Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Sigurd Islandsmoen (1881-1964) - Requiem

"Sigurd Islandsmoen's Requiem for soloists, choir and orchestra is a unique flower in the Norwegian music flora. Throughout the 1940s and 50s the work enjoyed huge success both in Norway and abroad thanks to its beautiful and accessible latin and folk music based musical language. And then, mysteriously, the music disappeared and the work was buried in the dust of oblivion for several decades. BUT NOW IT HAS BEEN REVIVED AND RESTORED TO ITS FORMER GLORY, A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION TO FUTURE GENERATIONS."

Islandsmoen's Requiem was composed in 1936-37 and performed several times both during and after the war, and in 1949 a performance in Bergen was broadcast by NRK, but it has seldom been performed since.

Islandsmoen received his most important musical training from Max Reger, and his music belongs to the style of late romanticism, the Requiem being no exception.

From the 1950s onwards there was a much stronger demand for modernism in Norwegian music; Islandsmoen's works were considered out-of-date and inappropriate.

One main special characteristic of his Requiem is that it builds to a certain extent on folk tunes from Valdres. He had himself been there in 1934 to collect folk tunes. Folk music material was an important source of inspiration to the composer, but it is clear that most of the thematic material in the Requiem is Islandsmoen's own.

The SACD was released by 2L, 2006, (DDD) . 2L 36SACD.

Soprano: Hilde Haraldsen Sveen
Alto: Marianne Beate Kielland
Tenor: Ulf Oien
Bass: Trond Halstein Moe

Det Norske Solistkor, Kristiansand Symfoniorkester, Conductor: Terje Boye Hansen

Track List:
  1. Canto funèbre (4'08")
  2. Introitus (4'00")
  3. Graduale (2'26")
  4. Dies Irae (4'21")
  5. Kyrie Eleison (3'33")
  6. Recordare (2'48")
  7. Preces Meae (2'29")
  8. Confutatis (2'14")
  9. Oro supplex (1'49")
  10. Lacrymosa (4'50")
  11. Domine, Jesu Christe (1'50")
  12. Sanctus (1'51")
  13. Benedictus - Sanctus (4'26")
  14. Pie Jesu (5'13")
  15. Agnus Dei (4'58")

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) - Missa Solemnis in B flat minor

Anton Bruckner, a devout Catholic, played a great role in the history of sacred music in the 19th century, a genre whose revival he tried to assure by founding his religious works on a traditional basis and taking his inspiration notable from the Viennese classical composers, particularly Haydn and Schubert.

He went so far as to quote entire themes by these composers in his Missa Solemnis in B flat minor, completed in August 1854, which shows an evident taste for fugal writing and the dramatic use of chromaticism.

Bruckner set several psalm-texts to music of a profound and moving spirituality. Psalm 112, written in 1863, was rediscovered only at the beginning of the 20th century, whilst the Psalm 150, his last piece of religious music, was composed 1892, four years before his death. It is a dynamic, jubilant piece with strong contrasts, based on themes deriving from plainchant, showing Bruckner's interest in early polyphony and Gregorian chant.

The 2 CD set was released by Virgin Classics, 1991, (DDD). Virgin Classics 724356150126.

Soprano: Christian Oelze
Alto: Claudia Schubert
Tenor: Jörg Dürmüller
Bass: Reinhart Hagen

Chor der Bamberger Symphoniker, Bamberger Symphoniker, Conductor: Anton Rickenbacher

Track List CD 2:
  1. Kyrie (2'54")
  2. Gloria in excelsis Deo (2'29")
  3. Qui tollis peccata (1'57")
  4. Quoniam tu solus (3'00")
  5. Credo in unum Deo (1'42")
  6. Et incarnatus est (3'50")
  7. Et resurrexit (2'08")
  8. Et vitam venturi seaculi (1'38")
  9. Sanctus (1'38")
  10. Benedictus (3'23")
  11. Agnus Dei (1'52")
  12. Dona nobis pacem (1'52")
  13. Psalm 112 in B flat major (9'10")
  14. Psalm 150 in C major (8'26")

Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) - Mass in A minor, Credo, Te Deum

The Mass in A minor is for solo voices, four part chorus and orchestra. Scholars believe that it is almost certainly the Messa di Gloria composed in 1821 whilst Bellini was studying at the San Sebastinano under the guidance of Giovanni Furno and Giacomo Tritto. The manuscript is held in Catania in the library of the Civic Bellini Museum.

The Mass, according to Anonymous, was reserved for a solemn occasion: the name day of Emperor Francis I, whose troops were in Sicily. The first performance in fact was held on 4th October 1821 in Catania at the church of San Francesco d'Assisi, the big church set on the square of its own name opposite Palazzo Gravina Cruyllas, the very house were Vincenzo Bellini had been born on the night of 2nd-3rd November 1801.

The score belongs to his "juvenile" compositions yet there is nothing scholastic about it, for the Sicilian musician had wholly absorbed both his grandgather's precious lessons and the counterpoint teaching of Giacomo Tritto's strict school. The composer demonstrates that he is fully cognisant of all the secrets of the art of composition and applies them to his extraordinary musical and artistic talent. Though apparently simple, the harmonic and instrumental weave constantly offers us tokens of the musician's genius.

The Mass alternates solo and choral vocal pieces in which monophonic plainsong alternates with polyphonic, contrapuntal form in clear, calm scoring.

The CD was released by Nuova Era, 2002, (DDD). Nuova Era 7375.

Soprano: Monica Tarone
Mezzo-Soprano: Galina Tchernova
Tenor: Hyun-Jae Park
Bass: Alessandro Bianchini

Coro e Orchestra dell'Accademia Stefano Tempia, Conductor: Massimo Peiretti

Track List:
  1. Kyrie (9'27")
  2. Gloria (6'26")
  3. Laudamus (8'14")
  4. Domine Deus (9'38")
  5. Qui Tollis (5'06")
  6. Qui Sedes (8'22)
  7. Cum Sancto Spiritu (6'13")
  8. Credo (a quattro voci) (6'13"9
  9. Te Deum Laudamus (7'40")

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) - Missa Coronationalis (Hungarian Coronation Mass) R 487

To a listener today the Missa Coronationalis seems to be the most concise and concentrated of all the composer's masterpieces.

The Mass was first performed on June 8, 1867 at the coronation ceremony in the Matthias Church by Buda Castle in a six-section form. After the first performance the Offertory was added, and two years later the Gradual.

On April 23, 1867, Liszt wrote to his friend and fellow composer Mihály Mosonyi in Pest, whom he regarded as highly as Richard Wagner did, about the music he had written for the mass:

"First of all I must apologize from a musical point of view for the unusual simplicity of the mass; it was impossible for me to evade my prior instructions to keep it as short as possible and so abandoned a larger scale work. Despite that, I hope the work's two main characteristics - its ecclesiastical and its Hungarian national aspect - can plainly be seen. You will, by the way, see how careful I have been to make sure that the performance should under all circumstances be exceptionally light and smooth. The vocal parts are kept within their most comfortable registers and the instruments accompanying them also play in their most comfortable positions. I have renounced enharmonice so as to prevent all dissonance, I have restricted myself to the customary devices and forsworn all offensive instruments, various percussion effects, bass clarinets or other innovations; I was not able even to include a single harp. In short, the mass is built up in such a way that it can be well sung and performed at sight ..."

The CD was released by Hungaroton Classic, 1994, (DDD). Hungaroton Classic HCD 12148.

Soprano: Veronika Kincses
Contralto: Klára Takács
Tenor: Dénes Gulyás
Bass: Lászlo Polgár

Hungarian Radio and Television Chorus, Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: György Lehel

Track List:
  1. Kyrie (5'21")
  2. Gloria (7'23")
  3. Gradual (5'23")
  4. Credo (7'10")
  5. Offertorium (5'12")
  6. Sanctus (3'35")
  7. Benedictus (7'21")
  8. Agnus Dei (6'52")

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1836) - Mass in E flat op. 80

The Mass in E flat was most likely composed for the 1804 Marienfest in Eisenstadt, an annual event celebrated with great pomp and splendor to honor the Fürstin Maria's name day, usually on the weekend following the Mariä Geburt observance (September 8). For the Marienfest, the Fürst usually hosted a banquet, a ball, and a concert, in addition to a military parade and fireworks. He also commissioned a new Mass each year (the late masses of Haydn and the Mass in C of Beethoven owe their existence to the Marienfest). The recently-appointed Hummel would have been a logical choice for such a commission in 1804, the Marienfest providing a perfect opportunity to showcase his abilities as a composer.

A review of the Mass in E flat in an 1820 issue of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, Leipzig, lauded the work as "exquisite" and "composed in the spirit and manner of J. Haydn, yet without sacrificing originality".

Hummel's Mass was widely performed in the composer's days; the work was published twice in Vienna (c.1819 and c. 1830), in Paris (1830) and late, in London (c. 1845 and c. 1874).

Unfortunately the mass had fallen into disuse by the end of the century (maybe forgotten ?), and it was not until 1993 that the first modern edition, published by Doblinger Verlag, Vienna, was used for this recording.

Two outstanding examples of Hummel's smaller symphonic sacred works composed for the Esterhazys are the Graduale Quod, quod in orbe and the Offertorium Alma Virgo, both dating from 1805.

Like the Mass in E flat, both works were published in Vienna and in London and both were widely performed until the turn of the century. The first modern editions of these two pieces, after more than 100 years, were published in 1995 by Cantate Music Press (USA).

The CD was released by Koch Schwann, 1996, (DDD). Koch Schwann 3-1779-2.

Soprano: Amanda Halgrimson
Alto: Susan McAdoo
Tenor: Helmut Wildhaber
Bass: Petr Mikulàs

Tschechischer Philharmonischer Chor Brünn, Orchester der Wiener Akademie, Conductor: Martin Haselböck

Track List:
  1. Kyrie (5'22"9
  2. Gloria (9'47")
  3. Credo (13'43")
  4. Sanctus (2'04")
  5. Benedictus (6'51")
  6. Agnus Dei (7'36")
  7. Quod, quod in orbe (4'10")
  8. Alma Virgo (6'45")

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Gloria Bruni - Requiem a Roma

Gloria Bruni writes about her Requiem a Roma:

"I had laid before Monsignore Pablo Colino, the Director of Music at St. Peter's, Rome, a few already completed sections of the Requiem a Roma. As a result he gave me his placet, although with the provisio that the Requiem a Roma must not exceed an hour's duration.

Subsequently, each section of the Requiem was checked by Monsignore Colino and also by Monsignore Valentino Miserachs, president of the Papal Conservatoire. I was therefore quite amazed that ideas like, for example, the accompaniment of the last verse of the Liber scriptus by congregational singing should be welcomed by the Vatican.

My Requiem presents death as a transition to an existence freed from care. The music must be gripping, but not mournful; it must give hope of the beyond, and thus reflect my present conception of death.

New in this Requiem is the fact that it begins, not with low voices, but with an innocent child soprano. New also is that it end with an inward prayer by the boys' choir and a boy soloist. Altogether a Circulus vitiosus, for it end as it began - with the innocent voice of a child."

The first performance took place on 5 November 2000 as a benefit concert in aid of the Salesian Order for the "Street Children of the World", at St. Ignazio's church in Rome.

On the previous evening, the Kyrie and Sanctus were given a prior performance before Pope John Paull II in the great audience chamber of the Vatican, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the singing of the European Convention on Hman Rights. The Holy Father said that he was "deeply moved" by the music.

As well as the Pope, parliamentarians and statesmen from all over Europe heard this performance of excerpts - among them Michail Gorbachev.

The CD was released by Arte Nova, 2001, (DDD). Arte Nova 74321870662.

Soprano: Gloria Bruni
Bass: Nicolò Rigano
Boys' Soprano: Rafal Sekulak

Hamburger Symphoniker, Boys' and Men's Choir of the Cathedral of Poznan, Conductor: Boguslaw Dawidow

Track List:
  1. Applause (00'18")
  2. Requiem (5'42")
  3. Kyrie (4'36") (Gloria Bruni, Thank You For This !)
  4. Offertorium (4'48")
  5. Sanctus (6'27")
  6. Agnus Dei (2'55")
  7. Lux Aeterna (5'49")
  8. Dies Irae (2'28")
  9. Tuba Mirum (2'34")
  10. Liber Scriptus (3'30")
  11. Recordare (4'30")
  12. Confutatis (2'26")
  13. Lacrimosea (4'29")
  14. Pie Jesu (5'25")

César Franck (1822-1890) - Mass in A Major op.12

César Franck was famous as a composer of instrumental music. In contratst to this he also composed church music, but unfortunately his work as a church musician has fallen into oblivion.

The mass, which was completed by Franck in 1860 and performed for the first time on Easter Tuesday of 1861 in Ste. Clotilde, was revised by him time and again until 1872.

In its arrangement for the choir and the soloists, the mass dispenses with the alto part, in keeping with a custom often to be observed in France. The role of the vocal solists is of absolutely secondary importance in comparison to that of the choir. Only for the Qui tollis of the Gloria is a solo tenor prescribed, whereas the Et incanatus est of the Credo and the beginning of the Agnus Dei can be performed by soloists ad libitum. And yet musically speaking there are good reasons for delegating larger portions of the composition to the soloists so as to reach a higher degree on tonal differentiation as well as to make its formal structure come out more clearly. This attempt was made here in the recording of the work.

The CD was released by AUDITE, 1993, (ADD). Audite 95.431.

Soprano: Edith Wiens
Tenor: Raimundo Mettre
Bass: Ivo Ingram

Philharmonie Schwäbisch Gmünd (Choir & Orchestra), Conductor: Hubert Beck

Recording fom 21th November 1979 in Heilig-Kreuz-Münster, Schwäbisch Gmünd.

Track List:
  1. Kyrie (5'39")
  2. Gloria (11'38")
  3. Credo (15'31")
  4. Sanctus (3'16")
  5. Agnus Dei (5'16")

Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) - Mass in D

Ethel Smyth was born in 1858. Being a child of the Victorian age she received a strict education at home and at a boarding school against which she revolted again and again. She studied in Leipzig - strength of will and persistence were her strongest characteristics.

She composed chamber- and piano music. A serenade for orchestra was her first success in England. The Mass remained her only religious work.

In 1910 she was active in the English suffragette Movement which fought for woman's right to vote. She then composed the "March of the Woman", she took part in activities and demonstrations and was arrested. More and more often she conducted her compositions and her reputation as a composer increased.

In 1922 she was ennobled "Dame of the Empire". In spite of advancing deafness her spirit remained unbroken, writing and journalism were added to her composatory work.

Reaching the age 0f 85 she died in 1944.

In January 1893 the première was held with about 1000 performers in the enormous Albert Hall in front of an audience of 12000 people. It was reveiced with enthusiasm. The "Gloria" was performed as festive finale at the end of the Mass being the composer's utmost wish.

In spite of this great masterpiece the work vanished from sight to reappear again 30 years later.

For a re-performance in 1924 the work was revised by her. The changes refer to a small improvement in the choir- and orchestral parts and a reduction of the metronome beat most considerably in the fast movements. The changes are surely due to the remembrance of the première with its gigantic number of performers.

George Bernard Shaw's critique which had been published in "the World":

"Dear Dame Ethel, - Thank you for bullying me into going to hear that Mass. The originality and beauty of the voice parts are as striking today as they were 30 years ago, and the rest will stand up in the biggest company. Magnificent ! You are totally and diametrically wrong in imagining that you have suffered from a prejudice against feminine music. On the contrary you have been almost extinguished by the dread of masculine music. It was your music that cured me for ever of the old delusion that momen could not do men's work in art and other things. (That was years ago, when I knew nothing about you, and heard an overture - The Wreckers or something - in which you kicked a big orchestra all around the platform.) But for you I might not have been able to tackle St. Joan, who has floored in every way playwright. Your music is more masculine than Haendel's ... Your dear big brother, G. Bernard Shaw".

The CD was released by AUDITE, 1997, (DDD). Audite 97.448.

Soprano: Catriona Smith
Alto: Helene Schneiderman
Tenor: Scott Mac Allister
Bass: Andreas Macco
Organ: Hermann Trefz

Philharmonia Chor Stuttgart, Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Conductor: Helmut Wolf

Track List:
  1. Kyrie (9'29")
  2. Credo (16'07")
  3. Sanctus (4'44")
  4. Benedictus (5'41")
  5. Agnus Dei (8'39")
  6. Gloria (16'17")

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948) - Requiem

Andrew Lloyed Webber, the composer of the world famous musicals Cats, Evita, Starlight Express, wrote a Requiem for tenor, soprano and treble, choir and orchestra.

Two events set the Requiem in motion. The first was the death of Andrew Lloyd Webber's father in 1982 and the second was a story about Cambodia in an obscure corner of the New York Times, concerning a boy who was faced with the choice of killing his mutilated sister or being killed himself. Cambodia has no musical influence on the score, but it did give Andrew Lloyd Webber the idea of scoring the Requiem for a boy, a girl and a man: in other words, treble, high soprano aqnd tenor. The writing is strictly along cathedral lines, but Lloyed Webber admits that it might not always be academically correct - "My father insisted that I should not be over-trained musically."

Lloyed Webber Snr. was an organist at All Saint and at the Central Hall, Westminster, as well as being a composer of sacred music.

The first draft of the Requiem was heard during the 1984 Sydmonton Festival. After that he "polished" the work. The polishing took a further half-year, probably the most concentrated and lengthy period of work Lloyed Webber has given to any of his compositions to date. Nothing has been allowed to distract from the Requiem.

Thank you, Andrew Lloyd Webber, for composing this masterpiece. The "Pie Jesu" will always be in my heart !

The Compact Disc was released by EMI, 1985, (DDD). CDC 7471462.

Tenor: Placido Domingo ("the best tenor I have ever heard")
Soprano: Sarah Brightman ("this angel voice is brilliant")
Treble: Paul Miles-Kingston

Winchester Cathedral Choir, English Chamber Orchestra, Conductor: Lorin Maazel

Track List:
  1. Requiem & Kyrie (6'39")
  2. Dies Irae ... Rex Tremendae (6'00")
  3. Recordare (3'21")
  4. Ingemisco ... Lacrymosa (7'40")
  5. Offertorium (5'19")
  6. Hosanna (4'51")
  7. Pie Jesu (3'53")
  8. Lux Aeterna & Libera Me (7'29")

E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) - Miserere in B flat minor

The Miserere in B flat minor for soloists, chorus and orchestra shows the unique position occupied by E.T.A. Hoffmann in musical history. Of all composers of the Romantic period it was Hoffmann who thought most deeply and wrote most perceptively about the aesthetics of his art and in particular about the true nature of church music. It is therefore no coincidence that the first of his writings to appear in print bears the title "Epistle of a Monastic City". Although the article appears to be chiefly concerned with the role of the chorus in the theatre since the time of the ancient Greeks, Hoffmann's main preoccupation is in fact the art of choral writing in the musical sense, a problem therefore whose solution is to be sought principally in church music.

During the next two decades Hoffmann wrote many more essays on musical problems and works, most of them appearing in three instalments in 1814 under the title Church Music Ancient and Modern. As the date of his Miserere falls almost exactly half-way between the dates of the first essay and this comprehensive collection of writings, posterity has the comparatively rare advantage of being informed by the composer exactly what aims and ideals were influencing him at the time of composition.

The lyrical and dramatic elements which are clearly an important part of Hoffmann's individuality as a composer are evident in the Miserere. Yet he carefully avoids operatic devices in his vocal writing, especially the arias. Quite outstanding thoughout the entire work is his impeccable Latin prosody, i.e. his musical diction and respect for the text, although in fact he chose not to set the whole of the psalm; some passages are omitted, as can be seen from the printed text, and this gives the work a structural balance that is almost classical.

Hoffmann's Miserere is the work of a man well acquainted with tradition and confident in handling it as the fugal sections clearly show - but one who openly admitted to being a romantic innovator in the realm of large-scale church music.

Being a Protestant, Hoffmann had not grown up with this tradition, unlike Haydn and Schubert. Mentally and technically he had to acquire it before he could use it as a medium for his own personal feelings.

In the Miserere he finally made the style his own. This is why the Miserere can undoubtedly be ranked among the relatively few masterpieces of church music music written at the beginning of the Romantic Era.

The Compact Disc was released by Koch Schwann, 1997, (DDD). Koch 3-1148-2.

Soprano: Camilla Nylund
Mezzo-Soprano: Arantxa Armentia
Alto: Lioba Braun
Tenor: Rodrigo Orrego
Bass: Johannes Schmidt

Süddeutsches Vokalemsemble, Concerto Bamberg, Conductor: Rolf Beck

Track List:
  1. Misere mei, Deus (5'57")
  2. Ecce enim (3'06")
  3. Ecce enim veritatem (2'40")
  4. Asperges me (3'41")
  5. Auditui meo dabis (1'44")
  6. Averta faciem tuam (3'22")
  7. Redde mihi (3'45")
  8. Docebo iniquos (2'18")
  9. Libera me (2'41")
  10. Sacrificim deo (5'01")
  11. Benigne fac (1'59")
  12. Ut aedificentur (3'26")

Monday, 2 February 2009

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) - Messa di Gloria

"Rossini's Messa di Gloria is not just a masterpiece, but also a work of outstanding significance. It is the first sacred composition of Rossini's maturity, and, indeed, the only sacred work from this period of his compositional activity. It shows the influence of his Neapolitan operas, above all, 'Mosè in Egitto', in its masterly handling of the orchestra, its feeling for detail and mastery of the whole range of stylistic methods, while at the same time clearly representing the composer's search for his own particular style for a sacred work. The Messa is a work that has earned the right, after a hundred years of silence, to be performed and accepted as one of the great sacred compositions of the nineteenth century." (quotation from the world-famous Rossini expert, Professor Gosset)

The first performance of the Mass took place on 24 March 1820 in the church of Saint Ferdinand, in Naples. The "Giornale delle due Sicilie", on 31 March described the music as masterly, worthy and uplifting.

No further performance of the work is recorded. It first appeared in print in Paris in the 1860s in a piano reduction; the score survives only as copies.

Only the first sheet of the "Domine Deus" survives in Rossini's autograph. The composer himself separated it from the autograph score in 1846, and presented it to the librettist Gustave Vaez.

This complex tale of sources may perhaps be the reason why the work remained hidden from pulic view until the mid-1960s.

More recently, since the performance under the auspices of the Rossini Opera Festival in Paesaro on 29 February 1992 (the composer's 200th birthday), the work has at last begun to find its way into the repertoire, as one of the most refined examples of Italian church music of the first half of the nineteenth century.

The Compact Disc was released by ARTE NOVA, 2000, (DDD). ARTE NOVA 74321777112.

Soprano: Doreen Maria de Feis
Mezzo-Soprano: Caroline Odermatt
Tenor: Patrizio Saudelli
Bass: Christian Tschelebiew

Landesjugendchor Baden-Würtemberg, European Festival Orchestra, Conductor: Wilhelm Keitel

Track List:
  1. Kyrie Eleison (4'25")
  2. Christe Eleison (3'06")
  3. Kyrie Eleison (3'51")
  4. Gloria (6'05")
  5. Laudamus (7'55")
  6. Gratias (8'42")
  7. Domine Deus (6'35")
  8. Qui tollis (11'45")
  9. Quoniam (7'58")
  10. Cum Sancto (4'36")

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) - Missa Sacra in C minor op. 147

Robert Schumann wrote the Mass in February and March 1852, directly before the Requiem op. 148. It is written for solo voices, choir and orchestra.

Parts of the Mass were rehearsed with his "Singekränzchen" for the first time on April 18, 1852. But his hopes of having it ready for performance in the early summer were dashed by ill health, and it was not until the beginning of the next year that he was able to conduct renewed rehearsals and then perform the Kyrie and Gloria sections at the Geissler Hall on March3, 1853.

Schumann did not live to hear his only Mass performed in its entirety. And even after his death in 1856, obstacles stood in the way of its gaining widespread acceptance.

Clara Schumann herself finally sought to dispel the reservations Johannes Brahms and Joseph Joachim had expressed regarding its publication.

After the Aachen premiere under the baton of Franz Wüllner in July 1861, she wrote to Brahms: "You can't imagine how beautiful it sounds. Certain lines in the Sanctus have such a wonderful effect that cold shivers run down your spine."

The Compact Disc was released by Capriccio, 2002, (DDD). Capriccio 67001.

Soprano: Anke Hoffmann
Tenor: Hein Heidbüchel
Bass: Franz Gerihsen

WDR Rundfunkchor Köln, WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln, Conductor: Helmuth Froschauer

Track List:

(11) 1. Kyrie (4'04")
(12) 2. Gloria (8'59")
(13) 3. Credo (7'26")
(14) 4. Offertorium (2'17")
(15) 5. Sanctus (10'24")
(16) 6. Agnus Dei (4'40")

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) - Messa di Gloria

As the son of a well-known composer and organist, he was still only fourteen when he followed in the family tradition and became organist at San Martino in Lucca, but, far from confining himself to organ music, he soon evinced an interest in the orchestra, completing his Preludio Sinfonico in 1876.

Rediscovered more than a century later thanks to the researches of Pietro Spada, this brief prelude already attests to Puccini's remarkable skill in handling orchestral forces, a skill that was to be confirmed in 1880 with his much more ambitious Messa di Gloria.

Intended as his final exercise at the Instituto Musicale Pacini, this work already finds the young composer developing a wholly unmistakable style of his own.

The mass in A flat major is distinguished by the beauty of its vocal writing and by a heart-warming lyricism underscored by extremely inventive instrumentation.

Although the Mass remained unpublished, Puccini was clearly sufficiently proud of the piece to reuse certain of its themes: the Agnus Dei is reused more or less in identical form in the opera Manon Lescaut.

The Capriccio Sinfonico - written in 1883 at the end of his period of study at Milan Conservatory - contain a number of themes that listerners can identify in La Bohème.

The Compact Disc was released by ERATO, 1978/1996, (ADD). ERATO 0630-12818-2.

Tenor: Wlliam Johns
Bass: Philippe Huttenlocher

Symphony Chorus & Orchestra Of The Gulbernkian Foundation Lisbon, Conductor: Michel Corboz

Track List:
  1. Kyrie (4'46")
  2. Gloria (19'26")
  3. Credo (15'50")
  4. Sanctus (3'19")
  5. Agnus Dei (2'42")
  6. Preludio Sinfonico (9'59")
  7. Carpriccio Sinfonico (12'32")

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) - Symphonie Antique op. 83 (with the "Te Deum Laudamus")

Like many other composers also Widor passed through different phases in the development of his style of composing. He wrote salon music, chamber music and his four organ symphonies after his studies with Lemmens and Fétis. The other organ symphonies, the piano concertos, orchestral works, ballets, operas and mélodies were composed in his maturer years.

Being organist of Saint-Sulpice (1870-1934) Widor spent most of his lifetime in the service of the Church, apart from his activities as a composer and teacher. The Symphonie Gothique, the Symphonie Romane and the Sinfonia Sacra are all based on liturgiacl themes.

In the Symphonie Antique Widor used the themes of Te Deum and Lauda Sion.

It is likely that Widor worked on this opus 83 for over two years. Widor himself conducted the premiere which took place on March 22nd, 1911, in the hall of the mansion of Widor's friend, the Comtesse de Bearn. The Gabriel Pierné conducted the first public performance at the end of December 1911. Two years later Widor had a great success when he conducted the Symhonie Antique in Dortmund, together with his first concerto.

The symhonie is in four parts with the movements Allegro moderato, Adagio, Moderato (Scherzo) and Moderato. The first three parts are played by the orchestra alone before the choir joins in to sing the Te Deum Laudamus in the last part, the fourth movement.

It is odd that the organist Widor has made very little use of "his" instrument in this great symphony. The organ only joins in the big finale, leading the choir and the orchestra to a majestic conclusion.

The last part of the Symphonie Antique - which has found its way back to the concert programmes since about 1992 - is the wonderful Te Deum Laudamus, maybe Widor has never composed anything better than this for choir and orchestra.

The Compact Disc was released by MOTETTE, 1996, (DDD). Motette CD 40181.

Radio Sinfonie-Orchester Pilsen, Domkantorei Altenberg, Gürzenich Chor Köln, Deutsch-Französischer Chor Köln, Total Vocal Dortmund, Orgel: Andreas Meisner, Paul Wißkirchen, Leitung: Volker Hempfling

Track List:

Messe fis-Moll op.36 for male choir and two organs

1. Kyrie (2'38")
2. Gloria (4'01")
3. Sanctus (1'31")
4. Benedictus (1'13")
5. Agnus Dei (4'40")

Symphonie Antique mit Schlusschor Te Deum op. 83 for soli, choir, orchestra and organ

6. Allegro Moderato (11'17")
7. Adagio (7'02")
8. Moderato - Allegro (Lauda Sion) (7'29")
9. Moderato: Te Deum Laudamus (24'26")

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) - Messa Da Requiem

The Requiem has had a chequered career. When his arch rival Bellini died in 1835 Donizetti was asked by Riccordi, their joint publishers, to write something suitable. Lament on the Death of Bellini was the outcome but then, from Naples, came a request for a Requiem Mass.

Donizetti started the project, but there was insufficient time, the promoter backed out and it remained unfinished.

The Mass never received a performance in Donizetti's lifetime and was only published in 1870 and was performed that year in Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo where Donizetti had been a choirboy.

It was later used for the ceremony when Donizetti's remains were moved to a grander setting. So although it was written for Bellini in fact, it was used for the composer. It has been revived serveral times since and is now recognised as one of his most important non-opera compositions.

The Mass lacks certain parts, a Sanctus, a Benedictus and an Agnus Dei, which were presumably never composed. Equally some of the orchestrations differ according to the versions used. However what exists shows Donizetti to be a powerful and compelling religious choral composer and Verdi must have known this piece when he came to write his own version of the Requiem.

The introduction has Mozartian overtones, the Kyrie a particularly strong, woeful feel, heart-breaking in its intensity; whereas the Dies Irae is a splash of colourful orchestral writing - very operatic and dramatic.

There are hints of a Neapolitan song and some music which is delightfully sentimental. The solo parts are well written, especially in the Preces Meae where the brass predominates and in the later sections, where the music takes on an almost impressionistic feel.

The Compact Disc was released by Koch Discover International, 1997, (DDD). DICD 920519.

Soprano: Tiziana K. Sojat
Mezzo-Soprano: Jaroslava Horska-Maxova
Tenor: Vittorio Giammarrusco
Baritone: Zdenek Hlavka
Bass: Marcel Rosca

Virtuosi di Praga, Prague Chamber Choir, Conductor: Alexander Rahbari

Track List:
  1. Introduzione (8'28")
  2. Kyrie (2'40")
  3. Requiem (2'49")
  4. In Memoria Aeterna (2'51")
  5. Dies Irae (3'01")
  6. Tuba Mirum (3'06")
  7. Judex Ergo (4'37")
  8. Rex Tremendae Majestatis (4'25")
  9. Ingemisco (4'41")
  10. Preces Meae (2'32"9
  11. Confutatis Maledictis (2'25")
  12. Oro Supplex (3'03")
  13. Lacrymosa Dies Illa (4'31")
  14. Offertorium (5'11")
  15. Libera Me (8'42")