DUPRÉ Preludes and Fugues, op. 7 in B, f, and g. FRANCK Chorals in E, b, and a • Florence Mustric (org) • MSR CLASSICS 1273 (66:01)
In April 1994, Florence Mustric, who has a music master’s in organ performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, became a major part of Music Near the Market. That series of free lunchtimeRead more programs enabled her to showcase Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church’s world famous Rudolph von Beckerath pipe organ. Known for its warmth of tone, this instrument has a clarity that allows every detail of a piece to be heard distinctly. With more than 3,000 pipes arrayed in 65 ranks, the instrument has tremendous power. On this disc she plays some amazingly intricate music by Marcel Dupré (1886–1971). This French organist, pianist, composer, and teacher was born into the family of an organist in Rouen. When Marcel was 14 years old, famed organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll installed an instrument in the family home. Marcel studied with Charles-Marie Widor at the Paris Conservatory and in 1914, he won the Prix de Rome. In 1926, he was appointed professor of organ performance and improvisation at the Paris Conservatory where one of his pupils was Olivier Messaien. Eight years later he succeeded Widor as organist of St. Sulpice in Paris, a post he held until his death. He wrote the three preludes and fugues of op. 7 in 1914. The first prelude is notably difficult and the third is replete with tremendously fast tempi that involve pedal chords. Both of these pieces were said by Widor to be unplayable and for many years Dupré was the only organist who played them. Because of his virtuosity, Dupré contributed extensively to the development of organ technique. Mustric, who seems very humble about her ability both in the material accompanying the disc and on her website, evidently lets her music speak for her. Her musicianship is magnificent and she plays this most difficult music with seeming ease. Assisting her on all the works she plays here was stop-puller Glen Loeffler. With the immense possibilities of this huge organ, pulling stops to change the colors of the music is also an important job. John Scott has recorded the Dupré preludes and fugues on the organ of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. His playing is excellent, but the pieces are on two different discs and the sound from 1993 and 1998 tends to be muddy.
Liège-born César Franck (1822-1890) studied privately in Paris where his teachers included Anton Reicha. Franck became organist and maître de chapelle at the newly consecrated Sainte-Clotilde in 1858. He would hold that post until his death. Soon after hiring him, the parish installed a new three-manual Cavaillé-Coll instrument. His ability as a virtuoso organist helped sell many of his compositions for that organ. In 1872, he became a professor at the Paris Conservatory where his pupils included Vincent d’Indy, Ernest Chausson, and Henri Duparc. It was during the last year of his life that he wrote the three chorals played on this compact disc. The E-Major piece begins calmly but culminates in a joyous finale. The B Minor is meditative but calls the listener to attention with a set of astringent chords before returning to the meditation. The last work on this disc, the G-Minor Choral, opens with a brilliantly played toccata. It is followed with a piquant melody and ends with a luminous finale. Franck called the organ at Sainte-Clotilde his orchestra, hence Mustric’s album title Symphonies Spectacular and Sublime. With all the sound possibilities available from the Beckerath organ, Mustric can play music that approaches the symphonic and she renders these three chorals with panache while exploiting the full tonal resources of this magnificent instrument. The sound is a tiny bit dry but it allows a great deal of clarity and the perception of many details that could get lost in a warmer ambiance. There is a most interesting comparison for the Franck work. In 1957 Marcel Dupré made a memorable recording of the Franck Chorals on the Skinner organ at St. Thomas Church in New York City. The sound, of course, is not state of the art, but the performance is unforgettable.