Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)
Missa Dalmatica (1835 rev. 1875) [48:45]
Lords of the Chords
Jens Wollenschläger (organ)
rec. Ev. Kirche, Gönningen, 20-22 September 2010
Latin text and German and English translations
CARUS 83.455 [48:45]

Composers tend to be pigeonholed according to their main activities with other works sidelined at best. When those other works are performed it is usually mainly for their curiosity value. Thus for example we know the operas of Bellini and Donizetti so we wonder what their sacred works might be like. Having sampled them, however, interesting and entertaining they are we may not be too inclined to return to them in a hurry. Does this apply to Suppé’s early Mass? Fortunately although it may be no masterpiece, it is more than a curiosity, especially when performed and recorded as winningly as is the case here.

The composer had a Viennese mother and a father of Belgian origin, and was a nephew of Donizetti. To add further to his complex background, he was born in Split in Dalmatia, now part of Croatia but spent most of his life in Vienna. The Missa Dalmatica dates originally from 1835, just before he left with his widowed mother for Vienna, but was revised by the composer some forty years later apparently as a reminder of his native land. It is this version that is heard here - the earlier version is lost.

The Mass is for male voices, tenors and basses only – no counter-tenors, with organ accompaniment and is also available as sheet music from Carus. The opening Kyrie is relatively simple in texture and form, but the grave solos with choral responses gradually give way to something fuller in the Gloria, where there is also more than a hint of the melodic fecundity of the later composer. All remains however within the general stylistic confines of late eighteenth or early nineteenth century Mass settings. Despite the limited resources used there is surprising variety of musical character. Although the composer himself wrote disparagingly of the work in its earlier version, the later version heard here would be a most attractive addition to the repertoire of male voice choirs, even if few are likely to match the mixture of beauty of tone and panache of The Lords of the Chords. I have not come across them before, but they are a group of ten professional singers, many of whom sing in other distinguished groups, formed in 2004 to sing without conductor. They are augmented to fourteen on this disc, and sing the various short solos in the Mass. I have not heard Jens Wollenschläger before but was very taken with his sympathetic registration and phrasing.

The disc is well presented with full and helpful notes and is recorded in a very suitable acoustic. It is a pity that some sort of filler could not have been found as some listeners may be put off by the short playing time. This is however one of those discs whose inherent quality of content and performance more than makes up for any lack of quantity. This is certainly much more than a mere curiosity.

John Sheppard

One of those discs whose inherent quality more than makes up for any lack of quantity. This music is certainly much more than a mere curiosity.