Born in Ludwigshafen, Germany the conductor Frieder Bernius
founded both the Stuttgart vocal and instrumental ensembles
featured on this Carus release. The Kammerchor Stuttgart was
founded in 1968 and more recently the period instrument ensemble
Hofkapelle Stuttgart in 2006. For many years Bernius has been
prolific in the recording studio, specialising in sacred choral
works. A couple of years ago I reviewed
the twelve volume set of Mendelssohn’s Complete Sacred Choral
Music that Frieder Bernius had recorded for Carus. With
that impressive Mendelssohn survey Bernius proved himself a
remarkable conductor in the field of sacred choral works of
the classical era.
Cherubini, although Italian-born, spent the majority of his
career in Paris. There he wrote a large number of operas mainly
in the Neapolitan style but they soon began to seem out of step
with the Parisian craze for Italian grand opera. Consequently
Cherubini withdrew from composing for a while. From being a
virtually forgotten figure Cherubini’s star began to shine after
the Bourbon restoration to the French throne and in 1816 he
was appointed as Surintendant de la musique for the Royal
family. Cherubini became arguably the most influential man in
French music with his appointment as director of the Paris Conservatoire
in 1822; a post he held until his death twenty years later.
In 1809 Cherubini had been buoyed by the success of his Mass
in F which was an unexpected commission by the Prince of
Chimay. Cherubini commenced composing a significant amount of
sacred choral works including a large number of motets; several
masses and two remarkable requiems. The earlier of the two is
a Requiem in C minor for mixed chorus; completed in 1816.
A second Requiem in D minor for male voices was written
in 1836 with the intention of being performed at Cherubini’s
This Carus release is a 2010 recording of the Requiem in
C minor for SATB chorus, orchestra and basso continuo. The
score was composed in 1816 for a memorial service for the former
king of France, Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette; who
had both been executed in 1793 during the French Revolution.
The Abbey Church of Saint Denis was the established resting
place of the kings of France for several centuries. During the
Revolution the royal tombs in Saint Denis suffered considerable
desecration. In 1815 the partial remains of Louis XVI and Marie
Antoinette were recovered from a public cemetery and brought
to Saint Denis for reburial in the crypt. Cherubini’s Requiem
in C minor was premiered in 1817 at a memorial concert in
the Saint Denis crypt to commemorate the anniversary of the
guillotining of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The Requiem
in C minor was a great success and soon established a wide
circulation in Europe; it was even played at Beethoven’s funeral
in 1827. The Requiem in C minor does not employ soloists.
It is scored for four-part chorus, orchestra and basso continuo.
In the manner of Beethoven with his Mass in C major (1807)
Cherubini avoids breaking the various sections of the mass
down into individual movements. In addition many people have
remarked on the musical debt that Cherubini here owes to the
style of Mozart. In this version Frieder Bernius in-between
the Graduale and Sequence includes a Tract
with the text Absolve, Domine, animas omnium fidelium
defunct rum (Forgive, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful
departed). Strangely the booklet notes say nothing of its inclusion.
The Tract is sung by Schola Gregoriana Tübingen who are
specialists in Gregorian chant, under the direction of their
chorus-master Wilfried Rombach.
In the opening Introit and Kyrie the singing of
the Kammerchor is reverential with significant poignancy. At
4:54 (track 1) in the Kyrie eleison one notices the gathering
tension. Glorious if rather melancholic music in the Gradual
is sung with the greatest of respect for the text. There
is impeccable and sensitive singing of the Tract - ‘Absolve,
Domine’ by Schola Gregoriana in the manner of a Gregorian
chant. Commencing with a brass fanfare and a fearsome strike
of the tam-tam, a highlight of the score is the wonderful and
exciting performance of the magnificent Sequence. In
the line Confutatis maledictis, Flammis acribus addictis’(When
the damned are cast away and consigned to the searing flames)
I marvelled at the explosive climax at the word ‘maledictis’
(point 5:14, track 4). From 6:36 (track 4), performed with vigour,
the Lacrimosa dies illa (On this day full of tears) is
moving and expressively sung by the Stuttgart choir.
The Offertorium contains much of real merit. I especially
enjoyed the passage Quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini
ejus (As thou didst promise Abraham and his seed) for its
voluble and stirring climax (from point 4:23, track 4). By contrast
from 7:31 (track 5) the text Hostias et preces tibi, Domine,
laudis officious; (O Lord, we offer You sacrifices and
praise) is given a gentle and serene performance by the Kammerchor.
Following closely on and increasing in intensity and weight
comes the reprise of the passage Quam olim Abrahae at
11:35 (track 5). The Sanctus and Benedictus is
a very brief yet imposing movement and sacred restraint imbues
the attractively sung Pie Jesu Domine. The final
section is the Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi (Lamb
of God, who take away the sins of the world) depicting pain
and suffering before gradually fading away to lie at eternal
Throughout the score the Kammerchor display splendid diction
and impressive unity with first class playing from the Hofkapelle
on period instruments. Frieder Bernius controls his Stuttgart
forces with sensitivity and assurance.
Recorded in May 2010 at the Evangelischen Kirche, Gönningen
the recording is warm and generally clear with a degree of blurring
in the louder passages. This well presented Carus release has
full Latin texts and an essay with English translations provided.
The recording is played on period instruments and is a superb
achievement for Frieder Bernius and the Carus label.