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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphonisches Praeludium (attributed) [6.33]
Mass No.3 in F minor [65.03]
Postludium - Organ improvisation [6.26]
Cynthia Clayton (soprano)
Melanie Sonnenberg (mezzo)
Joseph Evans (tenor)
Timothy Jones (bass-baritone)
Sigurd Øgaard (organ)
Houston Symphony Chorus
Moores School Symphony Orchestra/Franz Krager
rec. live, Grace Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas, USA, 26-27 April 2013
Blu-ray Audio: Sound Format PCM Stereo 24bit/96kHz, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 Surround
Surround reviewed
HIGH DEFINITION TAPE TRANSFERS BDMCH01 BD-A [78:02]

This is sufficiently unusual to need explanation. We have here a recording derived from two live performances sponsored, at least partly, by the Bruckner Society of America. Their president Benjamin Korstvedt supplies the helpful and typically scholarly notes.
 
The concert opens with a Symphonic Prelude attributed to a member of Bruckner's circle at the Vienna Conservatory, maybe Bruckner himself but quite possibly not. Bruckner's Motet Ave Maria appears as a movement within the Mass and a postlude is provided by the organist who improvises on themes from the Mass in recognition of Bruckner's own fame as an improviser.
 
The performers will be more familiar in Texas than in the UK so some introduction is needed here also. The chorus is an amateur group who perform regularly with the Houston Symphony, and very good they are too. The orchestra is from the music school which is a prestigious faculty of Houston University. They too, are very good indeed. The soloists are also faculty members: Timothy Jones, Cynthia Clayton and Melanie Sonnenberg are Associate Professors; Joseph Evans is a Professor.
 
Though the resulting performance may not put luminaries like Eugen Jochum and the Bavarian Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra in the shade, it is of an extremely high standard and deserves serious consideration even in such company. The recording was made by a company known to downloaders as High Definition Tape Transfers whose first Blu-ray Audio this appears to be. It might well be the best recording anyone has ever made of Bruckner's Mass No.3, it certainly sounds better than DG's rather foggy CD transfer of Jochum's 1962 recording. Maybe Robin Ticciati's SACD on Tudor sounds this good but I have not heard it. It helps Bruckner immensely to be heard on a large scale in a big space. Grace Presbyterian Church is such a space and the audience are fortunately very well behaved. There is really very little to comment on regarding the performance. The four soloists make a respectable job of their roles, the chorus sings this rather difficult music with considerable skill and the conductor, also a Professor, but more importantly an experienced and respected musician with world-wide experience, seems to know his way through this, the last of Bruckner's mass settings. It is not stated exactly which edition is performed.
 
As an aside I would note that the disc, being Blu-Ray, has a series of illustrations which change as the work progresses. It was distracting and I turned the monitor off. Sales of this disc benefit the Houston Symphony Chorus and the Moores Symphony Orchestra.

Dave Billinge  




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