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En Priere
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845 – 1924)

Ave Maria Op.67 No.2 (1895)
Ave Maria Op.93 (1877)
En Prière
Jean LANGLAIS (1907 – 1991)

Missa in Simplicitate (1953)
Melody (1956)
Cinq Motets (1932/42)
Jehan ALAIN (1911 – 1940)

O Quam Suavis Est
Ave Maria (1937)
Maurice DURUFLE (1902 – 1986)

Fugue sur le thème du Carillon des heures (1960)a
Pie Jesu (1947)
In Paradisum (1947)
André CAPLET (1878 – 1925)

Sanctus and Benedictus (1919)
The Girl Choristers of All Saints’ Church, Northampton; Richard Pinel (organ); Edward Whiting (director and organa)
Recorded: Exeter College, Oxford, April 2004
LAMMAS LAMM 170D [54:06]


To a certain extent, this release is the choral equivalent of several earlier discs of French organ music from Lammas. It explores some little-known aspects of mostly 20th century French sacred music. All choral works here are for treble or female voices, with the exception of In Paradisum from Duruflé’s beautiful Requiem Op.9 in which the girls receive support from a select group of gentlemen.

Jean Langlais has the lion’s share, since he is represented by his Missa in Simplicitate from 1953 and five motets (composed between 1932 and 1942) as well as by a movement from his Triptyque for organ, composed in 1956 and dedicated to Duruflé. Missa in Simplicitate is, appropriately enough, fairly straightforward but, by no means, as simple as its title might suggest. Langlais was a supreme craftsman and artist who always managed to be his own self in whatever medium he chose to compose. So, his Mass has its tricky bits, but is on the whole fairly direct in idiom and expression, the music being often modally inflected, but not without harmonic surprises either. The Five Motets, written at various periods between 1932 and 1942, are equally straightforward, since they were all composed for two equal voices and organ or harmonium, and designed so as to be sung by less experienced parish choirs. As already mentioned, Mélodie is the first movement of Langlais’s Triptyque dedicated to Duruflé, and a short piece that perfectly fits within the context of this release En Prière.

Jehan Alain’s tragic and untimely death in 1940 was one of the great losses for French music, for he was a prodigiously gifted and personal composer whose extant output is much more than merely promising. Some of his organ works, such as Litanies, Trois Danses and Deux Danses à Agni Yavishta, are now organ classics, although they may not still be heard and recorded as often as they undoubtedly deserve. His choral music may be less familiar, so that the present performances of O Quam Suavis Est (no date given) and of the Ave Maria written in memory of his young sister Marie-Odile who died in a mountain accident at a quite early age, are most welcome additions to his discography.

Duruflé is represented by his short Fugue sur le thème du Carillon des heures de la Cathédrale de Soissons ("a long title for a short piece", as Rubbra once wrote to me when asked about his A Tribute Op.56, originally titled Introduction and Danza alla Fuga), an occasional piece, but superbly crafted and brilliantly effective; and two excerpts from the Requiem, viz. the deeply moving Pie Jesu with its cello obbligato and the concluding In Paradisum.

Fauré is present too with two different and equally fine settings of Ave Maria as well as a rarity, En Prière, which gives this collection its collective title. Caplet’s Sanctus and Benedictus are in fact two sections from his beautifully moving Messe à trois voix "des petits de Saint-Eustache-la-Forêt" (1919/20), a missa brevis in all but the name, i.e. without the Credo but ending with a setting of O Salutaris Hostia. (A complete recording of Messe à trois voix is available on Accord 465 813-2, a very fine collection of vocal works by the much underrated André Caplet well worth seeking.)

All choral items receive beautifully poised readings, and are all well recorded; and this release, as a whole, is one of the finest I have heard from this label so far. A bit short in terms of total playing time (could Langlais’ Triptyque not have been included here for good measure, although the other movements probably do not fit with this release’s title); but this is really not enough to deter anyone from enjoying the superb singing on display here.

Hubert Culot

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