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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Ignaz MITTERER (1850-1924)
Missa Solemnis in C major, Op.98 (1908) [28:40]
Te Deum in D major, Op. 114b [9:23]
Missa Solemnis in C minor, Op. 150 – Kyrie, Gloria (1906-7) [9:44]
Virgine Immaculatae, Fest-Graduale in E flat major, Op 122/1 [3.29]
Missa Solemnis in C minor, Op. 150 – Credo [7.39]
Virginae Immaculatae, Fest –Offertoriumin C major, Op.122.2 [3.03]
Missa Solemnis in C major, op. 150 – Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei [9.55]
Clara Sattler (soprano); Margot Oitzinger (contralto); Johannes Puchleitner (tenor); Ralf Ernst (bass)
Chor und Orchester des Akademischen Musikvereins für Tirol/Josef Wetzinger
rec. live, 25-26 July 2009, Basilika Stift Stams

For lovers of church music, this recording is an invaluable document from a transition moment for music in the Catholic liturgy. Its value is more than historical – the music is engaging and attractive, as well as sensitive to liturgical needs.

In 1903, the newly elected Pope (later St.) Pius X issued a motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini. This document was designed to reform the practice of church music, and was a rejection of the theatrical style of 18th and 19th century masses, such as those of Mozart, Beethoven, Gounod and the Haydn brothers. The document favoured Gregorian chant and polyphony, permitting the use of only the organ in church, with perhaps the occasional use of wind instruments, but only if permitted by a superior.

The works on this disc straddle 1903 – op. 98 is from 1900, while Op. 150 is from 1906/7, but the orchestra is used throughout. It is as if the motu proprio had not been written, for Op. 150 is the more developed. In this recording, previously composed Gradual and Offertory prayers are inserted in their proper place, either side of the Credo.

Ignaz Mitterer is not well-known outside Austria, though it is possible to read his Die Wichtigsten Kirchlichen Vorschriften Fr Katholische Kirchenmusik, and he is scarcely represented on CD. He was a Tyrolean, spending most of his life in Brixen, where he was cathedral music director from 1885 until 1917. Though a prolific musician, he was primarily a priest. His works are principally for use in church, but not as entertainments rather for worship and instruction. He was very much a practical musician. His pieces are relatively brief – the longest on the CD is the Credo of the Op. 98 Mass, at 7:51. He follows normal liturgical practice in which the opening sentence of both Gloria and Credo is intoned in plainchant by the celebrant, and not repeated by the chorus. The common ecclesiastical practice of the time is observed in separating the Sanctus and Benedictus, one to be sung directly at the end of the Preface, the latter after the Consecration.

Notable is the way he highlights exalted words, such as ‘Jesus Christ’. Phrases of deep significance, such as ‘Et incarnatus’ (‘And He was made flesh’) are normally given to a solo voice, and treated with reverence, but not sentimentally. Tempos generally are brisk, in line with the normal practice of monks singing Gregorian chant. The choral writing is largely polyphonic, with the orchestra well – handled. Listen, for example, to the introduction to the 'Et incarnatus' Op. 98, for music of great beauty and deft interweaving of orchestral, choral and solo lines. The Te Deum is not the mighty utterance of Bruckner but a devout and moving work for cathedral forces.

The recording was made in the beautiful chapel at Stams Abbey, near Innsbruck at a live concert. There is little audible indication of an audience, but there is occasional congestion of the polyphonic lines, though this is unlikely to detract from enjoyment of the music. The tenor, Johannes Puchleiter sometimes sounds strained, but overall there is not merely proficiency but a sense of genuine joy.   Notes are in German and English, with texts just of the Te Deum and the Gradual and Offertory verses, only in Latin and German.   For anyone who loves the church music of Bruckner or Michael Haydn, this is a delightful pendant and contrast – devout, moving, but never lugubrious. I shall return to it often.  

Michael Wilkinson



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