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CD Review

La France au Calvaire

  • Marcel Dupré: La France au Calvaire, Op. 49
  • Jean Langlais: Festival Allelulia
  • Jehan Alain: O Salutaris
  • Olivier Messiaen: O sacrum convivium
Helen Neeves, soprano
Jeremy Filsell, organ
Vasari Singers/Jeremy Blackhouse
Guild GMCD7239 78m DDD
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The main work on this well-filled disc is an intriguing première recording of Marcel Dupré's oratorio entitled, 'La France au Calvaire' written after the destruction of Rouen in the 2nd World War. It is an imposing piece of great beauty and sets the lives of several famous French saints in a choral and organ clothing and context.

Amongst the most spiritually edifying are the pieces dedicated to Saint Clotilde, Saint Vincent de Paul and the innocently captivating Saint Therese. There is a certain spirit of defiance caught throughout the work that is well captured by the group performers under Backhouse especially the much underrated soprano, Helen Neeves who is quite ravishingly captivating.

I was deeply moved by Dupré's music which manages to convey an intimate sense of spirituality matched by irresistible momentum and intensity of feeling. The accompanying pieces are, of course, of a shorter provenance but are still very valid. Jean Langlais complex 'Allelulia' is a brazen call to faith whilst the intimacy of Alain's 'Salutaris' makes us mourn his loss on the battlefield in 1940, that darkest of years for France. Messiaen's 'O sacrum convivium' is an early work that does not lack anything in the spiritual vigour of its successors.

This is a thrilling disc full of some pretty fantastic music that deserves the strongest possible recommendations.

Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech