Like his classmate and lifelong friend Olivier Messiaen, Jean Langlais (1907-1991) was profoundly influenced by the work of Charles Tournemire, whom he was to succeed as organist at Sainte Clotilde in Paris and with whom he studied improvisation from 1930 onwards. It was the deeply spiritual quality in Tournemire’s work, as well as the intensely personal use of plainsong, which attracted them. The formal freedom and reliance on the imagination which he encouraged came as a breath of fresh air after the highly structured and rigid teaching of Dupré. Langlais summed up his debt to Tournemire most eloquently when he said, ‘From him I learnt the true poetry of the organ’.
Like Reger, Langlais was enormously prolific and the "Trois Paraphrases Grégoriennes", written between 1934 and 1935, remain not only one of his earliest works of real maturity but also one of his most enduringly popular. "Mors et Resurrectio", the second of the three, is prefaced by words of St Paul to the Corinthians, ‘Death, where is thy victory?’, and proceeds inexorably in three mighty waves. The composer identifies two themes: the first, which is of his own invention, represents death and builds gradually from the depths; the second, based on the Introit from the Mass for the Dead, represents life and is first heard on a trumpet stop. After a double exposure of these two ideas the plainsong theme is treated more extensively and develops into an all-engulfing climax. The music has a sense of grandeur, conjuring up the vast and imposing spaces of a Gothic cathedral.
I've always found this to be a hard work to really "bring off". Not so much in the notes, but in the sense of getting the "sweep" just right. I think this went pretty well - especially since I realized that I had ALWAYS played a WRONG chord - not once, but TWICE!!! This has been "corrected" for this performance... ;-)