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Briggs: Mass For Notre Dame / Layton, Trinity College Choir Cambridge

Briggs / Choir Of Trinity College / Layton
Release Date: 06/08/2010 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67808   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  David Briggs
Performer:  David Briggs
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Trinity College Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BRIGGS Mass for Notre Dame. I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes. Trinity College Service. Te Deum laudamus. Toccata on Te Deum laudamus. O Lord, Support Us David Briggs (org); Stephen Layton, cond; Trinity College Ch Cambridge HYPERION 67808 (72:32)


David Briggs, a freelance organist and composer now residing in Boston, is a product of the English choral/organ tradition with the exception that he was also intensely influenced by the French compositional Read more school with its tradition of organ improvisation as personified by Marcel Dupré and Pierre Cochereau, organist at Notre Dame from 1955 until his death in 1984. Briggs can improvise also, if this recording captures anything, and we get the chance to hear him four times in his Mass for Notre Dame , conceived for the famous French cathedral. He states in the notes that about 15 percent of it is based on some Cochereau improvisational transcriptions for the Feast of the Assumption in 1962 that he took from a reel-to-reel tape. They are startling—Briggs has a great ear for drama and development, and most importantly, when to stop. These Mass-interjected ejaculations serve their purpose well, and apparently the Trinity choristers were also quite stunned during the takes.


The Mass itself is quite French-inspired, the nasal sonorities and crisp tonality of the Gloucester Cathedral organ perfectly suited to Briggs’s own angular choral writing, which plays to a mystical element in choral singing that is not so prevalent in normal Anglican music. Some of this music is, however, surprisingly syrupy in nature, so much that I was a bit taken aback, but this is hardly true of the entire Mass, which is effective and completely liturgically oriented.


I was not convinced with the Te Deum laudamus , done essentially in typically Anglican call-and-response format between choir and organ, as it seems irritatingly caustic; I am neither English nor Anglican, and I know there is a particular love for this type of music reflected in the many Anglican block-harmony settings of the Psalter. But the organ improvisation that follows it is a real barn-burner, stunningly managed and easily identifiable with the music that’s preceding it.


The Trinity College Service is another Anglican staple, that of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis. I confess I find the latter more attractive than the former, and though this is the most recent music on the disc it seems to me the weakest, though it was written for the forces found on this recording. But I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes and O Lord, Support Us are both inventive and tuneful anthems done in the best Anglican style, luxuriant in texture and very English in tenor, not at all unlike what Vaughan Williams might have written.


The sound I find somewhat problematic in that the boisterous bass thuds that the Gloucester organ produces do not come across very well here. It reminds me of those 30-40-year-old DGG recordings where you could always hear the bass but rarely feel it; you want to feel it more and it’s just not there. The highs are captured very well, almost too well, as this tends to give a false impression of what I believe this music really sounds like, both organ and choir. Nonetheless, it is recommendable because of the general quality of the music, the superb improvisations, and the fine singing of this history-laden choir, the 30-odd young undergraduate mixed-gender choral scholars holding up a very ancient tradition in fine fashion.


FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

1.
Mass for Notre Dame by David Briggs
Performer:  David Briggs (Organ)
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Trinity College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
2.
I will lift up mine eyes by David Briggs
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Trinity College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
3.
The Trinity College Service by David Briggs
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Trinity College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
4.
Te Deum laudamus by David Briggs
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Trinity College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
5.
Toccata on Te Deum laudamus by David Briggs
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Trinity College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
6.
O Lord, support us by David Briggs
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Trinity College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
7.
Organ Improvisation by David Briggs
Performer:  David Briggs (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 

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