David Briggs – Mass for Notre Dame

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Briggs
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Messe pour Notre-Dame; Trinity College Service; Te Deum laudamus; O Lord, support us etc
PERFORMER: Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Stephen Layton; David Briggs (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67808

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This is a mass with a difference: not only does it have four interpolated organ improvisations as part and parcel of the setting, but also composer David Briggs estimates that 15 per cent of the scored material is ‘sampled’ from organ improvisations by Pierre Cochereau, a player Briggs revered and was heavily influenced by.

The result, far from feeling derivative, is highly distinctive, and benefits from the sensational organ playing of Briggs himself, drawing sounds of roaring, surging eloquence and grandeur from the splendid instrument at Gloucester Cathedral. 

It helps, too, that the Trinity College Choir have such a ‘live’, untrammelled attack under Stephen Layton’s vigorous direction, the emphasis on clear projection of the Latin text in no way detracting from the dramatic immediacy of the performance.

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The Mass itself is an outstanding work, gripping and unashamedly rhetorical in its gestures. Meurig Bowen’s notes are genuinely illluminating, and set the seal on an exceptional issue. Terry Blain