During the eighteenth century a tradition grew up of improvising on popular carols during Mass at Christmas, apparently leading many players to inappropriate excess during the Offertoire. In his Deuxième Offertoire sur des Noëls, Guilmant muses on four carols, without ever overstepping the boundaries of taste. A straightforward chordal setting of ‘Voici le jour solennel’ for full organ opens the work and a diminuendo leads to an extended pastorale section with a lilting melody for the hautbois. A restrained climax leads to a reprise of this tune, now combined with ‘Puer nobis nascitur’ in the left hand. Over a pedal point a brief prelude ushers in the jaunty ‘Joseph est bien marié’ which is developed both imitatively and sequentially before a jubilant rendition of ‘A minuit fut fait réveil’, using the full compass of the organ. A short coda based on ‘Puer nobis nascitur’ brings the work to a joyous close.
from notes by Stephen Westrop © 1997