, January 2009
With his Cinq Méditations Langlais finds a partial affinity with Messiaen, although his writing is infinitely more direct and his theological conclusion, unlike Messiaen’s totally nihilistic. His inspiration to compose the Méditations sprang from a severe heart attack in 1973, which brought the composer up sharply to confront his mortality, and his response was to read and re-read The Revelation of St John the Divine and to give expression to five of the meditations in musical terms, allotting each a title on his score. It is an extraordinary vision and one seemingly founded in despair. The organ registrations here are extraordinarily bizarre, the picaresque grotesquerie wholly original; and it ends the work in a cruel, pessimistic nightmare.
By its side, the Suite Médiévale is comparatively innocuous. It too is religious, gathering all the Gregorian themes of the Roman Catholic Mass together into a musical entity of five sections. So these two remarkable works balance each other in their opposing responses to Christian belief. Performances and recordings are of the highest quality.