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Hyperion Records

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Voix du soir by Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
Reproduced by courtesy of the Musée Gustave Moreau, Paris
Track(s) taken from CDH55444
Recording details: July 1987
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: July 1988
Total duration: 18 minutes 52 seconds

'It was a real joy for me to hear how perfect was the sound and also the playing and singing of the interpreters' (Jean Langlais)

'Those unfamiliar with the music of Jean Langlais should lose no time and try this outstanding collection' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'Highly desirable at full price and even more so now. There’s no competition if you want both the Masses together. The Missa Salve regina is the high point of the recording for me—with a gloriously ceremonial organ part and harmonies which are at once of the 20th-century yet harking back to Machaut and before, this music deserves to be much better known and this is the very recording to do it' (MusicWeb International)

Messe solennelle
1951; à Monsieur le Chanoine H Hubert, Curé de Sainte Clotilde
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Gloria  [4'33] LatinEnglish

Other recordings available for download
Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor), Robert Quinney (organ)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Of the twentieth-century French organist-composers, Jean Langlais can claim to be one of the most important (after Messiaen), and probably the most prolific. He was born in 1907 in Brittany. Blind from childhood, he studied first with André Marchal, and then at the Paris Conservatoire with Marcel Dupré and Paul Dukas. Subsequently Langlais, too, became an influential teacher. He was for many years organiste titulaire of the church of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris, where his predecessors included Franck and Tournemire. The Messe solennelle dates from 1951 and is unquestionably his finest piece of church music. The organ part is conceived for the two separate instruments often found in French churches and cathedrals: the smaller orgue de chœur, which generally doubles the vocal lines, and the larger grand orgue, which is on the whole independent of the choir and the smaller organ, and which makes its own dramatic contribution to the musical setting. However, it is perfectly possible to perform the work on just one organ (as here), using registration to create the impression of two instruments.

Langlais’ distinctive harmonic language is rooted in modality, often underlined by the use of bare fifths and organum-like parallel movement, but also enriched by astringent, more dissonant chords and modes. His choral writing is effective; he sometimes writes in severe fugal style (as in the opening sections of the Gloria and Agnus Dei), and at other times in massive homophonic blocks of sound (the Sanctus), or in delicately sinuous and supple lines (such as the Benedictus and parts of the Kyrie). The organ adds colour and dramatic impact, and generally sets the mood and tone for each movement except the Gloria, in which Langlais achieves a spine-tingling coup de théâtre by reserving the first entry of the full organ until the end of the apparently academic, opening fugal section. The Sanctus begins excitingly with a driving organ introduction that builds up to the first thrilling cry of ‘Sanctus’. The Benedictus shows Langlais at his atmospheric best. The undulating organ part provides a shimmering, mystical backdrop for the otherwordly lines sung in parallel octaves by soprano and alto. In the liturgical context for which this music was conceived, this is an intensely effective and moving moment. The final Agnus Dei is dark and severe in mood until it reaches the final ‘dona nobis pacem’, which begins softly and then builds rapidly into an impassioned, blazing cry for peace as the grand organ brings the Mass to its radiant conclusion.

from notes by James O'Donnell © 2007

Other albums featuring this work
'The Feast of Michaelmas at Westminster Abbey' (CDA67643)
The Feast of Michaelmas at Westminster Abbey

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