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Masses, Passions, Requiems - To be released March 26, 2021 | Claves Records

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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released February 5, 2021 | harmonia mundi

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Faced with the plethora of Beethoven recordings released in 2020, we expect more from some than from others, and this applies to this Missa Solemnis. An absolute masterpiece of Western music, it is conducted by René Jacobs, whose recent recording of Leonore (the first version of the opera Fidelio by the same Beethoven) conquered the musical world. Composed in 1824, the Missa, "a rough and uncomfortable work that leaves no room for narcissism in the singers" according to René Jacobs (and he would know what he is talking about!) is an older sister to the Ninth Symphony which shares the same faith in man over divinity. Recorded in Berlin in May 2019, this version packs as intense a gut-punch as a live concert.The understated and profound Kyrie brings shadow and meditation. Then, a surging explosive Gloria, a stirring call for peace and brotherhood, from the heart of all humanity presses this splendid performance onward. Without doubt, the RIAS Kammerchor has added one more stone to an edifice of recordings of the highest quality. In addition we are treated to an instrumental finale rarely heard and four soloists who contribute to the expressive power of the whole. All of Beethoven is here, with his idealism, his tenderness, and also his way of hammering out peace with mighty blows. As Goethe would have said “He would squash a fly with a rock”. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released May 5, 2020 | Village Green

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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released April 5, 2019 | Rondeau

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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released April 5, 2019 | Christophorus

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The 17th century composer Johann Georg Künstel is one of the forgotten persons in history. He lived at Franconia in South East Germany where he is mentioned as a schoolmaster and court organist. But his inclusion in Johann Gottfried Walther’s Musicalisches Lexicon of 1732 provides clues about his significance. The St. Mark Passion can be considered to be his most significant work; records show that it was frequently performed in Coburg even after the composer’s death. The work’s substantial dimensions of nearly two and a half hours(!) which is outstanding for this time is due to the fact that the complete performance was divided between several church services between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The music is really pleasant; the long recitatives of the Evangelist are formed with pleasing melodies and are continuously accompanied by strings. Most of the text is narrated by the vocal consort or parts of it, often interrupted by instrumental intermezzos. On first glance, the St. Mark Passion seems to be straightforward, everyday music ideally suited for choirs, but a closer examination reveals that the work is actually a sophisticated, through-composed musical drama. From the introductory sonata to the concluding chorale, Künstel creates an enthralling musical arc, immediately drawing the audience into the passion of Jesus. © Christophorus
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released April 5, 2019 | Fra Bernardo

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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released April 5, 2019 | BR-Klassik

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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 29, 2019 | Les Indispensables de Diapason

Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 15, 2019 | Glossa

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It is to the distinctive compositional voice of Jan Dismas Zelenka that Ruben Jais and laBarocca turn for their latest release from the Glossa label with a new recording of the Missa Omnium Sanctorum. For more than thirty years Zelenka worked as a composer and as a double-bass player at the Dresden Court, the musical establishment which – in the first half of the eighteenth century – was regarded as one of the glories of its age. Zelenka finished this mass, an expansive, dynamic multi-movement work (notably the Gloria) scored for soloists, chorus and orchestra, in 1741; by this time the composer was in his sixties, and the mass stands as one of the summations of his creative endeavours. The Milanese Ruben Jais – who has previously prepared programmes of Bach and Gluck for Glossa – provides exuberant conducting for music which takes in studied choraal sections, exhilarating fugues, High Baroque flourishes as well as the dance-like tendencies of the galant style. In this musical diversity Ruben Jais is accompanied by a solo team consisting of Carlotta Colombo, Filippo Mineccia, Cyril Auvity and Lukas Zeman, but with more than important contributions being required from the choral and instrumental forces of laBarocca. © Glossa
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 8, 2019 | Naxos

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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 1, 2019 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Fauré's Requiem, “funeral lullaby” written for enjoyment as the composer put it, has a unique place in history. It's soft, simple and modest poetry conveys moments of gentle contemplation and moving expressiveness which are entrusted to both the choir and the two soloists. With his Ensemble Aedes and the orchestra Les Siècles, Mathieu Romano is committed to render a Requiem faithful to its first performance. We hear thus the score in its original 1893 orchestration, where the organ plays a great role, and where Latin is pronounced in the French way as it used to be. The clearest articulation of the Ensemble Aedes then perfectly fits Éluard’s Figure humaine set to music by Francis Poulenc. We have never heard these sublime poems sung with such intelligibility before! Finally, the three Songs by Debussy elegantly close the album. Here again, the quality and clarity of the voices are stunning. Artistic director and founder of Ensemble Aedes has established himself as a magician of voices in a cappella scores. And voices ideally melt with the strings of Les Siècles under his baton. A 100% French cast in a 100% French music disc for a triple rediscovery. Essential! © Aparté
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released January 4, 2019 | Glossa

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Johannes Brahms’ consolatory Ein deutsches Requiem receives a fresh and considered interpretation from Daniel Reuss and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. This renowned orchestra took the decision – following the death, some years back, of Frans Brüggen – to retain its founder’s dynamic process of alternating concert tours with recordings. And dispensing with the need for having a principal conductor, the orchestra now works with a range of musicians according to the repertoire being performed. Such a conductor is Daniel Reuss, who is also the artistic director of the Cappella Amsterdam, the choir which has frequently been appearing alongside the orchestra in recent times. A well-received reading of the Beethoven Missa Solemnis involving Reuss and the orchestra was issued by Glossa in 2017 and these musical forces have now turned their attention to Johannes Brahms’ pillar of religious music. Taped in the Rotterdam De Doelen concert hall this new recording involves Carolyn Sampson (soprano) and André Morsch (baritone) as its two soloists, in a version which attempts, as far as it is possible, to get close – in terms of tonal colours, interpretation and tempi – to Brahms’ original intentions. This extraordinary work, here maintaining a sweeping and moving spirit for some 70 minutes, contains texts from Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible and, it is thought, was inspired by the loss of both the composer’s mother and also that of Robert Schumann. © Glossa
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released November 30, 2018 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Messa per Rossini is a Requiem Mass resulting from the assembly of thirteen parts written by thirteen different composers. Shortly after Rossini's death in 1868, Verdi addressed Ricordi: "To honour the memory of Rossini I would wish the most distinguished Italian composers to compose a Requiem Mass to be performed on the anniversary of his death. I would like no foreign hand, no hand alien to art, no matter how powerful, to lend his assistance. In that case, I would withdraw at once from the association. If I were in the good graces of the Holy Father, I would beg him to allow, at least this once, women to take part in the performance of this music, but since I am not, it would be best to find a person more suitable than I to achieve this end." The composition was completed in the summer of 1869, but the hearing was cancelled... due to sinister political disputes. Verdi resumed his own contribution, the Libera me conclusive, in a revised form for his own Requiem; the comparison of the two movements, the original for Rossini and the definitive for Verdi's Requiem, is a fascinating exploration of the Verdian laboratory and evolution. The other twelve composers have hardly passed the test of posterity, but it is extremely interesting to see what was then being done in the Italian sacred domain. The Mass for Rossini, which had fallen into oblivion, was only rediscovered in the 1970s and (re)created in 1988. Here we find Riccardo Chailly at the helm with the La Scala of Milan orchestra and choir as well as four leading Italian soloists. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released November 2, 2018 | Carus

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
Of Zelenka's known works (roughly two hundred pieces) only about a dozen are not religious. And so it's no surprise that the catalogue contains heaps of masses, oratorios, requiems, psalms, litanies, Te Deums and Magnificats. He wrote all these marvels while working at the court of Dresden, where he spent the best part of his life, from 1710 until his death 35 years later. By all indications, the two successive monarchs he served liked his work a lot; but they were not his only fans. One Johann Sebastian Bach admired him enough to invite him to stay now and again, and to copy (or rather, to have his sons copy) several of Zelenka's works. His work would only come back into fashion after his death, thanks in particualr to the efforts of Smetana, who wanted to honour musicians of Czech origin, of whom Zelenka was one. The writing still shows great harmonic daring, stuffed to the brim with unusual chromaticisms in a great melting pot of national influences: there's North German counter-punctual rigour, of course, and Italian melodic flair – but then there is also something rarer: Bohemian and Moravian melismas, which are normally only found in the works of consciously "national" Czech composers, foremost of whom Smetana. Here we find his Mass of St Joseph, written in 1732 – making it a mature work of his – as well as some highly original psalms from the mid-1720s. The exceptional Frieder Bernius leads his his Stuttgart ensembles, the local Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra, which he has raised up to an international standard. This is the world's first-ever recording of this mass. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 19, 2018 | Glossa

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 étoiles de Classica
The modern-day appreciation of Francesco Bartolomeo Conti takes a decisive turn in the direction of his church music with this early eighteenth-century composer’s Missa Sancti Pauli given an ideal recording on Glossa by György Vashegyi, the Purcell Choir and Orfeo Orchestra. Conti was a Florentine who worked for much of his career in the Imperial Court in Vienna, generating much attention there – the ever-observant Johann Sebastian Bach and Zelenka were both known to have been attracted by his music. Curiously, it was liturgical works like this 1715 Missa Sancti Pauli which kept Conti’s name known until near to the end of the nineteenth century rather than the operas, oratorios and cantatas with which he delighted the Viennese Court and which have hitherto been receiving the attention of artists and record labels today. If Conti’s church music is less fledgling Classical than his dramatic fare, there is much in the way of melodic tunefulness and concertato style – for both voices and instruments – to combine with fugalimitative writing reminiscent of the “stile antico”. The work is a “Credo Mass” (both Mozart and Beethoven were to write examples of this genre, with its rondolike restatement of the word in the Credo section. The tone, control, presence and unity of the Purcell Choir have been amply demonstrated already on Glossa in music of the French Baroque – Rameau and Mondonville in particular – and the singers are given full opportunity to shine in Conti’s mass – as are the orchestra, comprised mainly of strings, and the vocal soloists, who include Adriána Kalafszky, Péter Bárány, Zoltán Megyesi and Thomas Dolié. Bárány and Megyesi are also soloists in two additional works: the motet, Fastos caeli audite and the aria Pie Jesu, ad te refugio. © Glossa
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 5, 2018 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
With this surround-sound recording of Berlioz’s Requiem, Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra tackle the infinite and the immeasurable. All the grandiose, striking beauty of the Requiem’s large-scale ceremonial is encapsulated by first-class vocal and orchestral forces, fully utilising the spatial possibilities of Grieghallen in Bergen. The matching of space and sonority was one of Berlioz’s lasting obsessions, one experience in St Paul’s Cathedral in London throwing Berlioz into a delirium of emotion from which he took days to recover. His Grande Messe des morts, notorious for its requirement of four brass bands in addition to a large orchestra and chorus, taken here from live concerts, has often been seen as one of the most emotionally powerful works of its kind. Setting a solemn and austere, even ascetic text, the music is not that of an orthodox believer but of a visionary, inspired by the dramatic implications of death and judgement. © Chandos
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 5, 2018 | Dynamic

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released May 25, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice
In the 17th century, Roman churches were competing to put on the greatest show to celebrate their patron saints. On these occasions, extraordinary services were performed, where many different artists would be brought together, singers and instrumentalists alike, alongside ordinary musicians, for sumptuous pieces performed by several vocal and instrumental choirs. One contemporary description gives an idea of the scale: ten choirs and ensembles played together, two on fixed stages, and eight others distributed symmetrically right along the nave, on platforms built for the occasion. Every additional stage was provided with a positive organ, while many other instruments added to the sonic splendour. So that all the musicians could play well together in spite of the distance, "capi di coro” or time-keeping drummers, would play in unison. Orazio Benevolo (1605-1672) was one of the most remarkable architects of these extravagant, multi-choral monuments. Benevolo was a choirboy at the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome before he entered the upper echelons by taking the job of Chapel Master in 1638. The composer has left behind him an abundant set of works, containing no fewer than 34 motets for a range of players, including Regna terrae, written for twelve soprano parts distributed across six vocal choirs, each with its own basso continuo. We are also indebted to him for twelve versions of the Magnificat, for between eight and 24 voices, including one for 16 voices, in quadruple choir, which appears here. Hervé Niquet and his Concert Spirituel have made use of the ample acoustics in the Notre-Dame-du-Liban church in Paris, perfectly structured to hold several choirs distributed across the building, to create the sensations of immersion and spatial plenitude that the composer aimed for. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 23, 2018 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
From the start of the 18th century, Lutheran Germany has kept the tradition of performing an oratorio for the Passion in Holy Week. In Hamburg, where Telemann is said to have spent 46 years as musical director, he would have overseen as many Passions. But if we include his previous jobs, that would take the number of works by Telemann for this theme alone to over sixty! These Passions could be strictly liturgical, that is, they could closely follow the text of one of the Gospels; but they could also liberally paraphrase the story of the Passion, following a version by a contemporary author; or they could represent a meditation on the events. And so Seliges Erwägen by Telemann, whose full title leaves no doubt as to the content: Oratorio of the Passion, or Spiritual Contemplation on the bitter suffering and death of Jesus Christ, to inspire prayer, in several meditations taken from the account of the Passion. Not a linear account of the Passion, as with Bach: but a series of individual meditations set to music. The work was first composed in 1719, and then reviewed and completed three years later for Hamburg, where the first performance took place on 19 March 1722 the success was considerable, and the work was performed again and again many times throughout the following decades. This was probably the most-performed work on the Passion in the 18th century, out ahead even of Telemann's Brockes Passion... There is no evangelist here, nor storyteller, but rather an evocation of the main events of the Passion. That is why there are only two main "roles" here: Christ, with six airs and six recitations, and the allegory of the Devotion (soprano or tenor) as the mouthpiece for the thoughts of the faithful, with eight airs and eight recitations. The sole narrator is Peter, with his denial and despair, and Caiaphas, the high priest who condemns Jesus, comes on for a single, very violent, air. This is very much a series of individual devotional meditations. The instrumentation in particular is extraordinarily rich. Alongside the strings, the continuo and the standard woodwind, a dash of colour is added by two horns, two chalumeaux, ancestors of the clarinet – what a pity that Bach never made the most of this sound – echoing recorders, a magnificent bassoon solo that intermingles with the soprano's voice; in short, once again, Teleman proves to us that far from being a mill for middle-of-the-road baroque, he is in fact one of the most imposing musical minds of his age. The Freiburger Barockorchester and a lovely soloists come together to perform this work.. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 23, 2018 | Pan Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Every single note of this astounding mass of the Holy Virgin from Ghiselin Danckerts (1510-1567) is from the hand of the composer. The remark is by no means trivial, because at the time a good part of the Gregorian repertoire was the subject of thousands of improvisations, unannotated by definition. Yet, Danckerts annotated them, with a luxury of details, so we know precisely what the choirs and the soloists were singing and what they were improvising on the Gregorian sections of his mass (the introit, the hallelujah,…), a great rarity then, all the more so that the composer doesn’t hesitate to reproduce a few singular dissonances coming from implacable melodic logics. He is incidentally known for a few writings in which he clarifies with exactitude the art and the way to sing the sharp notes and the flat notes, to unfold the melisma, etc. Naturally, the polyphonic acts themselves (Kyrie, Credo, etc.) are also the subject of an extravagant harmonic and melodic profusion. It is hard to believe that this music is almost already half a millennium old. Danckerts was accepted as a singer in the papal chapel in 1538 and only left in 1565, not exactly his own choosing since according to his firing letter, he was accused of not having a voice anymore, to indulge in the pleasures with women, to be insanely rich and to be too sick to continue. Well, he wasn’t completely abandoned by the Church since, despite being a vile sinner, he kept on receiving his salary until his death two years later. The magnificent ensemble Cantar Lontano recorded this wonder in the captivating acoustics of two Italian baroque churches, in Pesaro and Castelbellino, neither too resounding nor too dry. © SM/Qobuz