Hyperion Records

Litanies
composer
1937

Recordings
'Organ Fireworks, Vol. 5' (CDA66676)
Organ Fireworks, Vol. 5
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Details
Track 1 on CDA66676 [4'27] Last few CD copies remaining

Litanies
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Jehan Alain was a near contemporary of the great composer and organist Olivier Messiaen, possibly rivalling his vision and genius, but Alain’s life was cut short when he was killed in action at the age of 29, just five days before France withdrew from World War II. He had received his first organ lessons from his father, and then progressed to the Paris Conservatoire. He became a brilliant keyboard player and a compulsive composer, who saw music as revelatory of states of the soul, and who was drawn to music’s power to create a sense of mystery rather than express emotions.

Litanies began as an organ piece called Phantasmagorie from which Alain drew some material for the later work which he originally called Supplications. The plainsong phrase which opens the music is repeated continually, propelled by a locomotive rhythm to an ecstatic climax. Alain once wrote about how to play Litanies. ‘You must create an impression of passionate incantation. Prayer is not a lament but a devastating tornado, flattening everything is its way. It is also an obsession. You must fill men’s ears with it, and God’s ears too! If you get to the end without feeling exhausted you have neither understood [Litanies] nor played it as I would want it.’

The score itself is headed with a quotation which can be related to the death of one of Alain’s sisters in 1937, the year in which it was written: ‘When the Christian soul is in distress and cannot find any fresh words to implore God’s mercy, it repeats the same prayer unceasingly with overwhelming faith. The limit of reason is past. It is faith alone which propels its ascent.’

from notes by Ian Carson © 1994

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA66676 track 1
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-94-67601
Duration
4'27
Recording date
28 June 1993
Recording venue
Turku (Abo) Cathedral, Finland
Recording producer
Paul Spicer
Recording engineer
Paul Niederberger
Hyperion usage
  1. Organ Fireworks, Vol. 5 (CDA66676)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: February 1994
    Last few CD copies remaining
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