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As usual from Hortus, an iron-strong concept: a reconstructed early 20th-century Gregorian Vespers in which Marcel Dupré’s 15 Versets are interspersed with accompanied chant and bookended by the Cortège et litanie and the Carillon op.27/4 respectively. The idea is a brilliant one, and showcases wonderfully Dupré’s Versets, (commissioned by Claude Johnson, the general director of Rolls-Royce who had heard Dupré improvise at Notre Dame in 1919). These miniatures ‘alternate’, as the fascinating programme note puts it, ‘real/false pasticcios, genial pieces in the Fauré-esque vein of the pre-war years, and modernistic explorations.’ This is Dupré, perhaps, at his youthful best. Like Hortus’s previous ventures in the field of liturgical reconstruction (and especially their fabulous Lefébure-Wély Christmas Eve Mass from St Sulpice), this feels touchingly authentic; the sacristy bell interrupts the Cortège precisely at the moment of its theme’s return and the whole flows seamlessly. Genvrin, as usual, plays with a profound sense of poetry – he is surely one of France’s most underrated organists. Thomas Ospital’s Gregorian accompaniments on the 1856 Merklin Orgue de Chœur are understated and atmospheric. Only the singing lets this down: the genuineness of the Schola’s devotion can’t quite make up for its consistent flatness. It’s a pity, too, that no information about the very interesting (and terrific sounding) Mutin-Cavaillé-Coll is found in the booklet. Originally built for the Imperial Conservatory in St Petersburg in 1914, it was installed in Douai in 1922, but even at this late date still features mechanical action with no fewer than four Barker machines.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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