For our re-broadcast of Vespers – the last in the current series of re-postings – we have chosen the service from Thursday 25 April, 2019. It was the final service of the academic year, and the music, all from France, was selected and led by our (then) two organ scholars, Joseph Fala and Abraham Ross.
It is worth noting that both of these talented young musicians have continued to develop their musical skills and activities, enriched by their time at Duke Chapel. Joey has been noteworthy in continuing to play the Duke Carillon and work in the Music Office, and he takes up the position of Interim Director of Music at University Presbyterian in Chapel Hill, NC, next month. Abe is continuing his doctoral studies at McGill University. This seems a suitable time to recall and acknowledge their outstanding contribution to the music program.
The service begins and ends with works by two of the greatest names in French organ music, Charles-Marie Widor and Maurice Duruflé: Widor’s Praeludium circulaire, and Duruflé’s Fugue on the Theme of the Soissons Carillon.
The Introit is a motet by Alfred Desenclos, Nos autem gloriari. Desenclos was a self-acknowledged “romantic” whose music is highly expressive and atmospheric, yet based on firm compositional technique. Like his contemporary, Duruflé, Desenclos uses plainsong-like melodies woven into the texture of his sacred music.
César Franck’s seldom-performed setting of words from Psalms 103 and 79, Domine, non secundum follows a rather conservative compositional style. “O Lord, judge us not according to our sins,” the text entreats, a plea echoed by each voice in turn in Franck’s exquisite musical setting.
Gabriel Fauré’s well-known Cantique de Jean Racine was composed by a 19-year-old Gabriel Fauré, who was in his last year of studies at the École-Niedermayer in Paris. It won him first prize in the
school's award in composition and has remained popular since then.
Guillaume Bouzignac is generally regarded as the most important French composer of sacred music from his time. His motet In pace, in idipsum is a gentle setting in a rather conservative vein, but he also introduced Italian and Spanish elements into his style, which enlivened the entire body of French sacred music.