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Jean LANGLAIS (1907-1991)
Corpus Christi (op. 208, 1979)
Messe d’Escalquens (op. 19, 1935)
Sacris solemniis [6:14] (preludé improvisé à l’orgue sur le cantus firmus de l’hymne; versets 1 et 2: chant grégorien; versets 3 et 4: polyphonie extraite de Corpus Christi; prolongement à l’orgue: Sacris solemniis du Livre oecuménique (op. 157, 1968))
Chant d’entrée: Introit Cibavit de Corpus Christi [3:23]
Préparation pénitentielle: Kyrie de la Messe d’Escalquens [1:16]
Hymne de louange: Gloria in excelsis Deo de la Messe d’Escalquens [3:07]
Psaume: Graduel Oculi de Corpus Christi [2:21]
Acclamation avant l’Évangile: Alleluia Caro mea [6:12] (à l’orgue: Verset no 11 extrait de Douze Versets (op. 235, 1986); polyphonie: Caro mea de Corpus Christi; à l’orgue: Verset no 12 extrait de Douze Versets (op. 235))
Séquence: Lauda Sion salvatorem [8:05] alternance entre chant grégorien (versets impairs) et improvisation brèves à l’orgue (versets pairs)
Rite de l’Offertoire [10:52] (antienne: Sacerdotes Comini de Corpus Christi; à l’orgue: improvisation symphonique dur les thèmes grégoriens de deux hymnes de la Fête-Dieu, Pange Lingua et Verbum supernum).
Prière eucharistique: [8:58] (acclamation: Sanctus et Benedictus de la Messed’Escalquens; adoration après la Consécration: O Salutaris (à 2 voix égales et orgue, op. 8, 1932)
La Prière du Seigneur: Pater noster grégorien, a cappella [1:13]
Rite de la fraction du pain: Agnus Dei de la Messe d’Escalquens [1:45]
Rite de la Communion [8:17] (répons Homo quidam grégorien, a cappella; pièce d’orgue "pendant la communion" Homo quidam des Vingt-quatre Pièces (op. 10, 1942); antienne de communion: Communion Quotiescumque de Corpus Christi
Envoi: Fantaisie extraite de l’Hommage à Frescobaldi (op. 70, 1951) à l’orgue [2:41]
Emmanuel Le Divellec (organ)
female vocal ensemble Ad Limina
rec: French Church, Berne, Switzerland, 1-4 April 2005. DDD
HORTUS 040 [64:30]

As usual, a clever idea from Hortus. This CD presents two masses from different periods in the compositional career of Jean Langlais and presents them in a liturgical context - in as much as all components of the mass are represented - together with Gregorian chant, and organ improvisations by Emmanuel Le Divellec.

The ordinarium is taken from Langlais’s early Messe d’Escalquens. This music, written in the 1930s bears the influence of his teachers Charles Tournemire and Paul Dukas. The influence of the chant, the timeless atmosphere, and late-impressionist sound-world which dominate, can be detected, through the occasional acerbic twist, to be giving way to the ‘new’ modernism in French music. The proprium is taken from the much later Corpus Christi mass from 1979. Langlais’s music is now much more characterised by its extended chromaticism and atonality than before. Both masses here receive world premiere recordings, the former having been lost until it was discovered by Marie-Louise Langlais in 1999, the latter having received scant attention due to its difficulty, and the decreased use of Latin in the liturgy.

The organ is played by the young professor of improvisation at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Emmanuel le Divellec. A former student of André Isoir, le Divellec delights with his virtuosity, sensitive accompaniments, and focused, imaginative improvisations, ranging from the brief interludes during the Sequence, to his extended fantasy on Pange Lingua and Verbum Supernum. The featured organ is a large Goll instrument from 1991. Its attempts, at least, to be a ‘French eclectic’ organ are reflected in its large and slightly disjointed specification. It features, however, beautiful strings and flutes, and a divine Voix Humaine. In registrations above mf it becomes a little "central European neutral" alla Rieger, but in the context of Langlais’s musical aesthetics, this doesn’t seem inappropriate. The organ is housed in a case dating from 1828.

The nine-piece vocal ensemble ‘Ad Limina’ fare slightly less well with the challenging repertoire, with both blend and intonation suffering on occasion. Despite some expressive moments, the Gregorian chant remains on the wooden side, indeed, rather old-fashioned.

Whatever your opinion of Langlais’s music - and doubtless he wrote much too much of it - his strength as a composer of music to colour a liturgical occasion is rendered undeniable by this CD. The excellent booklet and recording, so typical of Hortus, together with the organ playing of Le Divellec, make this very recommendable.

Chris Bragg


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