Missa Brevis - La Maîtrise de Toulouse
André CAPLET (1878-1925) Messe à Trois Voix (1920) [19:12]
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988) Missa Cornelia Op.81 [13:32]
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891) Messe Brève [18:10]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Missa Brevis (1959) [10:08]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1921) Messe Basse (1881) [10:02]
La Maîtrise de Toulouse/Mark Opstad
William Whitehead (organ)
rec. Temple du Salin, Toulouse, 22-24 March 2010, DDD
Texts included
REGENT REGCD340 [71:11]

The term Missa Brevis (short mass) is usually taken to mean a mass setting without a Credo section. Here we have four examples of the form as well as one low mass (no Gloria or Credo) by Fauré. Three of these masses are French and two are British, perhaps in recognition of the disc’s French choir being conducted by an Englishman.

I had high hopes for the Caplet mass and I must say that the work, with its suspended polyphonic lines, is truly ethereal. But floating without ceasing can make for a lack of variety and can produce a very static result. Perhaps a different performance might have made for a better impression. By contrast, the Leighton Missa Cornelia is a fine example of that composer’s church music, showing the high voices of the choir at their best and alternating meditative and joyous passages. Mark Opstad’s conducting here is very good.

The true rarity of this disc is the Messe Brève of Delibes. We associate this composer with opera and ballet, but he wrote many smaller works for chorus, both sacred and secular. This mass starts with a very animated Kyrie and Gloria succeeded by an angelic Sanctus and a hushed O Salutaris (standard for French masses of this period). It ends with a reverential Agnus Dei. A true find.

Britten’s Missa Brevis is well-known and receives an excellent performance here, especially in the contrast between the severe Kyrie and the rapt Gloria. Also well-done is the mixture of declamatory and agitated music in the Agnus Dei. Even better known that the Britten is the Messe Basse of Fauré. In this performance the singers disappoint more than in the other works. While their enunciation in this piece is good, as are the solos, the overall pace is too slow and there is not enough of Fauré’s typical grace.

The Maîtrise de Toulouse provides a specialized choral education for about two dozen teenagers who give about ten concerts a year. Their conductor is Mark Opstad who received his musical education at Bristol Cathedral and currently teaches at the Toulouse Conservatoire, where he created La Maîtrise de Toulouse. William Whitehead is a well-known organist and professor at the RAM. Their combined efforts on his disc are mostly quite admirable and the singing of the young people is very impressive. For performance and repertoire this disc is definitely a standout.

William Kreindler

A charming and revelatory disc sung by a dynamite young choir.