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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: 9 minutes 29 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)

Two Motets, Op 74
No 1: 1877, Pörtschach, first performed in Vienna on 8 December 1878; No 2: 1863/4; published in 1878 and dedicated to Philipp Spitta

Other recordings available for download
Corydon Singers, Matthew Best (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Two Motets Op 74 were published in 1878 with a dedication to the great Bach scholar, Philipp Spitta. This is no doubt an acknowledgement of the fact that the great German master’s influence is at its most potent in these particular pieces.

‘Warum ist das Licht gegeben?’ was composed during the idyllic summer of 1877 at Pörtschach, at a time when the composer was putting the finishing touches to his Second Symphony. The first performance was given in Vienna on 8 December 1878. After a severe and imposing four-part opening section in D minor (‘Slowly and with expression’), there follows a canonic setting of ‘Lasset uns’ in six parts (divided sopranos and basses), its warm, F major glow perfectly reflecting the underlying message of the words. The following section (‘Siehe, wir’) is in two halves, the second beginning at the words ‘Die Geduld Hiob’, which developes into a repeat of the music for ‘Lasset uns’. The motet is concluded by a four-part chorale setting to the words ‘Mit Fried und Freud’.

‘O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf’, in four parts, was composed rather earlier, between 1863 and 1864, the format and mode of expression relating it to the first of the Op 29 motets with which it is roughly contemporary. It is in strict chorale variation form, the five sections being clearly marked by Brahms as ‘Versus I’ etc. in the score. After the opening chorale setting, ‘O Gott ein Tau’ (Versus II) places the chorale melody in the soprano line whilst the supporting parts sing a three-part canon based on a rhythmically diminished version of the same theme. ‘O Erd schlag aus’ introduces a rhythmic variant in the form of a triplet, whilst ‘Versus IV’ (‘Hie leiden wir’—Adagio) is a canon by inversion, whereby the overlapping part has the same melody, but with all the intervals turned upside down. ‘Da wollen’ continues this trend with a double canon (i.e. two canons sounded simultaneously) in inversion, the altos/tenors and sopranos/basses being paired. The final ‘Amen’ demonstrates the ‘stretto’ effect, whereby the various overlapping entries appear ever closer to one another, creating a superb final peroration.

from notes by Julian Haylock © 1991

Other albums featuring this work
'Brahms: motets' (CDH55346)
Brahms: motets
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55346  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  

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