June  2002

Theodore Dubois - The Seven Last Words Of Christ
Fidelio Audio FACD008
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]It’s Easter Sunday as I sit quietly absorbed in the wonderful performance of Theodore Dubois’ The Seven Last Words Of Christ. How utterly appropriate. Listening to this release from Fidelio Audio I have, laid out before me, the recording venue (the Eglise du Tres-Saint-Nom-de-Jesus, in Montreal, Canada). There is the pipe organ filling the front wall, the Radio Ville-Marie Choir is set just to the front of the organ, and the three soloists are standing before the choir. Ah, sometimes it’s good to be an audiophile music reviewer.

Theodore Dubois (1837-1924) has rarely received the praise due him as a composer. Lost in the shuffle between his glorious predecessors (Berlioz and Gounod) and his more famous contemporaries (Saint-SaŽns, Franck and Faurť), Dubois nevertheless strove to produce lasting religious and secular compositions. But it was his misfortune to be writing beautiful romantic works shortly before his countrymen’s musical tastes were reshaped by the innovations of Debussy, Ravel and Satie. And yet, despite these obstacles, this CD serves as ample evidence that the music he created has not been completely forgotten.

The Seven Last Words Of Christ is likely his most enduring (and endearing) work. Written in Paris in the year 1867, it was played there annually at the Eglise de la Madeline until 1965. Since that time it has become a staple of many Canadian parishes where it’s played, in whole or as excerpts, in its traditional form. But all of Dubois' efforts would be for naught if this disc's performance and sound were less than stellar.

No worry here, mates. The soloists -- soprano Monique Page, tenor Marc Hervieux and baritone Gaetan Laperriere -- supported by the Radio Ville-Marie Choir under the direction of Simon Fournier, in conjunction with organist Regis Rousseau, deliver a stunning and heartfelt recital. It’s easy to hear the passion they bring to this performance.

And when you combine that with the sound delivered on this CD by Fidelio Audio, well, you’re sitting atop the tote board. The sensation of being in the church during the recording session is overwhelming. This is among the best-sounding CDs I’ve ever heard. (A note of caution: Be very careful with the playback level on first listen. The dynamics are wide, and there is a 16Hz organ tone that can cause distress to your speakers if you're not careful.)

You can relate to this recording in a number of different ways: as an act of devotion, as a classical masterpiece, as audiophile ear candy, or simply for pleasure. It’s your choice -- just don’t miss listening to it. There is a reason why this disc was chosen as the featured selection at the 2002 Son & Image show in Montreal: it's a flat-out stunner.