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Hyperion Records

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Notre Dame, Paris, 1884 by Felix Benoist
Berko Fine Paintings, Knokke-Zoute / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA66898
Recording details: June 1996
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: February 1997
Total duration: 15 minutes 38 seconds

Messe à deux chœurs et deux orgues, Op 36
composer
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Kyrie  [4'06]
Gloria  [4'10]
Sanctus  [1'55]
Benedictus  [1'24]
Agnus Dei  [4'03]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
When it first entered the repertoire at Saint-Sulpice, the Mass was well received: ‘… it has the strength of Bach and Handel, combined with the penetrating grace of Mendelssohn, the whole animated by Catholic sentiment. The Agnus Dei is one of the most delicate and inspired of Widor’s creations’, wrote one critic. When Widor was an old man, Vierne confessed that there was still no other organist who could match ‘his authority, his sense of grandeur, his imperious mastery’, and these qualities are already evident in the choral works. Vierne also described Widor’s style as ‘plus décoratif qu’émotif’, implying perhaps a lack of real substance, and a comparison of their respective settings of the Mass is instructive in this respect. Widor’s setting is designed to reinforce the splendour of the liturgy without extending it to an inconvenient length, and concision is achieved through minimal repetition of the words (indeed, the Benedictus verges on the perfunctory). The work impresses by its sheer magnificence, but Vierne’s Messe Solennelle is undoubtedly of greater musical interest.

from notes by David Gammie © 1997

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