Philippe Pierlot and the Ricercar Consort's 2006 recording of Bach's Magnificat brings back the glory days of historically informed performances, those halcyon days in the 1980s when musicians, empowered by scholarship and energized by virtuosity, were recording the Baroque repertoire with the zeal of the newly converted. Though Pierlot and his musicians are of a younger generation, they bring a missionary fervor to the music, a program of Bach's Magnificat, BWV 243, and Missa Brevis, BWV 235, interspersed with two well-chosen organ works, the Fuga sopra il Magnificat, BWV 733, and the Präludium und Fuga, BWV 541. Pierlot's textures are clean, his rhythms buoyant, his colors bright, and tempos brisk, but not rushed in the fast movements, and contemplative but not moribund in the slow movements.
This really was quite a fine recording of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, one of the best in years and easily the best of the early music recordings. The Choeur de la Chapelle Royale et du Collegium Vocale sing with strength and stamina, but also with grace and beauty of tone. The Champs Elysees Orchestra plays with power and precision, but also with unity of ensemble and beauty of tone, a very rare quality in an early music orchestra. And Herreweghe himself is actually an apt interpreter of the work. Not only does he have a knack for bringing out better than the best in his performers, but he actually seems to believe in the spiritual and sublime essence of the work, a very, very rare quality in any conductor these days. The result is a performance which, while it doesn't rival the 1940 Toscanini, the 1965 Klemperer, or the 1974 Böhm, does express the overwhelming sense that the numinous is imminent. Harmonia Mundi's sound is rich and vibrant.- James Leonard
Morales's five-part setting of the Requiem is one of the masterpieces of the 16th century and was actually published twice during his lifetime. The 'Missa pro defunctis' follows the customary pattern of the time. Each section begins with a unison Gregorian intonation, which then continues as a cantus firmus in the upper part as the other voices spin a polyphonic texture underneath. The work avoids obvious madrigalisms, but maintains an austere, meditative texture, which is both spiritual and moving.
There are some real injustices in the business of recorded music and this disc brings one of them very much to light. The opening lines of the liner notes say, "Until relatively recently, the reputation of Alessandro Scarlatti – the son, brother, father and uncle of other illustrious musicians – was overshadowed by that of his son Domenico." It is not stated on this disc whether the notes were written to go with this Apex re-issue or whether they date from the same period as the recording, but Alessandro’s reputation, if he has one, is still very much under his wonderful son’s shadow. It is an indication of a massive injustice, that this re-issue goes some small way to correcting.
The Clerks' Group is a popular a cappella singing ensemble devoted largely to Medieval and Renaissance-era vocal works. It consists of eight singers, but early on performed with as few as six. The range of most of the compositions the group performs spans from the eleventh century to the end of sixteenth century, though there are a small number of contemporary pieces that were commissioned for concert use. At the heart of the repertory are sacred works by Ockeghem, Josquin Desprez, Obrecht, Machaut, Dufay, Dunstable, and other composers of that era.
Following the appearance of the first CD recording of the new organ in the reconstructed Dresden Frauenkirche (with organist Samuel Kummer, Carus 83.188) at last, the first live concert performance has just been released on the Carus label. The G minor Mass is the “Opus ultimum” of the 84-year-old Johann Adolf Hasse, who for almost three decades dominated musical life at the Saxon Court of Dresden and who was regarded as the musical idol of his era. The centerpiece of the work of a type known as a “Missa solemnis” is a seven-movement Gloria, with brilliant, extended trumpet parts. The G minor Mass is an attractive work which shines as a result of ist beautiful sound, depth of expression and the richness of its harmonic ideas. It is conducted by Ludwig Güttler, who devoted his energies towards the reconstruction of the Dresdner Frauenkirche.