Thursday, 29 October 2009

Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759) - The Dettingen Te Deum/The Dettingen Anthem

To celebrate the victory won by the combined Austrian and British armies over the French at Dettingen in Lower Franconia on 27 June 1743, George Friedrich Händel - who had been court composer in London since 1723 - composed a festive Te Deum and the Anthem The King shall rejoice. These works were completed during July/August, and on 27 November, after at least three public rehearsals, they were performed at St. James's Palace in the presence of King George II. An official victory celebration which may originally have been planned for St. Paul's Cathedral did not take place; nevertheless during later years the Dettingen Te Deum received many large-scale performances.

The Hymn "Te Deum Laudamus" has its appointed place in the daily office of Matins in the Roman Catholic Church, and - To English words - in the Morning Service of the Anglican Church. SInce the century the Te Deum has also often figured in state services of celebration and thanksgiving.

For such an occasion, St. Cecilia's Day in 1694, Henry Prucell wrote a festive Te Deum and Jubilate, and these settings were widely used until 1713, when they were partially supplanted by Händel's Te Deum and Jubilate written to celebrate the Peace of Utrecht. This Utrecht Te Deum was, in turn, superseded in 1743 by Händel's Dettingen Te Deum. All three settings have, however, continued to be used on St. Cecilia's Day and on other occasions such as the Festival Service of the Songs of the Clergy.

The text of the anthem The King shall rejoice was chosen from verses of Psalms 20 and 21, its first section corresponding to the first coronation anthem which Händel had composed in 1727. The psalmist's words are followed by an Alleluia. The second section, His honour is great, shows in such features as its prelude in the trio sonata style and bravura violin figuration the extent to which the 18th-century anthem had absorbed concertante elements from the Baroque cantata. The works concludes with a choral fugue. The lively principal subject is joined at the words Alleluia by a second subject, with a prominent downward leap of a seventh, of a kind vera often to be met with in Baroque music. Sufficient to mention here the chorus And with his stripes in Messiah. Händel used this entire number, with the same words, as the concluding chorus of his oratorio Joseph and his Brethren (1744).

The CD was released by Archiv Produktion, 1984, (DDD). 410647-2.

Altus: Christopher Tipping (Te Deum, Anthem)
Bass: Stephen Varcoe (Te Deum)
Tenor: Harry Christophers (Te Deum)
Bass: Michael Pearce (Te Deum, Anthem)

Choir Of Westminster Abbey, The English Concert, Conductor: Simon Preston

Track List:
  1. We praise Thee, O God (4'09)
  2. All the earth doth worship Thee (2'35")
  3. To Thee all Angels cry aloud (2'17")
  4. To Thee Cherubim and Seraphim (3'11)
  5. The glorious company of apostles (1'36")
  6. Thine honourable, true, and only Son (0'39")
  7. Thou art the King of Glory (2'35")
  8. When thou tookest upon Thee (3'36")
  9. When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death (0'27")
  10. Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven (1'35")
  11. Thou sittest at the right hand of God (3'40")
  12. (Adagio) (0'40")
  13. We therefore pray Thee (1'30")
  14. Make them to be number'd (1'42")
  15. Day by day we magnify Thee (1'23")
  16. And we worship Thy name (2'03")
  17. Vouchsafe, O Lord (2'20")
  18. O Lord, in Thee have I trusted (3'46")
  19. The Dettingen Anthem: The King shall rejoice (2'14")
  20. His honour is great (4'17")
  21. Thou shalt give him everlasting felicity (2'28")
  22. And why ? Because the King putteth his trust in the Lord (2'58")
  23. We will rejoice in Thy salvation (2'15")

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Paco Pena - Misa Flamenca

The Flamenco Mass adapts melodic and rhythmic nuances from the flamenco heritage to the texts of the Liturgy which are in turn transcribed into rhyming songs with simple, direct language. It is introduced by a siguiriya.

Heard in the open spaces of the street or the public square the siguiriya sounds like a song of the Islamic muezzin. It is a particularly fitiing comparison in the context of this Flamenco Mass, and a close association can be made with the 'call to prayer' that used to fly through the air from the minarets of the mosques of Córdoba, Málaga and Granada in broken and wavering guttural voices, rough-edged and strong, with melancholic turns that later, in flamenco, become an expression of suffering. The voice of the muezzin or the pealing of church bells, both represent the call to a universal rite, one which in times past would have seemed appropriate within the enironment of an Andalucían mosque, where Moslems, Christian and Jews once prayed together.

The CD was released by Nimbus Record, 1991, (DDD). NI 5288.

Flamenco Singers: La Susi, Rafael Montilla "El Chaparro", Dieguito, Antonio Suarez "Guadiana"
Guitarists: Paco Pena, Tito Losada, José Losada, Diego Losada
Percussion: José Losada, César Victoriano

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fileds, Chorus conducted by: Laszlo Heltay

Track List:
  1. Canto De Entrada: El Chaparro (3'50")
  2. Canto Penitencial - Tientos (3'01")
  3. Kyrie - Granainas: El Chaparro (3'05")
  4. Gloria - Fandangos: Dieguito, Guardiana (4'15")
  5. Credo - Peteneras - Jaleos: La Susi, Dieguito (8'12")
  6. Santo - Tanguillos: Dieguito (2'55")
  7. Padre Nuestro - Martinete: El Chaparro (3'20)
  8. Cordero De Dios - Bulerìas (4'03")
  9. Canto Eucaristico Y Despedida (8'14")

Friday, 23 October 2009

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) - Te Deum, Opus 22

Berlioz's Te Deum is the most mature of his great 'architectural' works, following the Requiem (1837) and Symphonie funèbre et triomphale (1840). It was completed in 1849, but its origins are earlier; it is probably the crystallization of a long-standing intention to write a militaristic piece in celebration of the great Napoleon, planned in the early 1830s.

The conception was precisely enough formed for Berlioz to announce it, in a catalogue dated 1846, as an 'unpublished work', for 'two choruses and large orchestra'. It was ready in plenty of time for the second Empire, but 'Napoléon le petit' consistently ignored the greatest composer of his realm, and the ideal occasion, his Coronation, passed it by.

The Te Deum had to wait until 1855 for the only complete performance Berlioz heard. The splendid setting was the Paris church of St. Eustache; the more prosaic excuse the opening of the Industrial Exhibition.

At the 1855 performance, which was a huge success (except financially), there were 950 performers, Berlioz told Liszt it was colossal, Babylonian, Ninivite.

There were originally two instrumental movements. Berlioz omitted the 'Prelude' to 'Dignare Domine' before 1855. The 'Marche for the presentation of flags' which follows the 'Judex Crederis' in the score is more suited to military pageantry than modern oratorio-like performance.

'Judex Crederis' is surely Berlioz's most colossal movement, a fugue with entries rising a semitone, ambiguous in key, magnificently developed, and alternating with a tender prayer (Salvum Fac Populum) which settles into an impressive ostinato. The vision of Judgement seems more terrible at every reprise, but finally confidence in redemption is restored and the movement ends in a blaze of light.

The CD was released by Deutsche Grammophone, P 1982, (Digital Recording). Deutsche Grammophon 410696-2.

Tenor: Francisco Araiza

London Symphony Chorus, London Philharmonic Choir, Wooburn Singers, St. Alban's School Choir, Haberdasher's School Choir, The Southend Boys's Choir, Desborough School Choir, The Choir of Forest School Winnersh, The Choirboys of High Wycombe Parish Church

European Community Youth Orchestra

Conductor: Claudio Abbado

Track List:
  1. Te Deum (Hymne) (7'23")
  2. Tibi Omnes (Hymne) (9'20")
  3. Dignare (Prière) (7'09")
  4. Christe, Rex Gloriae (Hymne) (5'17")
  5. Te Ergo Quaesumus (Prière) (7'00")
  6. Judex Crederis (Hymne et Prière) (10'29")

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Samuel Barber (1910-1981) - Prayers of Kierkegaard, Opus 30

In 1953 Barber turned to the writings of the nineteenth-century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, whose works he had long known and studied. When Barber accepted Koussevitzky's comission, Kierkegaard's religious views, presaging modern existentialism, were very much in the spirit of the times, Barber remarked: "His name was practically unknown in our country until the late 1930s, even though a Kierekgaard renaissance had been in full swing in Europe during the previous quarter of a century. Then in the decade after 1936 almost entire body of his writings appeared here. American readers soon became aware of Kierkegaard as a major literary figure and an exciting but enigmatic intellectual force. Interest in him was further stimulated after World War II by reports about his influence upon the leading Existentialists. Indeed the contemporary philosophers, Satre, Jaspers and Heidegger, have all paid tribute to the 'autumnal man'. Thus Kierkegaard's thought bacame a great force in our religious life even as it had become in Europe. It became the father of both the 'crisis theology' in Protestantism as well as of 'atheistic' Existentialism."

Barber selected prayers interpolated through Kierkegaard's writings and sermons written between 1847 and 1855. The music is rich and varied, beginning with a single thread of chant-like melody, that gives way to the full orchestra and chorus. A slow prayer for soprano solo over a square accompaniment - like the gentle rocking music from Knoxville: Summer of 1915 - also grows into music of contrapuntal richness. At the climax the orchestra continues alone with an almost savage intensity, then dissolves into a final broad chorale. The Prayers of Kierkegaard is one of the chief glories of Barber in his prime.

The CD was released by Koch International Classics, 1991, (DDD). Koch 3-7125-2H1.

Soprano: Sarah Reese
Baritone: Dale Duesing

The Chicago Symphony Chorus, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Andrew Schenk

Track List:

Prayers of Kierkegaard, Opus 30 for Soprano Solo and Orchestra, with incidental Tenor Solo, Alto Solo Ad Libitum
  1. O Thou who art unchangeable (grave and remote) (5'15")
  2. Lord Jesus Christ who suffer'd (andante con moto tranquillo) (3'14")
  3. Father in Heaven ( un poco mosso) (5'17")
  4. Allegro molto (1'56")
  5. Father in Heaven! (quietly) (3'34")
The Lovers (World Premiere Recording)
  1. Body of a Woman (4'39")
  2. Little girl, brown girl (2'00")
  3. In the hot depth of this summer (2'44")
  4. Close your eyes (4'05")
  5. The Fortunate Isles (3'32")
  6. Sometimes (0'38")
  7. We have lost even this twilight (3'41")
  8. Tonight I can write (5'38")
  9. Cemetery of kisses (4'44")

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) - Missa Solemnis, Opus 123

The Missa Solemnis is Beethoven's second Mass, which he began 1817 and shaped into a monumental work that threatened to break out of the traditional dimensions of liturgical ceremony.

The outward occasion for the composition of the work was the enthronement of his illustrious pupil, Archduke Rudolph, as Archbishop of Olmütz (Olomouc). "The day on which as High Mass of mine is performed at the celebrations for Your Royal Highness will be the finest day of my life," he wrote to the Archduke in June 1819, "and God will give meHis light, so that my feeble powers contribute to the glorification of this festive day." But the work cast such a spell over Beethoven that it was not finished until two years after the enthronement, which took place on 20 March 1820.

The early sketches go back to the spring of 1890 and possibly even further, and are often to be found alongside sketches for the "Diabelli" Variations - about the time in which the last three piano sonatas were composed. Yet the finished work no longer shows any trace of the struggle which its composer had even over the smallest details - of the many attempts necessary, for example, to find the incomparable, lapidary final form in the four notes of the call in the Credo which could satisfy Beethoven's conception.

In his musical interpretation he not only followed the meaning of the individual sentences in the text of the Mass but even made a constant search for the most appropriate way of expressing individual words.

Ludwig van Beethoven

The following note, in his own hand, shows how Beethoven himself took his bearings: "To write church music, go through all the church chorales of the monks, etc., work out the sections in the most accurate translation with the perfect prosody of all the Christian psalms and hymns." There is, in fact, a whole series of notebooks in which Beethoven wrote out the German translation of the Latin text of the Mass word for word, partly with exact marks of scansion, i.e. noting the emphasised and unemphasised syllables for the correct declamation of the text. Writing to the Bonn publisher Simrock on 19 March 1821 about a translator who was to prepare a printed edition with German texts of the Mass, Beethoven remarked: " The translator is himself a musician, he is familiar with my own concepts of the Latin texts, and as a ready writer is capable, thank God, of producing a model." To be able to present a personal standpoint so decisively could only be the result of an intensive struggle over the problems of the text.

The first full performance of this Mass took place not in Vienna, but in St. Petersburg. It was arranged with the help of the friendly Prince Galitzin and the performance was given on 6 April 1824 by the Philharmonic Society there. During Beethoven's lifetime only three movements were performed in Vienna, the Kyrie, the Credo and the Agnus Dei. They were presented under the title of "Hymns" (in view of the severe regulations about the concert performances of church works) at the great Beethoven Academy on 7 May 1824.

The length of the work should not lead to the false conclusion that it was conceived for the concert hall rather than for the church. The Missa Solemnis was originally intended for the lengthy ceremony of the enthronement of a bishop, and in addition the extensive movements, the Gloria and Credo, belong in the setting of a full liturgical service, where they would have a less disruptive effect. Besides, unusual length is not a peculiarity of this Mass only: even earlier Beethoven had shortened his piano sonatas by whole movements on the advice of his friends, and later he was to do the same to his string quartets.

In a letter to Andreas Streicher of 16 September 1824 he makes clear that, in working on this great Mass, his deepest concern and chief intention had been "to arouse and establish permanent religious feeling in both the singers and the audience."

Anyone who has heard with attentive ears Beethoven's musical confession, on the texts of the Mass, in a work which he himself described as his greatest, will also understand the simple greatness of the words which stand at the head of the first page of the manuscript: "From the heart - may it go into the heart again".

The DCD was released by Philips, P 1971/C 1990, (ADD). Philips 426648-2.

Soprano: Agnes Giebel
Contralto: Marga Höffgen
Tenor: Ernst Haefliger
Bass: Karl Ridderbusch

Netherlands Radio Chorus, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam, Conductor: Eugen Jochum

Track List CD 1:
  1. Kyrie Eleison (4'02")
  2. Christe Eleison (1'45")
  3. Kyrie Eleison (4'29")
  4. Gloria in excelsis Deo (5'05")
  5. Qui tollis peccata mundi (5'50")
  6. Quoniam tu solus sanctus (1'24")
  7. In gloria Dei Patris, Amen (5'19")
  8. Credo in unum Deum (4'43")
  9. Et incarnatus est (6'08")
  10. Et ascendit in coelum (2'46")
  11. Et vitam venturi saeculi (2'26")
  12. Amen (4'37")
Track List CD 2:
  1. Sanctus (3'03")
  2. Pleni sunt couli (1'12")
  3. Praeludium (2'01")
  4. Benedictus (10'01")
  5. Agnus Dei (6'28")
  6. Dona nobis pacem (2'19")
  7. Agnus Dei (6'58")

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - Johannes-Passion, BWV 245 (St. John Passion), sung in German

Bach's St John Passion, one of Christendom's most venerated works of art, initially had the function of an "audition piece", a sort of musical visiting-card, as it were.

It was with this work that Bach presented his credentials to the Leipzig public on Good Friday, 1723: after a good deal of humiliating to-ing and fro-ing, he had just been appointed Kantor of St Thomas's Church. The composer then made changes and additions to the Passion for four more performances, which he directed himself.

With the St John Passion, Bach placed colossal and unaccustomed demands on his Leipzig audience, on his colleagues and superiors alike. He broke away from the ranks of reputable, traditionally-minded Kantors and aspired to the status of a fifth Evangelist.

Who knows whether the countless disagreements and squabbles that Bach - in no way an easy going or compliant man - was involved in during his years in Leipzig may not have been the result of this alarming first impression.

It is certainly no surprise that the new Thomaskantor was officially requested right at the outset of his employment in Leipzig not to make his church music "theatrical" in character. Curiously enough, this condition was even included in an agreement that the Leipzig city fathers signed with one of the greatest composers in the history of music - naturally without the least idea of what they were doing.

"Theatrical"? The entirely inappropriate word was surely the helpless attempt of some worried Leipzig councillor to rationalise the terror that Bach's immense expressive power struck into his contemporaries. For the St John Passion is certainly no meek and modest "handmaid of theology"; it is no restrained illustration of the Gospel account of the Passion, narrating the holy story with its eyes closed and piously underling important points. All this in undoubtedly part of the Musical setting of the Passion according to the Gospel of St. John.

But the music goes far beyond this, reproducing the immensity of the Passion anew from its own resources. Right at the beginning, in the first eighteen bars of the G minor introduction, the events of the Passion assume musical form, embodying all the pain and suffering of mankind. The chromatic lines of the oboes and flutes give eloquent voice to distress and grief, as does the oppressive onward surge of the semiquavers in the strings. In the course of the harmonic development, which unfolds with a dark urgency, menacing chasms appear, and even the clear G minor of the choral entry, finally reached after long-drawn-out torment, is unable to overcome these grim overtones. The original meaning of the word "passion" is evident in every note.

What's more, Bach does not adhere to the text "God our Lord, whose glory is resplendent in all lands" by composing a radiant glorification of our Lord God. On the contrary, a brooding melancholy pervades the entire movement, and the music seems to point less to specific emotions than to point the way across the abyss. Only reading between the lines do we find the self-assured mastery of the great composer who summoned up all his powers to do justice to the Passion of Our Lord and to show the people of Leipzig what he was capable of.

The St John Passion is split into two parts. The first of these comes to an end with the chorale "Petrus, der nicht denkt zurück". After this, the sermon was given in St Thomas's Church, Leipzig, and then followed the second part of the oratorio. The text follows the Gospel according to St John for the most part, but at a number of points of particular musical or dramatic significance, the Gospel according to St. Matthew is cited instead. To the Gospel texts are added the arias, in which the individual soul reflects on the account of the Evangelist, sung by a tenor. The chorales can be understood as the reaction of the Christian congregation. In accordance with an age-old tradition, the words of Jesus are not, as one might suppose, sung by a tenor, but by a bass. As far as the aria texts and the choice of chorales is concerned, Bach stuck to the Brockes Passion: Jesus, Who was martyred and died for the sins of mankind, which was very well-known in the 18th century. It is not possible to ascertain the precise extent of Bach's own contribution of the texts.

The St John Passion is about great events and great feelings: the modern-day listener who is prepared to listen attentively, who has the courage to open both mind and heart to Bach's sublime work, will benefit from it time and time again.

The DCD was released by Emi Classics, P 1962/C 1992, (ADD). Emi Classics CMS 7642342.

Evangelist: Fritz Wunderlich
Jesus: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Soprano Arias: Elisabeth Grümmer
Contralto Arias: Christa Ludwig
Tenor Arias: Josef Traxel
Bass Arias: Karl Christian Kohn
Pontius Pilatus: Karl Christian Kohn
Maid: Lisa Otto
Servant: Horst Schäfertöns

Chor der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale Berlin, Berliner Symphoniker, Conductor: Karl Forster

Track List CD 1:
  1. Part One: Chor: Herr, unser Herrscher (10'19")
  2. Rezitativ: Jesus ging mit seinen Jüngern (1'16")
  3. Chor: Jesum von Nazareth (0'12")
  4. Rezitativ: Jesus spricht mit ihnen (0'43")
  5. Chor: Jesum von Nazareth (0'11)
  6. Rezitativ: Jesus antwortete (0'31")
  7. Choral: O große Lieb (0'57")
  8. Rezitativ: Auf dass das Wort erfüllet würde (1'25")
  9. Choral: Dein Will gescheh (0'52")
  10. Rezitativ: Die Schar aber und der Oberhauptmann (0'51")
  11. Arie (Alto): Von den STricken meiner Sünden (5'36")
  12. Rezitativ: Simon Petrus aber folgete (0'18")
  13. Arie (Soprano): Ich folge dir gleichfalls (3'58")
  14. Rezitativ: Derselbige Jünger (3'53")
  15. Choral: Wer hat dich so geschlagen (1'53")
  16. Rezitativ: Und Hannas sandte ihn gebunden (0'19")
  17. Chor: Bist du nicht seiner Jünger einer? (0'29")
  18. Rezitativ: Er leugnete aber (1'44")
  19. Arie (Tenor): Ach, mein Sinn (3'18")
  20. Choral: Petrus, der nicht denkt zurück (1'22")
  21. Part Two: Choral: Christus, der uns selig macht (1'06")
  22. Rezitativ: Da führeten sie Jesum (0'42")
  23. Chor: Wäre dieser nicht ein Übeltäter (1'01")
  24. Rezitativ: Da sprach Pilatus zu ihnen (0'14")
  25. Chor: Wir dürfen niemanden töten (0'39")
  26. Rezitativ: Auf dass erfüllet würde (2'15")
  27. Choral: Ach, großer König (1'26")
  28. Rezitativ: Da sprach Pilatus zu ihm (1'38")
  29. Chor: Nicht diesen, sondern Barrabam (0'11")
  30. Rezitativ: Barrabas aber war ein Mörder (0'29")
  31. Arioso (Bass): Erwäge, wie sein blutgefärbter Rücken (8'11")
Track List CD 2:
  1. Rezitativ: Und die Kriegsknechte flochten (0'18")
  2. Chor: Sei gegrüßet, lieber Judenkönig (0'37")
  3. Rezitativ: Und gaben ihm Backenstreiche (1'00")
  4. Chor: Kreizige, kreuzige (0'53")
  5. Rezitativ: Pilatus sprach zu ihnen (0'18")
  6. Chor: Wir haben ein Gesetz (1'21")
  7. Rezitativ: Da Pilatus das Wort (1'31")
  8. Choral: Durch dein Gefängnis (0'58")
  9. Rezitativ: Die Juden aber schrieen (0'05")
  10. Chor: Lässest du diesen los (1'10")
  11. Rezitativ: Da Pilatus das Wort hörete (0'48")
  12. Chor: Weg, weg mit dem, kreuzige ihn (0'57")
  13. Rezitativ: Spricht Pilatus zu ihnen (0'16")
  14. Chor: Wir haben keinen König (0'13")
  15. Rezitativ: Da überantwortete er ihn ((0'56")
  16. Arie (Bass): Eilet, ihr angefocht'nen Seelen (4'46")
  17. Rezitativ: Allda kreuzigten sie ihn (1'27")
  18. Chor: Schreibe nicht: der Juden König (0'36")
  19. Rezitativ: Pilatus antwortet (0'17")
  20. Choral: In meines Herzens Grunde (0'57")
  21. Rezitativ: Die Kriegsknechte (0'36")
  22. Chor:Lasset uns den nicht zerteilen (2'00")
  23. Rezitativ: Auf dass erfüllet würde (1'52")
  24. Choral: Er nahm alles wohl in acht (1'07")
  25. Rezitativ: Und von Stund an (1'30")
  26. Arie (Alto): Es ist vollbracht - der Held aus Juda (6'13")
  27. Rezitativ: Und neigte das Haupt und verschied (0'29")
  28. Arie (Bass): Mein teurer Heiland (4'35")
  29. Rezitativ: Und siehe da, der Vorhang im Tempel (0'30")
  30. Arioso (Tenor): Mein Herz, in dem die ganze Welt (1'04")
  31. Arie (Soprano): Zerfließe, meine Herze (6'32")
  32. Rezitativ: Die Juden aber (2'26")
  33. Choral: O hilf, Christe, Gottes Sohn (1'08")
  34. Rezitativ: Darnach bat Pilatum (2'36")
  35. Chor: Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine (7'26")
  36. Choral: Ach Herr, lass dein lieb' Engelein (2'13")

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Bach/Gounod - Ave Maria; Bizet - Agnus Dei sung by Benjamino Gigli

Beniamino Gigli, (March 20, 1890 - November 30, 1957) was an Italian opera singer. The most famous tenor of his generation, he was renowned internationally for the great beauty of his voice and the soundness of his vocal technique. Critics sometimes took him to task, however, for what was perceived to be the over-emotionalism of his interpretations. Nevertheless, such was Gigli's talent that he is considered to be one of the very finest tenors in the recorded history of music. (from:

Here are two sacred songs sung by the Italian opera singer Benjamino Gigli: a-side: Ave Maria (by Bach/Gounod), b-side: Agnus Dei (by Georges Bizet).

The rare shellac record (78 rpm) was ripped and digitally restored using a 192 kbit/sec mp3 encoding.

download a-side: Ave Maria/Benjamino Gigli
download b-side: Agnus Dei/Benjamino Gigli

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) - Mass in F Minor

Anton Bruckner way already forty years of age when the premiere of his D minor Mass at the Cathedral of Linz in 1864 marked his rise to a fame which would grow further. Taking two years for each, Bruckner composed other masses, the second in E minor of 1866 and then the third in F minor, which was commissioned by the Imperial court following a successful performance of the D minor Mass at the chapel of the Hofburg in Vienna on February 10, 1867. Bruckner began work on the F minor Mass on September 14 (against the advice of doctors treating his emotional disturbance) and completed it on September 9, 1868.

Important events in Bruckner's life coincided with its composition. His beloved teacher Simon Sechter died on September 10, 1867. For all his grief, Bruckner had the presence of mind to apply for the position at the Imperial court that had fallen vacant at Sechter's death. He was appointed professor for organ, thoroughbass and counterpoint at the Vienna Conservatory as of October 1, 1868, and during that same September for the post of organist at the Imperial chapel.

These events finally made his move from Linz to Vienna necessary. As choirmaster of the Vienna choral society "Frohsinn", he conducted the concert premiere of the closing scene of "Meistersinger" on April 4, 1868 and attended the premiere of the opera at the Hoftheater in Munich on June 21. In between all this he premiered his First Symphony in Linz on May 9.

For Bruckner things were moving slowly but steadily forward. Bruckner felt no further inclination to go on composing masses since his creative energies were increasingly directed toward symphonic writing, a field in which he found he could more meaningfully express his own view of the world in terms of absolute music. All three masses were radically revised by Bruckner in hte summer of 1876; the F minor Mass was also subjected to further corrections during a period stretching between at least 1890 and 1893 in preparation for its publication by Josef Eberle & Co.

The succesful premiere under the baton of the composer on June 16, 1872 at the Augustinerkirche inVienna ensured at least half a dozen repeat performances in the ensuing twelve years, among which was the second performance at the Hofburg on December 3, 1873 - an event of particular importance for the composer - and the performance on April 27, 1879 at the garrison church of the fort of Ofen, which was one of the few early Bruckner performances during the 1870s to be given outside Linz and Vienna, where the composer was a known quantity.

The F minor Mass follows the customary six-part structure necessitated by the liturgy. The Credo is however disproportionately lengthy, making it comparable with the thundering Te Deum of 1883, while the ensuing Sanctus lasts but two minutes.

The CD was released by Berlin Classics, 1997, (DDD). Berlin Classics 0092472BC.

Soprano: Magdalena Hajossyova
Alto: Rosemarie Lang
Tenor: Andreas Schmidt
Bass: Hermann Christian Polster

Rundfunkchor Berlin, Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin, Conductor: Heinz Rögner

Track List:
  1. Kyrie (8'49")
  2. Gloria in excelsis (3'09")
  3. Qui tollis (3'06")
  4. Quoniam tu solus sanctus (2'13")
  5. In Gloria Dei Patris (3'14")
  6. Credo in unum Deum (2'11)
  7. Et incarnatus est (2'55")
  8. Crucifixus (2'41")
  9. Et resurrexit (4'24")
  10. Et in spiritum sanctum (2'28")
  11. Et expecto (0'40")
  12. Et vitam venturi (2'49")
  13. Sanctus (1'16")
  14. Hosanna in excelsis (0'40")
  15. Benedictus (5'52")
  16. Hosanna in excelsis (0'43")
  17. Agnus Dei (4'421")
  18. Dona nobis pacem (3'52")

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) - Davidde Penitente, KV 469/Missa Solemnis, KV 337

In 1785 Mozart was at the very pinnacle of his fame. He was weighed down with comissions for new compositions and in constant demand to appear at countless concerts.

When the Viennese Tonkünstler-Societät (founded in 1771 to assist the widows and orphans of musicians) invited him to compose an anthem for one of its benefit concerts, he was obliged to decline through lack of time.

Anxious, however, to maintain the good relations that he had enjoyed with the Society, he suddenly hit on the brilliant idea of using music written for the Kyrie and Gloria of his Mass in C minor (KV 427), turing them into the opening sections of an impressive oratorio and providing a perfect answer to the comission that had been offered to him. Thus Viennese audiences were able to make the aquaintance of a new masterpiece and hear the magisterial music of an unfinished Mass which - had circumstances been different - Mozart would probably never have written for the city.

In composing Davidde Penitente, Mozart used an Italian text adapted to fit the original music of the Kyrie and Gloria. It is believed, albeit without certainty, that the author of these words (which paraphrase the Psalms of David) was Leonardo Da Ponte. Mozart evidently worked at some speed, not even having time to prepare a new copy of the score for himself; one of the tasks that the copyists had to undertake was to add the text at various points beneath the exisiting notes.

In order to ensure that this large-scale oratorio would be worthy of his name, Mozart added two arias (No 6 and 8), together with the famous cadenza for the three soloists in the final chorus. Each of the soloists thus had his or her own aria, and the work acquired the minimum length required by the Tonkünstler-Societät. The four-, five- and eigth-part choruses are of a beauty already amply attested by the earlier Mass in C Minor. Since the orchestral parts had still to be copied, it must be a matter of some speculation how this performance actually went.

Gossec's influence - he was Mozart's great friend during the 1760s - is clearly discernible in the C minor Mass and hence also in Davidde Penitente. In his comparative study of Mozart's Requiem and Gossec's Messe des Morts, the Viennese musicologist Hartmut Krones has shown how many of Gossec's musical ideas have found their way into Mozart's C minor Mass. Thus, for example, the opening theme of the fugal "Et lux perpetua" from Gossec's Mass recurs, note for note, in the "Kyrie Eleison" of Mozart's Mass (and also to the words "Alzai le flebili voci" in Davidde Penitente), while another of Gossec's themes, "Cum Sanctis tui in aeternam", is rediscovered intact supporting the words "Cum sancto spiritu" in the C minor Mass, only to be heard again in the large-scale chorus "Di tai pericoli non ha timor" that brings Davidde Pentitente to its fitting conclusion.

The Missa Solemnis is a typical example of the kind of Missa Brevis that Haydn, Mozart and other composers were writing at this time.

The Mass is cheerful and light-hearted, but the "Benedictus" remains a mystery: built around an austere, academic, even refractory fugue, the music is in flagrant opposition to the words "Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord". Was Mozart trying to express his discontent at the behaviour of his employer Archbishop Colloredo? Mozart quarreled with his patron Colloredo in 1780 and decided to turn his back on him.

The CD was released by Erato, 1990, (DDD). Erato 2292-45498-2.

Soprano: Bernadette Degelin
Soprano: Jennifer Smith
Countertenor: Peter Ickx
Tenor: Guy de Mey
Baritone: Jan Vandercrabben

Choeur De Chambre De Namur, Musica Polyphonica, Conductor: Louis Devos

Track List:

Davidde Penitente, KV 469
  1. Coro: Alzai le flebili voci Signor (6'03")
  2. Coro: Cantiam le glorie (2'16")
  3. Aria Soprano II: Lungi le cure ingrate (4'58")
  4. Coro: Sii pur sempre benigno (1'58")
  5. Duetto soprani I&II: Sorgi, o Signore (2'47")
  6. Aria tenore: A te, fra tanti affani (6'27")
  7. Coro: Se vuoi, puniscimi (3'34")
  8. Aria Soprano I: Tra l'oscure ombre funeste (6'18")
  9. Terzetto Soprani I&II: Tutte le mie speranze (4'23")
  10. Coro: Chi in Dio sol spera (5'31")
Missa Solemnis, KV 337
  1. Kyrie (2'22)
  2. Gloria (3'29")
  3. Credo (5'04")
  4. Sanctus (1'43")
  5. Benedictus (2'33")
  6. Agnus Dei (5'07")

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) - Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian)

In 1884, the 22-year-old Debussy had won the Prix de Rome with his cantata L'Enfant prodigue, and among the official works which he produced during his four sponsored years, La Damoiselle élue was the most original, bringing the name of Debussy clearly to the notice of the musical public in Paris when it was performed at the Société Nationale in April 1893.

Much later , in 1911, the influence of Parsifal returned - but this time closely assimilated into the real Debussy style - when at short notice he wrote incidental music for Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien. This was an extravagant five-hour theatrical production - a Mystère or miracle play, combining drama, dancing, elaborate stage effects, and music (soloists, chorus, and orchestra).

The play was by the exiled Italian author Gabriele D'Annunzio; and, controversially, the Jewish dancer Ida Rubinstein took the role of the Saint - a young officer of the Praetorian guards in the third century, ordered by Diocletian to be killed by his own archers because of his sympathy for persecuted Christians. Christian and pagan images come together in vivid scenes which range from tenderness to extreme violence.

In its original form it was not a success when produced in Paris in 1911; but attempts have been made to revive it in various modified forms - in particular, a version using Debussy's incidental music linked by narration has proved successful in the concert hall. Also, with the collaboration of Debussy's friend André Caplet, a suite of four "Symphonic Fragments" was made.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

The first of these is from Act I, "The Court of Lilies": after a solemn liturgical-sounding prelude, the scene is set in rich and sad melodic style, for the torture and martyrdom of two young Christians. The next, also from Act I, is the "Ecstatic Dance" of Sebastian on live coals, as (after a sign from heaven) he is inspired to help the persecuted Christians - a section both fierce and sensitive, orchestrated with much colour and variety, ending with music accompanying a miracle and a heavenly vision. The third fragment is the poignant music of "The Passion" from Act IV - Sebastian's masochistic expectation of martyrdom, welcoming the arrows from his own archers. And in the final excerpt, the atmospheric music accompanies a scene among the ancient laurels of Apollo's Grove, the place of Sebastian's martyrdom, when the saint has a brief vision of "The Good Shepherd" and the sacrificial lamb.

The CD was released by Sony Classical, 1994, (DDD). SK 58952.

Soprano: Dawn Upshaw
Mezzo-Soprano: Paula Rasmussen

Women of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen

Track List:
  1. NOCTURNES: 1. Nuages (7'09")
  2. Fetes (&'29")
  3. Sirènes (10'14")
  4. La Damoiselle élue (poème lyrique d'après Dante Gabriele Rossetti) (20'14")
  5. LE MARTYRE DE SAINT SÉBASTIEN: I. La Cour des Lys. Prélude. (3'51")
  6. II. Danse extatique et Finale du 1er Acte (5'52")
  7. III. La Passion (5'52")
  8. IV. Le Bon Pasteur (6'52")

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) - Requiem in D Minor, KV 626

Mozart's famous Requiem is well known. A lot of background information is available on the internet, for example,

It was believed for a very long time that Mozart composed the Requiem as a presentiment of his own death, although there is no evidence of this, nor did Mozart make any suggestions of the kind. Mozart set down the above thoughts about death (in his letter to his father) more than four years before his own decease.

Mozart to his father: Vienna, 4 April 1787,

"As death, when we come to consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relations with this best and truest friend of mankind, that his image is not only no longer terrifying me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling! And I thank my God for graciously granting me the opportunity (you know what I mean) of learning that death is the key which unlocks the door to our true happiness. I never lie down at night without reflecting - young as I am - I may not live to see another day. Yet no one of all my aquaintances could say that in company I am morose ordisgruntled. For this blessing I daily thank my Creator and wish with all my heart that each one of my fellow-creatures could enjoy it."

The CD was released by Deutsche Grammophon, 1987, (DDD). 431288-2 G MD.

Soprano: Anna Tomowa-Sintow
Contralto: Helga Müller-Molinari
Tenor: Vinson Cole
Bass: Paata Burchuladze

Wiener Singverein, Wiener Philharmoniker, Conductor: Herbert von Karajan

Track List:
  1. Introitus - Requiem (5'25")
  2. Kyrie (2'40")
  3. Dies Irae (1'51")
  4. Tuba Mirum (3'51")
  5. Rex Tremendae (2'21")
  6. Recordare (5'11")
  7. Confutatis (2'23")
  8. Lacrimosa (3'08")
  9. Domine Jesu (3'50")
  10. Hostias (4'30")
  11. Sanctus (1'48")
  12. Benedictus (5'25")
  13. Agnus Dei (3'39")
  14. Lux Aeterna (5'50")
This consummate performance on CD leaves nothing to be desired !

Monday, 12 October 2009

Leopold Mozart (1719-1787) - Missa Solemnis in C (World Premiere Recording)

Only a handful of works by Leopold Mozart are available in reprints. The vast majority are housed in the manuscript collection of South German and Austrian libraries. It is therefore still no easy task to assess his importance.

His son Wolfgang Amadeus had a high regard for him as a composer and even in his later years in Vienna chose to perform several of his works. Moreover, during the last few decades a number of items in the Köchel catalogue have been identified on sound documentary evidence as being by Leopold.

The Mass in C is a case in point. In the old Köchel catalogue it figures as K 115 with a reference to a long-vanished autograph score, but in 1975 the manuscript turned up at an auction and it was in Leopold's own hand. It contains only the vocal parts and a keyboard accompaniment (organ) and breaks off after the first nine bars of the Sanctus. Comparison with the two complete manuscript sources of the work reveals that this autograph is in fact a concentrated sketch for the final score; several of its vocal sections were preserved intact, while others were considerably expanded.

Two sets of parts were produced in the Salzburg area, probably during the 1760s; the more valuable is still preserved in the archives of St. Peter's Abbey in Salzburg. The orchestration is the same in both: two clarino trumpets, two horns, strings and organ, and one of them has a part for solo flute. This suggests that the Mass was not in fact intended for Salzburg Cathedral, since, the latter has no violas. It is possible that the Mass was written for St. Peter's Church. An extract date cannot be postulated.

The Mass in C contains a number of long solo arias, and the the score suggests that Leopold Mozart could reckon with the participation of at least two highly accomplished singers: a soprano and a tenor. The arias culminate in pauses indicating the start of solo cadenzas: in one instance there are no fewer than three.

But despite the presence of such innovations the work clearly belongs to the transitional period between the late baroque and early classicism, and harks back to the stylized emotions and musical symbolism of the baroque era.

Leopold's attitude to Latin prosody was not as strict as his son's. His approach was very much in the spirit of the 18th-century motet, with priority given to the working out of thematic material.

Very characteristic of him are the occasional homely touches: he was not ashamed of sharing the popular taste and indeed considered it as necessary part of music.

The CD was released by Koch-Records International, P 1982/1989, (ADD). 313028 H1.

Soprano: Arleen Augér
Alto: Gabriele Schreckenbach
Tenor: Horst Laubenthal
Baritone: Barry McDaniel

Chor der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale Berlin, Domkapelle Berlin, Conductor: Roland Bader

Track List:
  1. Kyrie (4'29")
  2. Gloria (17'03")
  3. Credo (16'39")
  4. Sanctus (1'54")
  5. Benedictus (5'12")
  6. Agnus Dei (6'35")

Voices from Heaven

This is a beautiful anthology of sacred liturgical music. Chung coordinates his forces in larger choral pieces with power and vertical balance. Contributions by Cecilia Bartoli find the mezzo in top form, and Bryn Terfel brings charismatic presence to “Pie Jesu” from the Fauré Requiem. Also included are the interminable "Song for Athene" by John Taverner and a great performance by Andrea Bocelli in Eric Levi's hymn for the world, "I Believe".

The CD was released by Deutsche Grammophon, 1998, (DDD). Deutsche Grammophon 459720-2.

Soprano: Cecilia Bartoli
Tenor: Andrea Bocelli
Bass Baritone: Bryn Terfel

Coro e Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Conductor: Myung-Whun Chung

Track List:
  1. I Believe - Andrea Bocelli (4'10")
  2. Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod) - Cecilia Bartoli (2'42")
  3. Va Pensiero Sull'ali Dorate (From Nabucco/Verdi) (4'51")
  4. Deus In Adjutorium (from Vespro della Beata (Monteverdi) (1'37")
  5. Qui Sedes Ad Dexteram Patris (from Bach/Mass BWV 232) - Cecilia Bartoli (5'05")
  6. Laudate Dominum (from Vesperae Solemnes De Confessore - Mozart) - Cecilia Bartoli
  7. Lacrimosa (from Requiem/Mozart) (3'41")
  8. Stimmt an die Seiten (from Die Schöpfung/Haydn) (1'49")
  9. Sanctus (from Mass D 950/Schubert) (3'18")
  10. Locus Iste (Bruckner) (3'44")
  11. Pie Jesu (from Requiem op.48/Fauré) - Cecilia Bartoli (3'42")
  12. Libera Me (from Requiem op.48/Fauré) - Bryn Terfel (4'47")
  13. Sanctus (from Requiem op.09/Duruflé) (2'37")
  14. Gloria In Excelsis (from Gloria/Poulenc) (2'49)
  15. Song for Athene (John Taverner) /7'36")
  16. I Believe (Instrumental) (4'10")

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) - Mass No 2 in G Minor/Giuseppe Geremia (1732-1814) - Missa Pro Defunctis, Tantum Ergo

Mass in G Minor by Vincenzo Bellini: Bellini's sacred works do not seem few, or of little interest, as there are more than thirty such compositions, thanks to the unique conditions in which the Catanese composer worked. Not only was his contact with sacred music early and long-lasting, as he was the son and relative of musicians employed by the Church, but the inevitable spirit of emulation made it so that his first efforts were destined for this area.

While the Mass in A Major, in all probability composed in 1821 and published in 1843 by Ricordi, has been familiar for a long time, the G Minor Mass was made accessible by Francesco Pastura, who, in 1959, edited a reconstruction based on autographs held in Catania and Naples, published by Edizioni Drago de Magenta.

According to a Catanese scholar's supposition, the second Mass ought to be associated with the occasion when Bellini, after his diploma was brilliantly signed and crowned with a performance of Adelson e Salvini in the small theatre of the Collego, "was invited to compose (...) for the church of Gragnano", where a cornerstone, unveiled in 1881, cites the composer's having led the work in July of 1825 for the Feast of the Madonnadel Carmine. In fact it is a Mass in which the persistent agogic of the Allegro, with varied shadings and with a unique exception is entirely appropriate for the Marian festivity.

Giuseppe Geremia has almost been completely forgotten, as there are but few references attesting to his existence (Catania, 1732 - Catania, 1814), yet a substantial musical output still speaks for him.

The Missa was most likely conceived for the Benedictine church where Geremia was engaged. The practice of the day used elements of the melodramatic style and of the Cantata to modify the form and character of Roman liturgy, becoming an alternating sequence of choruses, arias, duets and recitatives, supported by an instrumental accompaniment.

The year Tantum Ergo was composed is not known but the style adopted vy Geremia, which resembles early Classicism through its reference to the lesser sacred works of Haydn and Mozart, leads one to suppose that it was in all probability composed around 1770.

The CD was released by Scandinavian Classics, 2002, (DDD).

Soprano: Katia Ricciarelli
Alto: Francesca Aparo
Tenor: Salvatore Fisichella
Baritone: Furio Zanasi

Camerata Polifonica Siciliana, Conductor: Douglas Bostock

Track List: V. Bellini - Mass No 2 G Minor
  1. Kyrie Eleison (5'08")
  2. Gloria In Excelsis Deo (5'01")
  3. Laudamus Te (%'53")
  4. Domine Deus (6'34")
  5. Qui Tollis (3'20")
  6. Qui Sedes (5'33")
  7. Quoniam, Cum Sancto Spiritu (4'22")
Track List: Giuseppe Geremia - Missa Pro Defunctis

8. Tantum Ergo (3'22")
9. Requiem - Kyrie (2'29")
10. Kyrie (0'42")
11. Dies Irae (0'42")
12. Quantus Tremor (1'03")
13. Mors Stupebit (1'31")
14. Quid Sum Miser (0'59")
15. Rex Tremendae (0'52")
16. Recordare (0'43")
17. Quaerens Me ((1'06")
18. Iuste Iudex (1'41")
19. Preces Meae (1'00")
20. Confutatis (0'42")
21. Oro Supplex (1'36")
22. Qua Resurget (0'36")
23. Huic Ergo (1'15")
24. Amen (1'24")

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) - A German Requiem (Ein Deutsches Requiem)

Johannes Brahms was born on 7th May 1833 in the Gängeviertel district of Hamburg, the son of a double-bass player and his wife, a seamstress seventeen years her husband's senior. It was intended that the boy should follow the father's trade and to this end he was taught the violin and cello, but his interest in the piano prevailed, enabling him to supplement the family income by playing the dockside taverns, while taking valuable lessons from Eduard Marxen.

In 1853 Brahms embarked on a concert tour with the Hunagrian violonist Eduard Reményi, during the course of which he visited Liszt in Weimar, to no effect, and struck up a friendship with the violinist Joseph Joachim, through whose agency he met the Schumanns, established now in Düsseldorf. The connection was an important one. Schumann was impressed enough by the composition that Brahms played to him to hail him as the long-awaited successor to Beethoven. Schumann's subsequent break-down in February 1854 and ensuing insanity brought Brahms back to Düsseldorf to help Clara Schumann and her young family. The relationship with Clara Schumann, one of the most distinguished pianists of the time, lasted until her death in 1896.

It was not until 1862, after a happy period that had brought him a temporary position at the court of Detmold as a conductor and piano teacher, that Brahms visited Vienna, giving concerts there and meeting the important critic Eduard Hanslick, who was to prove a doughty champion, pitting Brahms against Wagner and Liszt as a composer of abstract music, as opposed to the music-drama of Wagner and the symphonic poems of Liszt, with their extra-musical associations. Brahms finally took up permanent residence in Vienna in 1869, greeted by many as the real successor to Beethoven, particularly after the first of his four symphonies, and winning a similar position in popular esteem and similar tolerance for his notorious lack of tact. He dies in 1897.

There seems little doubt that the death of his mother in January 1865 was the immediate reason for the composition of A German Requiem, a large scale work that developed gradually over the years immediately following, but may well have been under consideration for some years. The second movement, at least, makes use of material from the slow Scherzo of the composer's rejected symphony of 1854 and 1855, the period of Schumann's final illness. Three of six completed movements were performed in Vienna in 1867 by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde under the direction of Johann Herbeck, but was badly received.

Brahms, as a North German Protestant, had chosen to make use of texts from the Lutheran Bible, drawing on the Old and New Testaments and on the Apocrypha, and such a work might well have been seemed strange to Catholic Vienna, even had it been properly rehearsed for the occasion.

Albert Dietrich, a young composer and conductor and a pupil of Schumann, whom Brahms had first met in Düsseldorf in 1853, sent a copy of the work to the organist and director of music of Bremen Cathedral, Karl Martin Reinthaler, who arranged the first performance of all six movements on Good Friday 1868, under the direction of the composer. On this occasion the Requiem was very successful and with the addition of a seventh movement, placed fifth in the whole work, became in the following years a valuable and esteemed element in choral repertoire both in Germany and abroad, establishing the wider reputation of Brahms.

The texts chosen avoid overt Christian reference, and the composer himself suggested in private correspondence that he would have liked to substitute the word "human" for "German" in the title. It has its roots above all in Bach and it has been suggested that Brahms may have drawn some inspiration from the much earlier work of Schütz. It is clearly vastly different in character from the liturgical Latin Requiem of Catholic tradition with its evocation of the Day Of Judgement and its prayers for mercy on the souls of the dead.

The CD was released by Naxos, 1993, (DDD). Naxos 8.550213.

Soprano: Miriam Gauci
Baritone: Eduard Tumagian

Slovak Philharmonic Choir, Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Alexander Rahbari

Track List:
  1. Selig Sind, Die Da Leid Tragen (Blessed Are They That Mourn) (9'18")
  2. Denn Alles Fleisch Ist Wie Gras (For All Flesh Is As Grass) (1456")
  3. Herr, Lehre Mich Doch (Lord, Make Me To Know My End) (10'02")
  4. Wie Lieblich Sind Deine Wohnungen (How Amiable Are Thy Tabernacles) (4'47")
  5. Ihr Habt Nun Traurigkeit (And Ye Now Therefore Have Sorrow) (7'11")
  6. Denn Wir Haben Hie Keine Bleibende Stadt (For Here Have We No Continuing City) (10'35")
  7. Selig Sind Die Toten (Blessed Are The Dead) (10'08")

Friday, 2 October 2009

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) - Requiem (World Premiere Recording)

A towering figure of the English musical establishment, whilst remaining an Irishman in his blood and bones until his dying days, Stanford wrote more than thirty works for chorus and orchestra as well as seven symphonies.

The Requiem Mass was composed in memory of the painter Lord Leighton, a figure of enormous stature in English culture and society. Although in scale the Requiem almost equals that of the great Requiems of Berlioz and Verdi, the orchestral style is largely content with economical underpinning of the vocal forces and telling use of instrumental solos, a reminder that Stanford was a highly-regarded symphonist.

Charles Stanford was born in Dublin on 30th September 1852 as the son of a prosperous Irish lawyer. Both his parents were extremely musical. The young Charles learnt the piano and organ and gained a first-class classical grounding at what was said to be the finest school in Dublin.

In 1870 he went to Cambridge as a choral scholar, he took over the conductorship of the Cambridge University Musical Society when he was twenty. At the same time he became the Trinity College organist. He graduated in 1874 and spent much of that year and the next two studying in Germany, first (and unfruitfully) with Karl Reinecke in Leipzig and then, at the instigation of Joseph Joachim, in Berlin with Friedrich Kiel, a rare man and a rare master.

Stanford's career rapidly developed. In 1875 he received a commision for incidental music to his play Queen Mary; his First Symphony of 1976 gained second prize in a competition, a Festival Overture (1870) was a success at the 1877 Gloucester Three Choirs Festival. He took on the London Bach Choir in 1885; Oxford awarded him the honorary degree of Mus.D. in 1883, as did Cambridge in 1887, where he was also appointed Professor of Music in the same year. He was able to introduce several of the greatest composers to England for important performances.

Stanford died on 20th March 1924. His body was interred in Westminster Abbey under a stone inscribed A Great Musician, close to the remains of Purcell.

The Requiem is, in fact, a central work of Stanford's output and the scale of the Requiem equals that of the great Requiems of Berlioz and Verdi.

The DCD was released by Naxos, 2004, (DDD). Naxos 8.555201-02.

Soprano: Frances Lucey
Mezzo-Soprano: Colette McGahon
Tenor: Peter Kerr
Bass: Nigel Leeson-Williams

RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Conductor: Adrian Leaper

Track List CD 1:
  1. Introit: Adagio (8'03")
  2. Kyrie: Allegro tranquillo ed espressivo (4'40")
  3. Gradual: Larghetto (4'38")
  4. Sequence - Dies Irae: Allegro moderato ma energico (30'21")
  5. Offertorium: Allegro (11'37")
Track List CD 2:

Excerpts from the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan (Opera); Soprano: Virginia Kerr, Conductor: Colman Pearce
  1. Sanctus: Allegro non troppo (10'07")
  2. Agnus Dei et Lux Aeterna: Tempo di marcia funèbre (7'20")
  3. Excerpts from the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan (Opera): Overture (7'53")
  4. Ballet Music No. 1 (7'20")
  5. There's a Bower of Roses (5'05")
  6. Ballet Music No. 2 (3'17")