Gregory Hamilton | Dom Paul Benoit Organ Works, Vol. 1

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Dom Paul Benoit Organ Works, Vol. 1

by Gregory Hamilton

The Organist Dom Paul Benôit, (1879-1976) lived as a Dominican monk in the confines of the Abbey of St. Maur, Clervaulx. This CD (Vol I of his Organ Works) Explores his deeply personal and mystical style.
Genre: Classical: Organ
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. O Sanctissima
5:54 $1.29
2. Offertoire
5:29 $1.29
3. Exultemus
2:50 $1.29
4. Chorale
3:26 $1.29
5. Elevation 1
1:47 $1.29
6. Elevation 2
1:41 $1.29
7. Elevation 3
1:18 $1.29
8. Elevation 4
1:36 $1.29
9. Elevation 5
2:11 $1.29
10. Elevation 6
2:05 $1.29
11. Versets
4:30 $1.29
12. Christ the King
2:15 $1.29
13. Jubilate
1:20 $1.29
14. The Good Shepherd
3:44 $1.29
15. For Advent
3:34 $1.29
16. Fidelis Servus
1:50 $1.29
17. Communion
2:46 $1.29
18. Transfiguration
6:02 $1.20
19. In the Love of Jesus Christ
3:49 $1.29
20. Prelude and Fugue
3:40 $1.29
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
“You give me happiness in telling me that my music, which is written only for the sake of our Lord allows souls to ascend to him” (Letter to Abbé Ponchelet, July 1972)

Dom Paul Benôit, (1879-1976) lived all of his adult life in relative obscurity as a Dominican monk in the confines of the Abbey of St. Maur, Clervaulx, Luxembourg. His organ works, though numerous and composed over a forty– year span, were published because of interested friends, and many of his works only appeared posthumously by his monastery under the imprint Art-Sacre. Despite this obscurity, Benoit was well trained in composition, organ and counterpoint by French masters of the day. Although influenced by Bach, Ravel, Vierne and other French composers, he forged a deeply personal and mystical style of which his most salient influence was the corpus of Gregorian Chant. Although founded in a clearly tonal language, Benoit often stretches this with extreme chromaticism, quartal harmonies in parallel voices, and sudden exploration to unrelated tonal centers. His Ouvre is varied, consisting of many small works for liturgical usage, such as Elevations or Canticle alternatim versets, to large works and mutli - movement suites requiring considerable virtuosity. At the Abbey of Clervaulx, Benôit had at hand a Caville-Coll organ of three manuals and some 15 ranks which he played daily.

Notes on the Works

The Offertoire appears together with a Toccata and his suite Paques (to be issued in a subsequent CD in this series) in 1957. They are good examples of his style, which is Benoit describes “a mixture of Bach, Vierne and Chant”. The undercurrent of Mysticism is a key component of Benoit’s style, with indications of “Très Calme”, (even at full organ) and the French legato school -“Bien Chanté”. This repertoire represents an organist who approached composition of organ music through absorbing Gregorian chant daily in the Offices and Mass through the course of his life.

Venite exsultemus de Noël This small setting is one of several Benôit created from this Christmas Eve Introit chant. It seems to suspend time in a way that reflects also the mystic world of the Nativity, employing a sustained major 6th chord, and the organ with it’s perpetual breath, represents eternity apart from time. The piece has no barlines or time signature.

Six Elevations. Benôit composed some 200 Elevations, short works intended to be played during the canon of the Mass at the elevation of the Host. Many took melodic inspiration from Gregorian Masses, such as this collection, modelled on motives from Mass XI. Despite a very restricted form—less than two minutes, reverential tempo and dynamics, Benôit developed an astonishing variety of invention and expression within this prescribed framework.

Five Magnificat Verses. These little pieces, were alternated with chanted verses of the Gospel Canticle -Magnificat in alternatim usage—was a tradition kept alive in French convents and monasteries well into the 20th century. Some of the unusual or distinctive registrations heard here are Benôit’s own indications. A complete collection of Versets du Magnificat exist in Mss. in his own elegant holograph, published in facsimile by Art—Sacre . Of note is the second verset, a poignant homage in the French tombeau genre— à Maurice Ravel.

Pieces de Orgue. With this collection of nine movements, Benôit is giving homage to the many French organ masters of the 16-18th centuries, in particular baroque composers such as Corrette, De Gringny, et al whom all title their collections “Piece de Orgue” as a convention. Many of Benôit’s smaller works are intended for specific liturgical requirements (indeed composed for his own use at the abbey) but the larger works such as this collection seem to not be assigned for a specific liturgy, but for concert. Benôit shows his love of classical forms, and repertoire but imbues this concept with his own individual language . The work contains a striking variety of moods, registrations, contrapuntal textures and compositional ideas. The collection begins with an ending; the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year (Le Christ—Roi) and ends with a beginning—a powerful Prelude and Fugue Libre based on the Easter Sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes.

The Organ used on this recording:

The Ross King Organ at Holy Trinity Seminary
Although the organ is orientated to the American Classic Style, the powerful reeds, classical voicing and broad diapasons are sympathetic to the French métier of Benôit. The organ was designed and built by Ross King and Associates with design consultation by Dr. Gregory Hamilton. 2013; 18 ranks, two manuals and three divisions, 981 pipes.

Gregory Hamilton, Organ
RosaMystica Recordings



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