Albums

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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 | 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
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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 16, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
Mass by Bernstein, first performed in 1971, defies classification. It is not really a mass in the strict sense, but more of a kind of deconstruction of a traditional mass; after all, the full title is MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers and the theme resembles a divine service which turns sour before finally discovering universal peace. At the outset, the world seems to be at one, but then "street musicians" begin questioning the need for, or even the very existence of, a god. Cacophony reigns until the cataclysmic elevation of the host, when finally peace breaks out, when the Celebrant brings everyone together around the holy spirit, before intoning a final "go in peace". Bernstein's score brings together all the myriad elements of 20th century music: jazz, blues, rock, Broadway, expressionism, dodecaphonism, modernism with a hint of Britten, street music, fanfares, classical song mixed with rock and jazz voices and Gospel recitations: a veritable Tower of Babel which is hard even to list in a single breath. But Yannick Nézet-Séguin can be trusted to knit all these disparate elements together. Note also that this is a live concert recording, with a breathtaking spatial distribution. Putting history aside, the FBI – never one to miss out on a chance to look ridiculous – decided that Mass was pacifist, anti-establishment propaganda and begged Nixon to boycott its opening night. After all, the work had been commissioned by Jackie Kennedy for the inauguration of the Washington Kennedy Center for the Arts, when America was in the middle of its Vietnamese quagmire...© SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 9, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released December 1, 2017 | Alia Vox

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
This album, In excelcis Deo, with two religious works written at the time of the Spanish war of succession, presents the Missa Scala Arentina to four choirs by the Catalan composer Francesc Valls (1671-1747) and the Mass for Two Choirs and Two Orchestras by the French composer Henry Desmarest (1661-1741), each held up as a mirror to the other. These exceptional masterpieces are tightly connected in time, one dating from 1701 and the other from 1704. The Spanish war of succession raged from 1701 to 1714 and was the last of the major wars fought by Louis XIV of France: this terrible European conflict revolved around the succession to the Spanish throne following the death of the last Spanish Hapsburg, Charles II (he was epileptic, he contracted syphilis from his mother at birth- yes, that's a thing - and he was also infertile) and, through it all, political and commercial dominance in Europe. Finally, Spain lost more or less all of its European possessions - in Italy, the Netherlands, Sardinia, and even in Spain itself, with Gibraltar falling into British hands. The Bourbons would be installed on the Spanish throne (where they still sit today), while Barcelona was "recaptured", Catalonia having taken the side of Austria and the Austrian Hapsburgs... A can of worms was opened which is still squirming today! This album, musically very ecumenical thanks to the talent of Jordi Savall, juxtaposes the works of musicians who came from countries on opposite sides of the war, whose masses were held one in Barcelona, and the other in Versailles. It is up to the listener to form their own opinion as to whether the music of the very Catholic French and the very Catholic Catalans is so different after all! © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 13, 2017 | SDG

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
So much can be said about this new recording featuring among others − but as the pièce de résistance − Bach’s Magnificat, performed by John Eliot Gardiner, that we simply don’t know where to start! In 1983 – already 35 years ago! – Gardiner gave his first vision of Magnificat BWV 234 in D major; here the version in question is the BWV 234a in E flat major, the original and initial version, the – extended – one Bach wrote as soon as 1723 while the BWV 234 version (more often played nowadays) only arose from adjustments made ten years later. Of course one can debate on the advantages of one over the other but for this recording, Gardiner put emphasis on the brilliance, vibrancy and stunning virtuosity imposed by the E-flat major tone and vigorous tempi, in other words: undeniably modern! Magnificat is preceded by the Mass in F major, one of Bach’s four Lutheran masses, proper gems that are too rarely performed. It’s worth noting that most movements are recycled from previous cantatas, but with thorough rewrites of course! You’ll also find one of Gardiner’s favourite cantatas, Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet comfort, my Jesus comes), BWV 151, composed for the Christmas period. With his English Baroque Soloists, his Monteverdi Choir and a broad group of soloists (the alto parts are given to a male voice, it’s worth mentioning in case… it’s not your cup of tea), Gardiner is once again standing on top of a great success.
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 6, 2017 | Rondeau

Booklet Distinctions 5 étoiles de Classica
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released September 15, 2017 | BR-Klassik

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles de Classica
“With me, musical invention is the fruit of persevering and laborious work. I find it difficult to compose, and constantly return to what I have already committed to paper. I feel drawn primarily to the organ and the orchestra. These two worlds of sound, organ and orchestra, are so inexhaustible that – in my opinion at least – they offer all kinds of possibilities for renewal.” With these words, Maurice Duruflé (1902–1986) describes his work as a composer – work that was characterized by constant doubts and scruples. His statement also makes it clear why his entire oeuvre of sacred organ and vocal music amounts to only 14 works with opus numbers, all of them strongly influenced by Gregorian chant, Late Romanticism and French Impressionism. In his Requiem, Duruflé chose to adopt the spiritual, contemplative aesthetic familiar from Gabriel Fauré’s contribution to the genre. Fauré, too, had avoided placing the drama of the Last Judgment at the heart of the work and instead chosen the spiritual confrontation with death, paired with sentiments such as gentleness and hope. Duruflé thus turned his back on the romantic Requiems by composers such as Hector Berlioz or Giuseppe Verdi who, with their penchant for the grandiose and operatic, had painted a kind of “apocalyptic fresco“. Like Fauré before him, he also dispensed with any dramatic rendition of the “Dies irae“, instead placing the idea of the resurrection at the centre of his interpretation. As with Duruflé, it is quite clear that Gregorian chant exerted a very powerful influence on the Respighi’s art; elements of it can be found in almost all the works he composed after 1920. The fact that these purist melodies, combined with the system of old church modes, fascinated him so much can to some extent be explained by the fact that they represented the greatest possible contrast to the overheated, chromatically refined harmonies of the Verists and post-Wagnerians. Escaping into atonality was never an option for Respighi; it was in the archaic, austere character of Gregorian chant that he recognized innovative potential. Respighi very happily integrated his newfound knowledge into a violin concerto, the Concerto Gregoriano, written 1921. To Respighi’s regret, the response to the world premiere was only lukewarm; indeed, he waited in vain throughout his life for a performance that would do the piece justice. Rest assured, this new interpretation by Henry Raudales is a welcome addition to the rather modest discography of the work.
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released June 2, 2017 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 24, 2017 | Ricercar

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 17, 2017 | ECM New Series

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 10, 2017 | SDG

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released December 2, 2016 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Special Soundchecks - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 7, 2016 | Challenge Classics

Hi-Res Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 20, 2001 | naïve Astrée

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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released September 29, 2014 | naïve classique

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 clés de sol d'Opéra
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released September 30, 2016 | BR-Klassik

Hi-Res Booklet
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released August 12, 2016 | Naxos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released June 3, 2016 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 4 étoiles de Classica
In July 2015, just eight months before his death, Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducted spiritual opus of Beethoven, the enigmatic and titanic Missa Solemnis, for a final time. It was a work that he addressed very late in his career, with 1988 being the first time. At the head of his Concentus Musicus and the Arnold Schönberg Choir, he produces an uncluttered reading, stripped of all excess weight that has restricted so many conductors in the past, including the most famous. It’s almost like attending a huge Mass! Both the Piano and silence are key, allowing the monument to emerge in all its grandeur from the calm. Suddenly the lines become clear and intelligible, the "lengths" acquire their entire purpose... what we see from the old lion Harnoncourt here is most extraordinary, with his ability to allow the listener to peer into the soul of Beethoven. If there is only one record to keep... © SM / Qobuz