“ La France au Calvaire is an astonishing work, setting, to quote the booklet note, 'a curious libretto' by René Herval who, like Dupré, was a native of Rouen. Appalled by the devastation wrought on his native city during the Second World War, Dupré vents all his anger and passion into this 65-minute oratorio, its movements dedicated to six French saints and framed by a Prologue and Final. Principally known for his organ music, it might seem strange to question Dupré's use of the organ here as the sole means of instrumental accompaniment. But despite Jeremy Filsell's stunning virtuosity and brilliant handling of the not always perfectly in tune Douai Abbey organ, the score seems to cry out for an orchestra. No such reservations about the performance: in a word, stunning. The bleak ugliness of Christ nailed to the cross is compellingly portrayed by Matthew Beale, Catherine Denley makes an arresting France appealing for forgiveness for her misguided people, Colin Campbell fulfils the dual roles of St Denis and the voice of Christ with suitable gravitas and authority, and Helen Neeves is a beautifully innocent St Clotilde (magically set against a decidedly Messiaenic organ backdrop). As for Jeremy Backhouse and his superb Vasari Singers, they excel even by their own high standards. The three motets which share the disc seem in comparison a trifle disappointing. But that disappointment is only because the motets precede a work of extraordinary emotional impact and a performance of exceptional power.”
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