Jean LANGLAIS (1907-1991) Esquisses Romanes et Gothiques for two organs Trois Esquisses Gothiques (1975) [18:29] (Maestoso
[5:36]; Virgo dei genitrix [3:37]; Séquence pour la
fête de la dédicace [9:15]) Canzona (from Folkloric Suite) [3:34] Pasticcio (from Organ Book) [2:34] Prélude (from Suite Médiévale) [2:37] Tiento (from Suite Médiévale) [3:36] Dialogue sur les mixtures (from Suite Brève)
[3:33] Plainte (from Suite Brève) [5:11] Incantation pour un Jour Saint (from Pâques)
[4:52] Trois Esquisses Romanes [26:53] (Moderato [8:11];
Allegro vivo [10:57]; Allegro [7:43])
Kauffmann (grand orgue; petit orgue (Esquisses))
Frédéric Ledroit (grand orgue (Esquisses))
rec. 13, 15 April 2004, Catédrale Angoulême. DDD
Notes and organ specifications included SKARBO
practice of writing four-hand organ music or music for two
keyboards goes back centuries. It was inevitable that the
composer of voluminous organ music Jean Langlais would come
to this area of composition, although it was not until fairly
late in his career that he did so. He started in the late
sixties and eventually produced the six Esquisses (sketches)
here recorded as well as several fantasies for two organs
and a number of other works, including music for organ and
piano duo. The six sketches are more substantial than the
title would imply and demonstrate aspects of the composer’s
style not seen in some of his single-keyboard works.
Romanes were written in 1975 for the Année Romane and
premiered by Langlais and Paul Brunet. In spite of the
architectural inspiration the musical foundation is naturally
Gregorian. All the sketches feature alternation between
the two organs and in this first sketch the petit orgue
is the star, with beautiful registration by Kauffmann.
The grande is the more prominent in the second sketch (on Virgo
dei genitrix), yet much of the time one might almost
mistake it for the petit as it plays so softly. Thematic
development is key in this sketch. The highlight is the Séquence
pour la fête de la dédicace. It comprises a set of
variations in alternation between the two organs. It contains
what I may say is some of the composer’s best use of variation
form. The juggling of primacy between the two instruments
through the course of the variations is also fascinating.
Throughout the composer demonstrates a freer approach to
form and metre than is usually found in his single keyboard
works. His harmonies are also fuller in many ways.
second set of sketches was composed only a year later, but
this time for Washington, D.C. Overall they are more troubled
than those in the first set, with the larger instrument seeming
to try to console the smaller. The second set opens with
what seems like a reminiscence of Franck’s Third Chorale,
but quickly changes to abrupt thematic contrasts between
the two instruments. The playing here by Ledroit is at its
most impressive as he goes through a range of styles before
the piece ends as it began. The last sketch continues the
meditative mood of its predecessor, but here Kauffmann gets
to shine as he wrings some amazing sounds from the petit
orgue. Again this set is freer in harmony and form than the “average” Langlais
organ work, although his characteristic harsh sound is always
other works on this disc have been better represented on
disc, some by Langlais himself and need less comment. They
are played on the grande orgue of Angoulême by Jacques Kauffman,
who played the petit orgue on the above-discussed works.
The Fête pour un jour sainte is beautifully phrased,
but drags a little. Kauffmann does better with the “antique” works
like the Canzona and Pasticcio. He is best
in the Dialogue sur les Mixtures.
sound quality is generally good in the two-organ works, especially
with the larger instrument. There are moments of noise when
the petit orgue is playing in the second and third sketch
(second set) that are quite distracting. The engineers are
very good at making allowances for the different reverberation
times of the two instruments.
worth investigating for fans of Langlais and of lesser-known
parts of the repertoire.
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