WORKS: Organ Works, Vol. 3: Inventions, Op. 50/13-24; Preludes and Fugues, Op. 36/1-3; Trois Hymnes, Op. 58
PERFORMER: Jeremy Filsell (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 7159
The heroic Filsell continues his ascent of the Himalayan task of the complete Dupré organ works. Vol. 4 gives us the Symphonie-Passion, one of the landmarks in the oeuvre, and a genuine masterpiece of the 20th-century French repertoire. It was originally improvised in 1921 at the giant organ of the Wanamaker department store in Philadelphia, and subsequently written down when the significance of the event became apparent. Filsell’s tempi are characteristically upbeat, and the articulation spiky, especially when compared with the recording Dupré made when he was in his eighties. Perhaps because of his advanced years, Dupré gives a grand, broad performance, which particularly suits the portentous broodings of the first movement, the ‘World awaiting the Saviour’. Filsell’s cleanness and agility is always to be admired, though the music at times demands something more.
Filsell gathers all the accolades, however, in the virtuoso pieces. The three Preludes and Fugues, Op. 36, are extraordinary tours de force of both technique and intellect. If the ideas are not as immediate as those of the early set of Preludes and Fugues, their mind-bending concatenations reveal a composer fascinated with the inner workings of music. With a watchmaker’s fastidiousness, he combines themes, inverts and stretches them, and maps out their progress entry by entry in the score. Filsell diverts the attention away from technical sophistry and unfailingly delivers the musical content, an achievement which cannot be overestimated. William Whitehead