulse constantbut relaxes the outer. Waltz becomes song before reverting back to waltz - allwith wit and ease.
The Trio for violin, violoncello and organ, Op. 55, is dedicatedto Louis Chacaton, another colleague, and assistant director at the Paris Conservatoire.
Elusive in structure and advanced in harmonic language, the three movements ofthe Trio nevertheless convey a strong forward thrust and make of theorgan an equal partner to the demanding lines of the stringed instruments. Theeerie writing for the strings at the end of the first movement, on the onehand, and the rambunctious presto finale of the third movement, on theother, illustrate the broad range of Dupre's musical mind.
The Quartet for violin, viola, violoncello and organ, Op. 52, isthe earliest of the chamber works recorded here and, in some ways, the mosteasily comprehended. A hard-edged Preludio gives way to an airy,light-headed Scherzando. The Larghetto has all the charm andbeguiling simplicity of folk-song and ends on an almost unresolved note in theorgan part. The Rondo has an open-air feel about it and seems worldsaway from the composer's more typically intellectual mode.
Regina Coeli, Op. 64, dates from the final years of Dupre's life and is dedicated tothe memory of Denise Raffy, organist of the church in Elbeuf where Dupre'sfather had begun his career as an organist. Of the four Marian antiphonstraditionally sung at the evening office of Compline, Regina Coeli isthe one set aside for Eastertide. The alleluias of the text notwithstanding,Dupre seems to be charting a more meditative course than might be suggested bythis tune and text at a superficial first liturgical glance. The almosthymn-like texture of the organ setting reflects a quiet joy and confidence inthe resurrection and perhaps a certain reverence for the dedicatee, whoseecclesiastical association may have struck Dupre as poignant.
The Seventy-nine Chorales, Op. 28, represent an outstandingpedagogical achievement on the composer's part: not only do they serve thepurpose of introducing to the beginner the chorale melodies employed by Bach;they also demonstrate to the organist how to compose or improvise on a giventheme using a single motivic device - a great encouragement to those of uswhose creativity needs occasional trimming. In this sense, this collection isDupre's Orgelb??chlein and, like Bach's work, a generous nod toward theProtestant tradition of hymn-singing from the pen of a devout Catholic steepedin the ancient chant of the Church.