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Hyperion Records

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La Gaine by Emile Fabry (1865-1966)
Peter Nahum At The Leicester Galleries, London / www.leicestergalleries.com
Track(s) taken from CDA67603
Recording details: July 2006
St John's College Chapel, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: April 2007
Total duration: 33 minutes 38 seconds

'Effective and forceful performances … I particularly enjoyed the more intimate textures at the end of the Peeters' Agnus Dei. The few extra solo items, featuring Tom Gould on the violin, are charming too' (BBC Music Magazine)

'David Hill is to be congratulated for exploring this unfamiliar repertoire and then presenting it in such confident performances' (International Record Review)

'The choir is in fine fettle here: the sound is focused and well integrated top to bottom and it can bring forth huge climaxes and truly soft passagework equally well. With such forces at his disposal, Hill can bring out the considerable nuances in the piece … I cannot imagine it being better done than here' (Fanfare, USA)

'This is a wonderful disc bringing a collection of rarely heard, let alone recorded, devotional works to light … [Messe en l'honneur du Saint-Sacrement] is an engaging work … subtle both in the strains of variety within and the expressive power the music adds to the text … Jongen's motet on 1895, Pie Jesu, shows treble Alexander Robarts on angelic form set against the organ … the Choir of St John's College Cambridge under David Hill are on terrific form. London City Brass know how to bring off a good flourish when they see one, while organist Paul Provost works tirelessly throughout to provide the backbone of musical thought on a disc much worth your while' (The Organ)

'L'idée était également excellente de la part du label anglais Hyperion d'intercaler entre les deux Messes, en une sorte d'intermède, trois beaux Motets de jeunesse de Jongen, qui complètent de manière adéquate et séduisante le portrait du compositeur liégeois le plus important' (anaclase.com)

Messe en l'honeur du Saint-Sacrement, Op 130
composer
1945; Credo 1948
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Kyrie  [4'51] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [7'54] LatinEnglish
Credo  [8'27] LatinEnglish

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Vocal composition was always a tributary of Jongen’s mainstream output (his chamber and instrumental music), and after 1900 he produced only four more motets. There are nonetheless some sixty solo songs and a number of secular choral pieces, several written during his World War I exile in England. It was only after his retirement as Director of the Brussels Conservatoire in 1939, however, that he regained an interest in choral writing. This came about partly through a frequent correspondence with one of his lifelong friends, Georges Alexis, a wealthy amateur musician who had been a fellow student at the Liège Conservatoire. Letters from Alexis to Jongen written between 1943 and 1946 leave little doubt that it was Alexis who persuaded Jongen to compose the Messe en l’honneur du Saint-Sacrement (generally known as the ‘Messe de la Fête-Dieu’) to celebrate the seven-hundredth anniversary of the institution of the Corpus Christi festival at St-Martin, Liège.

Many ideas for the music also came from Alexis: ‘the propers of the Mass … for Corpus Christi … contain magnificent Gregorian themes; perhaps you may be inspired by them?’ A later mention of the choral works with organ and brass of Gabrieli certainly gave Jongen the idea for the scoring, and it was perhaps Alexis’s vision that caused Jongen to write in a more contrapuntal vein than usual: a fugato with a regular countersubject for the ‘Pleni sunt caeli’ of the Sanctus, for instance; the main theme of the Benedictus announced in canon at the fifth; and the use of strict counterpoint in the vocal parts of the ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ (Gloria) and the ‘Et resurrexit’ (Credo). Alexis asked for the Kyrie to be without clamour and for the conclusion of the Gloria and the ‘Hosannas’ of the Sanctus to incorporate ‘superimposed voices … with organ, rising in a Babylonian crescendo, as Lekeu would have said’.

Sadly, Jongen’s personal circumstances prevented his composing anything between August 1944 and March 1945. His brother Alphonse, to whom he was particularly close, died after a difficult operation (the Mass is dedicated to the memory of Alphonse) and the news that his son, Jacques, had been arrested by the Gestapo left Jongen without the will to live. His memoirs become morbid, later describing how he felt like a rag, incapable of anything. The year 1944 he simply referred to as deathly, but the tone changes dramatically at the end of March 1945: ‘Jacques was in Buchenwald … Suddenly … we learnt that he was in Weimar and was soon to be liberated by the Americans—WHAT A RESURRECTION! It was then that I began to write the Mass.’

So it was that Jongen began to compose this complex work in a state of relief. Subtly cyclical, the links between the movements are not always easy to decipher: the organ chant of the opening Kyrie, for instance, is not only used in the vocal lines of the final Kyrie but is also developed at the ‘Qui tollis’ and ‘Qui sedes’ sections of the Gloria. It relates strongly to the ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ fugato (Gloria) and more subtly to many of the lines in the Benedictus and even the concluding section of the Agnus Dei. There are also links in the embedded contrapuntal vocal sections, which are often texturally rather than thematically related.

from notes by John Scott Whiteley © 2007

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