Dupre: Symphonie-passion; Cortège et litanie; Symphony No. 2

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Symphonie-passion; Cortège et litanie; Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: John Scott (organ)
St Paul’s Cathedral organist John Scott has always been a player of unassuming virtuosity, gifted with a stunning technique allied to a fastidious musicianship, honed by George Guest when Scott was organ scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge. If Vol. 1 (Hyperion CDA 66205) served up the hors d’oeuvres and dessert of Dupré’s output (the early Preludes and Fugues, the Esquisses and the Noël Variations), Vol. 2 contains the meat: the Symphonie-passion (a written-down version of an improvisation, based on four well-known liturgical tunes, given on the Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia in 1921), the Second Symphony of 1929, together with the Cortège et litanie and other works.


Dupré’s own prodigious technique was allied to a fertile imagination and a genius for improvisation; his music transformed the idiom of his teachers Guilmant and Widor as much as Stravinsky’s did that of Rimsky-Korsakov. Original, brilliantly coloured and pungently – rather than Romantically – chromatic, it requires grand instruments to do it justice.


The Willis/Mander instrument at St Paul’s perhaps has even more to offer than a big French Cavaillé-Coll organ; Scott chooses impeccably from the huge orchestral palette and achieves vivid spatial effects with the detached chorus and reed stops in the Dome and West sections. The engineers have achieved a miracle of clarity in spite of the nine-second reverberation. This is thrilling music, thrillingly played. Graeme Kay