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Triptyque-jean Langlais


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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
At St Mary's Bourne St yesterday. William Whitehead played the final of Triptyque by Jean Langlais. Can anyone give me a bit of background about this piece and, in particular, the reference to the Westminster Chimes.



As I understand it, Tripyque was written specifically for Jean Langlais' recital which was given in the inaugural series on the new organ at the RFH. It was subsequently published as no.1 of a new series of modern organ music by Novello. I like it very much. Far and away the most difficult movement is the second (Trio) if it is taken up to speed. The first movement, Melody is very fine but very straighforward. If anyone is looking for an approachable soft, modern piece this has a lot to recommend it.


Not trying to push sales, you understand, I've recorded the whole suite, and I'm fairly sure that David Briggs also has.


In the exact same way as JL's use of the Westminster Chimes in the Final (on a 4' pedal reed) in the Trio, manual sections appear on their own and are then repeated in combination with a 4' pitch (Pedal) theme. This might point to a common technique of some blind composers where they 'improvise' in chunks, polish these and then 'memorise' whole sections before setting them down with a Braille Typewriter.

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Thanks for that. Your ref to the RFH series must be right as the publication date is 1956.


When I have heard the final before without knowing which piece it was, I initially thought that it was a far more contemporary piece, so it must have sounded very striking in the mid-fifties.

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  • 6 months later...

This is from Kathleen Thomerson's "Jean Langlais - A Bio-Bibliography":


"Representative of a facile technique, leaves much to be desired in real musical composition" (Harry W Gray, The American Organist Oct 1958, 388).




Langlais' recital of February 19 included this newly composd work, "a delightful exploration of three distinct moods" (Basil Ramsey, The Musical Times April 1958, 218).


So it seems that the world was divided then over this piece.



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