Messe Solennelle - Jean Langlais

Kyrie Eleison

The Kyrie begins with a solemn organ introduction, which is followed by the vocal parts one at a time and independently. The tenors begin with a cyclical ostinato which they perpetuate throughout the opening Kyrie. The Christe is characterised by forever changing and irregular time signatures, interrupted by vast organ outbursts; a feature which is also present throughout the final homophonic Kyrie.

Gloria in Excelsis

The Gloria is structured in clearly-defined sections, according to the sentences of the text, each one separated from the next by exciting and very loud organ passages. Each section contains different fugal, imitative counterpoint which is sustained throughout. The texture becomes homophonic on the words miserere nobis. A short reflective passage for organ is followed by a repeat of the opening music (Quoniam tu solus sanctus), the music again becoming homophonic from Jesu Christe to the end.


This vibrant, forceful and hugely exciting setting of the Sanctus, starts with a sequence of two rising passages in the organ, each of which culminates in a fortissimo fanfare-like acclamation of praise from the choir. The sopranos are given a top C to sing on the word excelsis.


The ethereal harmony throughout the organ part of the Benedictus is built on passages of chromatically descending perfect fifths, fourths and thirds. The words are set to a serene and melismatic melody for sopranos and altos in unison an octave apart. The music of the Sanctus is reprised for the Hosanna in Excelsis.

Motets by Duruflé

Tu es Petrus

At only 45 seconds this motet is short but sweet. The original plainsong melody is treated throughout with inventive counterpoint and constantly changing time signatures.

Tantum Ergo

The original plainsong melody in the soprano part is treated as a decorated canon in the tenor part at the distance of three beats. The pulse of this motet is the slowest of the four.

Choral Phrygien - Organ Solo by Alain

The Choral Phrygien, written in 1935, is the second of three organ compositions to make reference to the classification of Greek modes of Maurice Emmanuel. It is a sombre and reflective piece, which calls for a wide selection of tone colours and for much of the time has a very steady and regular harmonic pulse.

Motet by Messaien - O Sacrum Convivium

This beautiful motet in F# Major is characterised by slow, but very irregular rhythmic patterns. Its haunting chromaticism, frequent use of chords with added sixths and ninths, and harmonic dependence on the added major seventh are all features of jazz music. However, in this context they somehow manage to convey a sense of utter tranquility and peace. Messiaen’s hushed and reverent setting of the words rises to an expressive peak only when the text refers to “future glory”.

Messe Solennelle - Jean Langlais: Agnus Dei

The Agnus Dei begins in a similar way to the Kyrie. The harmony throughout is dark, unsettling and has dissonance and constantly shifting tonal centres. From the words Dona nobis pacem the music gradually acquires an urgency and insistency and builds up to a very loud and spectacular ending, finally coming to rest on a brilliant and unexpected chord of A major.