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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67559
Recording details: July 2005
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: June 2006
Total duration: 12 minutes 7 seconds

'Baker and his choir do a fine job with these pieces. The conclusion to Schaffe in mir is wonderfully exciting … while the close to Geistliches Leid, a work too easily dismissed as 'just' a church anthem, is gorgoeously ardent. In Warum? Baker does not overlook the dramatic side of the text and turns in a performance that is both technically excellent and exciting. And Rheinberger's Mass, a beautiful work with rich sonorities, has a fine musical sensitivity and flow' (American Record Guide)

'It is hard to imagine finer singing of these sacred scores from Brahms and Rheinberger than that from the Westminster Cathedral Choir. The Cathedral choristers display a remarkable technical prowess and refinement. From the riveting Kyrie of the Missa Canonica to the symphonic conclusion of the Agnus Dei of the Mass for double choir, Martin Baker directs winning performances, that are marvellously fresh and well-paced. In the exceptional ecclesiastical acoustic of Westminster Cathedral the male choir’s timbre is rich and immediate, with a robust edge that seems ideal for these compelling scores. The highlight for me is the direct and vital quality to the Westminster choir’s singing in Rheinberger’s magnificent Mass. The contribution from organist Matthew Martin is first rate, providing immediacy, without ever being obtrusive. These are superbly performed and recorded sacred works that lovers of choral music will surely relish' (MusicWeb International)

Missa canonica
composer
1856/7
editor
editor
organ part
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Kyrie  [3'50] GreekEnglish

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Missa canonica, although mainly composed in 1856 (on the back of swapping polyphonic exercises with Joachim), was not published until a century later; moreover, the Mass was not performed until 1983. The piece was written as a technical exercise for Brahms’s own musical health, although that does not detract from its considerable artistic merit. The Missa canonica does not include settings of the Gloria and Credo (these texts are longer and more dramatic than those of the other movements of the Ordinary of the Mass and are consequently less appropriate vehicles for the working out of the purely abstract form of canon). The short Mass setting that remains is a testament to Brahms’s compositional craft, his deft handling of voices in combination, and his enormous respect for the polyphonic masterpieces written by the great contrapuntalists of the late Renaissance and the High Baroque. In 1857 Brahms replaced the Kyrie with a new one and set about trying to secure a performance of the Mass. However, even though Julius Grimm—a choirmaster in Göttingen—showed interest, Grimm could not secure a performance. Brahms put the manuscript away and concentrated on writing other music: consequently the Missa canonica lay undisturbed until it was rediscovered in the mid-twentieth century. The only indication that Brahms himself never completely forgot about his canonic Mass comes in the form of a self-quotation in the middle movements of the motet Op 74 No 1.

from notes by Jeremy Summerly © 2006

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