“Eclipse” = Music of JEAN LANGLAIS – Soloists/Gloria Dei Cantores/ Elizabeth C. Patterson, conductor – Gloria Dei Cantores (2 CDs)

by | Nov 22, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

“Eclipse” = Music of JEAN LANGLAIS: Psaume Solennel 1; Caritas Christi; Pastorale and Rondo; Mass, “Grant Us thy Peace”; Chant de paix; Three Short Anthems; Messe Solennelle; Venite et audite; Ave Maria, Ave Maris Stella; Tantum ergo; Fete; Messe en style ancien; Ceremony; Ubi caritas – Paul Tingley, Peter McKendree, Br. Jacob Witter, trumpet/ James Pfeiffer, Br. Mark Bushnell, trombone/ Br. Christopher Swidrak, tuba/ Br. Stephen Velie, timpani/ David Chalmers, James Jordan, Sharon Pfeiffer, organ/ Br. Richard Cragg, cantor/ Kathryn Shannon, soprano/ Gloria Dei Cantores/ Elizabeth C. Patterson, conductor – Gloria Dei Cantores GDCD041 (2 discs), 56:16, 62:21 *** [www.gdcchoir.org]:

Jean Langlais (1907-1991) is a well known composer and organist, both in the States and in Europe. His music is performed widely, and during his lifetime he was a much beloved figure who inspired many people to travel to his St. Clotilde Basilica in France in order to learn the art of improvisation from him. He was great friends with Messiaen (who liked his music, though the two are miles apart stylistically), and did much to promote Gregorian chant, one of his dearest loves.

These two CDs are about as good an introduction to his art as I know of, and the fabulous Gloria Dei Cantores sing with the enthusiasm and devotion that their fans have come to expect. They are an exceptionally wide-repertory group, and Elizabeth Patterson has worked miracles in keeping them so excellently consistent over the years.

This recording gives us choral, brass, organ, and mixtures of all three. The brass has some problems in places, the Pastorale and Rondo sounding as if it needed more rehearsal. And I must warn newcomers that Langlais’s art is not one that bowls you over; he was an intensely religious man, and his music is something that is personal and devotional in extremis. It is not something that throws catchy tunes in your face and has you humming all day. In fact, I can easily see many people disliking this music on first hearing. This is because it is so caught up in the realm of the spiritual that it sounds out of place if not heard in a churchly setting. I am not sure that deep down the composer even intended for this music to live and breathe outside of an ecclesiastical forum, and at times I almost feel as though I am eavesdropping on a conversation between him and God that I was not meant to hear.

 So keep this in mind before you buy. This is not music everyone will enjoy, and even those who have heard it in church may not react to it the same way in their living rooms. That being said, this production, despite some flaws, has great singing and is one of the few ways to come to know this man’s work. The sound, taken down at the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Mass., is first rate.

— Steven Ritter
 

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