Menotti stands in the
shadow of Samuel Barber for whom he wrote the libretti for the
operas A Hand of Cards and Vanessa. He tends to
be thought of only in terms of his operas. For many years he
lived with Barber in their home at Capricorn in Westchester
County, New York.
On the showing of this
Mass the attaching of an exclusively operatic reputation to
Menotti is unjust and offers only a partial verdict. Acquaintance
with his Violin Concerto, Symphony and the cantata The Death
of the Bishop of Brindisi shows as much. The Missa distinguishes
itself by dispensing with the Credo and substituting the words
of St Augustine: "O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late
have I loved you." The music is golden and lyrical, mingling
Bachian dignity and operatic fervour especially from the solo
voices. It is a dramatic work too and the notes appositely mention
the Verdi Requiem. Other comparisons spring to mind too:
the Fauré Requiem, Rutter, Respighi and Rózsa. This is
a gorgeously coloured and sung Requiem without a single
dissonance. It is sweetly flavoured, grand and serene - completely
out of kilter with the 1980s mainstream. It also manages to
avoid being bilious. Urgently recommended if you enjoy Rutter
and Fauré but it's no facsimile of either.
The Vierne is less
gaudily coloured as befits a solemn mass. It was written for
the great expanses of Notre Dame and is an even more dignified
and genuflectory counterpart to the Fauré Requiem. In full it
is the Messe solenelle for two organs and two choirs. It has
also been recorded on Solstice SOCD -714 at Notre Dame with
Pierre Cochereau, grand orgue Jacques Marichal at the choir
Full texts are given
as sung and in translation. There are background notes too.
I want to know which conductor was misinterpreting the Menotti
such that the composer pleaded with Ferris to perform it.
Two masses then - one
operatic-dramatic, modern in time but backward-looking in style;
the other subdued, fervent but dignified.