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Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1523–1594)
Missa Tu es Petrus
Tu es Petrus
Ave Maria
Quam pulchri sunt
Tölzer Knabenchor/Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden
rec. 1974, Pfarrkirche Lenggries (Germany)
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 82876 69994 2 [36.54]

The Tölzer Knabenchor was formed by Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden in 1956. It takes its name from Bad Tölz in Bavaria where the choir was founded. Since then the group has become an important resource in the early music movement providing boys for treble and alto lines - the choir uses boy altos rather than men - in innumerable recordings. It has a life of its own and has produced a number of recordings.
Palestrina’s six-part Missa Tu es Petrus - he also wrote a twelve-part mass - does not seem to do well in the CD catalogue at the moment. It is a lovely mass, imbibing as it does the rich six-part texture of the Tu es Petrus motet on which it is based. As with most of his parody masses, Palestrina takes parts of the motet and uses them as starting points for further development in the mass.
As such I was rather looking forward to hearing this performance and was prepared to allow for some signs of age in the recording and performing style. Presumably the record company chose to re-issue this disc as part of the choir’s 50th anniversary, though the CD booklet gives no information about the choir and unfortunately they are not shown up at their best.
Usually I associate the Tölzer Knabenchor with a rich, rather vibrant continental-type sound, more focused and throatier than the classic English treble sound, though of course the emulation of the continental model at Westminster and other places means that the distinction is now harder to make. This normally results in a vivid, passionate sound that can, at times, be rather thrilling.
Unfortunately on this disc the results simply sound a little too rough and ready and at times rather coarse. I felt that the differentiation between the vocal parts lacked clarity but it is tricky to tell if this is a fault of the choir, the recording or the re-mastering.
Schmidt-Gaden uses unnamed soloists for some passages. These also sound a little weak and lacking in the control and sophistication that I would have liked.
The disc does not make it clear who is singing the lower parts. The choir’s current web-site gives details of their male voice group, made up of young men from the choir whose voices have broken. If these were the type of young voices used on this disc then it would go some way to explain the recording.
Perhaps I am being too harsh on a thirty odd year old recording made by boys. But I have to say that, unusual though the repertoire is the disc is not one that I will be returning to.
Robert Hugill


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