Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Mass No. 2 for soloists, mixed choir, orchestra and organ in G major, D.167
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Solemn Mass (Saint Cecilia Mass) for soloists, mixed choir, orchestra and organ
Luba Orgonášová (soprano)
Christian Elsner (tenor)
Gustáv Beláček (bass)
Bavarian Radio Chorus/Peter Dijkstra
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
rec. live, 27-29 March 2007, Herkulessaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany
Full Latin texts with English translations provided.
BR KLASSIK 900114 [75:05]
The Bavarian Radio Choir is now acknowledged as one of the finest vocal ensembles
in the world. In May 2011 I attended an ‘all Mahler’ concert in
the Munich Philharmonie where the Bavarian Radio Choir directed by Michael Gläser
performed Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world)
one of the Mahler Rückert-Lieder in an arrangement for chorus. On
the same programme they sang in the mighty Symphony No. 2 ‘Resurrection’with
the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Mariss Jansons. Orchestra, chorus
and conductor are world class.
Schubert’s Mass No. 2 in G major and Gounod’s Saint Cecilia
Mass were composed some forty years apart yet they are very different. Schubert
was aged eighteen when in just a week he wrote his G major Mass,aMissa
brevis in a rather economical style scored for strings and organ. Today
we generally hear a later version of the work with added trumpets and timpani.
By contrast Gounod’s large-scale and much loved Saint Cecilia Mass
is richly scored and probably has more chance of being heard in a concert hall
than a church setting.
In spite of Schubert’s doubts about his Catholic faith he went on to write
a substantial quantity of sacred choral music including six numbered masses
which are only rarely played today. A defiant Schubert never did set the words
‘I believe in one Catholic and Apostolic Church’part
of the creed that was seen as obligatory for performance during church services.
Overshadowed by the popularity of works such as his Symphony No. 8 in B minor
‘Unfinished’, the Symphony No. 9 in C major ‘Great’
his Lieder, chamber music and solo piano works Schubert’s sacred
choral music inexplicably remains one of his most overlooked categories. The
Bavarian Radio forces provide an exhilarating account of Schubert’s Mass
No. 2,a work that successfully mixes lyricism with spiritual fervour.
I especially enjoyed the fleet and vigorous Gloria,almost celebratory
in manner, with its impressively sung short duet for Luba Orgonášová
and Christian Elsner. Masterful choral singing in the Credo is declamatory
with highly memorable melodies. The bucolic mood of the Benedictus is
altered by the trio of soloists with Orgonášová in remarkably
fine voice. The audience applause has been left in. For those wanting to explore
this neglected area of Schubert’s music I can recommend an outstanding
EMI collection of Schubert Sacred Choral Works conducted by Wolfgang
Sawallisch who uses the Bavarian Radio Chorus and Orchestra. This outstandingly
performed and recorded collection of 35 sacred scores from Schubert including
all the masses was recorded in 1977 and 1979/83 also at the same venue. It can
be found as part of a 7 disc digitally re-mastered box set on EMI Classics 5
86011 2. Sawallisch’s impressive list of performers includes the following
renowned soloists: Peter Schreier (tenor), Robert Tear (tenor), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
(baritone), Helen Donath (soprano), Lucia Popp (soprano) and Brigitte Fassbaender
Gounod was an extremely prolific writer of sacred music including a large number
of masses. The website charles-gounod.com actually mentions a massive
fifty masses. A highly devout Catholic, Gounod after studying theology for a
time, took to wearing ecclesiastical robes even signing his letters as “Abbé
Gounod.” The Solemn Mass for soloists, mixed choir, orchestra
and organ from 1855 is more usually known as the Saint Cecilia Mass.
In this work Jansons and his Bavarian choir and orchestra deliver a performance
of significant dramatic weight combined with deep religious zeal. Jansons takes
the listener on a thrilling and compelling journey. Imbued with a striking purity
the opening Kyrie offers wondrous choral singing. The contribution from
the trio of soloists adds to the engaging atmosphere with soprano Orgonášová
soaring over the tenor and bass. In the Gloria and the Credo I
was struck by the awesome power of the combined forces and the contrast provided
by the soprano’s meltingly radiant solos. Highly memorable is the striking
brass opening of the Credo; it could easily have come from a Meyerbeer
or Verdi opera. The Sanctus is well known and much admired. It is intensely
melodic and here is beautifully played. Tenor Christian Elsner is reverential
and richly satisfying. To close the Domine Salvam - No. 3 Prière
de la Nation the combined forces are extremely loud and striking with thunderous
drums and blazing brass. Some cheering and highly enthusiastic applause marks
the end of the mass. A notable alternative account of Gounod’s Saint
Cecilia Mass that I have greatly enjoyed for its drama and energy is available
from the Choeurs René Duclos and the Orchestre de la Société
des Concerts du Conservatoire under Jean-Claude Hartemann with soloists Pilar
Lorengar (soprano), Heinz Hoppe (tenor) and Franz Crass (bass). The 1963 recording
from St. Roch, Paris has been digitally re-mastered on EMI Classics 5 74730
2 (c/w Petite Symphonie for wind instruments).
The warm and closely recorded atmospheric sound is more than acceptable. Probably
the only drawback is the bass Gustáv Beláček who is far too
recessed to be heard to his best advantage.
The booklet notes are adequate without being outstanding. They leave me wanting
more information about the two works. It is pleasing to see that full Latin
texts with English translations are provided.
I warmly welcome this addition to the BR Klassik catalogue.
I warmly welcome this addition to the BR Klassik catalogue.