Messe Solennelle

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Demessieux,Durufle,Langlais,Vierne
LABELS: Regent
ALBUM TITLE: Messe Solennelle
WORKS: Vierne: Messe Solennelle, Op. 16; Langlais: Messe Solennelle; Duruflé: Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le theme du ‘Veni creator’, Op. 4; Demessieux: Te Deum
PERFORMER: Choir of Southwell Minister/Paul Hale; Simon Hogan, Hilary Punnett (organ)


The Choir of Southwell Minster, with 25 members, is not a large body, and occasionally this counts against it. Even in tutti, at the start of the Gloria in Vierne’s Messe Solennelle, for instance, the feisty Cavaillé-Coll organ of Sées Cathedral, France is a formidable wall of sound for the singers to cut through. In the work’s more placid central section, the tenors are also a touch unsteady.

Overall, however, the Vierne gets a strongly committed performance, with excellent structuring of the music by conductor Paul Hale, and sterling work from the complement of 13 boy trebles, not least in their crystalline contribution to the concluding Agnus Dei.

Langlais’s Messe Solennelle is a more substantial work than Vierne’s, and draws pliantly expressive singing from the men’s voices at the Kyrie’s opening. Several bracingly untrammelled snorts from the two organs (grand and choir) specified by Langlais pump the intensity of the movement up to a resplendent climax. The eerie harmonic meanderings of the Benedictus are atmospherically registered by both choir and organ, and there’s a soaring top note on ‘Hosanna’ from the trebles, who continue to give a rousing account of themselves. Paul Hale’s direction is biting and incisive, and the result is a gripping, dramatic performance.

Two solo organ pieces by Duruflé and Demessieux are added, further showcasing the fiery attacking instincts of the two organists.


Terry Blain