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Dupré: La France Au Calvaire; Messiaen, Et Al / Backhouse

Release Date: 12/24/2002 
Label:  Guild   Catalog #: 7239   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Marcel DupréJean LanglaisJehan-Ariste AlainOlivier Messiaen
Performer:  Colin CampbellCatherine DenleyHelen NeevesJeremy Filsell,   ... 
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

An extraordinarily powerful work, born out of fury, superbly performed

Although the Vasari Singers have already given us a taste of La France au Calvaire (10/01), this is the first time the complete work has appeared on disc. And an astonishing work it is, too, setting, to quote the booklet note, ‘a curious libretto’ by René Herval who, like Dupré, was a native of Rouen. Appalled by the devastation wrought on his native city during the Second World War, Dupré vents all his anger and passion into this 65-minute oratorio, its movements dedicated to six French saints and framed by a Prologue and Final.

Principally known for his organ music, it might seem strange to question Dupré’s
Read more use of the organ here as the sole means of instrumental accompaniment. But despite Jeremy Filsell’s stunning virtuosity and brilliant handling of the not-always-perfectly-in-tune Douai Abbey organ, I can’t help feeling that the score cries out for an orchestra.

No such reservations about the performance: in a word, stunning. The bleak ugliness of Christ nailed to the cross is compellingly portrayed by Matthew Beale, Catherine Denley makes an arresting France appealing for forgiveness for her misguided people, Colin Campbell fulfils the dual roles of St Denis and the voice of Christ with suitable gravitas and authority, and Helen Neeves is a beautifully innocent St Clotilde (magically set against a decidedly Messiaenic organ backdrop).

As for Jeremy Backhouse and his superb Vasari Singers, they excel even by their own high standards. The men evoke suitably violent Barbarians as they call for Christ’s death, the women provide a moment of absolute wonder as they sing to St Theresa, and the entire choir moves from the passionate followers of Joan of Arc, through the gloriously triumphant (‘Le Christ est encore’), and the miserably wretched (‘J’ai faim’) to the luminously prayerful (‘Saints, martyrs, phalanges’).

The three motets which share the disc seem in comparison a trifle disappointing: Langlais’ Festival Alleluia, despite opening with great verve and spirit, overstays its welcome by a good six minutes; Alain’s gentle O Salutaris is really little more than an exercise in Bach-style chorale writing; and, for all its stature as a 20th-century choral classic, Messiaen’s O sacrum convivium here lacks a sense of mystery. But that disappointment is only because the motets precede a work of extraordinary emotional impact and a performance of exceptional power.

-- Marc Rochester, Gramophone [11/2002]
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Works on This Recording

La France au Calvaire, Op. 49 by Marcel Dupré
Performer:  Colin Campbell (Baritone), Catherine Denley (Alto), Helen Neeves (Soprano),
Jeremy Filsell (Organ), Matthew Beale (Tenor)
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945-1956; France 
Language: French 
Festival Alleluia by Jean Langlais
Performer:  Jeremy Filsell (Organ)
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; France 
Language: Latin 
O salutaris hostia de Dugay by Jehan-Ariste Alain
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1935; France 
Language: Latin 
O sacrum convivium! by Olivier Messiaen
Conductor:  Jeremy Backhouse
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vasari Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; France 
Language: Latin 

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