WORKS: Les vêpres de la Vierge
PERFORMER: Philippe Lefèbvre, David Hill (organ)Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge/Mary Berry
CATALOGUE NO: HAVPCD 170 DDD
This unique venture owes its greatest debt to an Englishman. Claude Johnson, managing director of Rolls Royce, was at Notre Dame Cathedral in August 1919, when Marcel Dupré improvised a set of 15 pieces around the chanted biblical texts of the Vespers service. Johnson was moved to commission Dupré to write down these improvisations for further performance, which they received both in France, and in England at the Royal Albert Hall the following year.
Cambridge musicologist Mary Berry seeks to recreate the special atmosphere of the original Vespers service by alternating passages of chant and organ music in a liturgical sequence. The whole effect is quite stunning from a technical and musical viewpoint. Both the small ensemble of voices and the huge five-manual Notre Dame organ have been captured exceptionally well. Dupré’s music explores a vast range of musical styles, ranging from Bach-inspired chorale-preludes to exultant toccatas, and Lefèbvre brings to the music a wonderful sense of fantasy. Disciplined, yet naturally flowing chanting from Schola Gregoriana make this disc one to savour. Stephen Haylett