Vierne's "Messe Solennelle" - St John's, West Byfleet
Saturday 24th February
St John The Baptist
The Octavian Singers are excited to present our forthcoming concert of French sacred music on 24th February at St Johns church in West Byfleet.
The choral repertoire of the late Romantic period in France is extremely rich and varied and the choir timbre is enhanced by the use of the organ in a way that is probably unique to this period. Paris was the home of the famous organ builder Cavaille-Coll and most of the composers living and working in Paris in the late 19th century were inspired by the sound of his instruments.
We will be performing music by composers who were inspired by each other, either as contemporary colleagues or as teachers and pupils. You will hear familiar, much loved pieces such as the Panis Angelicus by Franck and the Cantique de Jean Racine by Faure alongside pieces by composers who are less well known, such as Guilmant. There are also works by composers who are less famous for their choral output, such as Gounod and Saint-Saens.
Choral enthusiasts will enjoy the 4 motets on Gregorian Themes by Durufle and the Salve Regina by Poulenc. Organ enthusiasts will be glad to hear the very fine instrument of St Johns, West Byfleet in the hands of our soloist Mike Smith.
The main feature of our programme is the Messe Solennelle by Louis Vierne. There are a couple of interesting facts about this composer- one is that he was virtually blind from birth but nonetheless went on to a great career as organ recitalist, and the other fact is that he died at the console of Notre Dame while finishing his 1750th recital!!
This setting of the Mass dates from 1900 and was intended for liturgical use without a setting of the Credo, but involving the use of two organs as found in St Sulpice at that time. Most churches these days cannot supply two Grands Orgues and so an edition combining all the notes and effects to be played by one organist will be used!
There is a strong chromatic flavour to the Messe Solennelle and Vierne displays considerable harmonic freedom in this work of considerable power. He produces dissonances and modulations into distant keys which nowadays seem easier on the ear, but in 1900 must have seemed remarkable if not outrageous. This is particularly noticeable in the Kyrie and Gloria, where great blocks of sound, particularly suited to the organ, contrast with quiet melodic phrases sung by one voice part alone. The last two movements are more reflective, though the resounding Hosannas of the Sanctus are repeated in the Benedictus, and the work ends with the closing bars of the Agnus Dei moving confidently into the major key.