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Mass for double choir in E flat 'Cantus Missae', Op 109
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Apart from the organ sonatas, Rheinberger’s most famous work is the Mass for double choir in E flat, Op 109, written in 1878 and dedicated to Pope Leo XIII. Rheinberger’s Mass was written in the months immediately following his rejection of the ideals of the Cecilian movement—a conservative movement which set out to reform Roman Catholic music-making in the nineteenth century. Cecilians attempted to place church music firmly within the liturgy by deliberately suppressing musical individuality in favour of clear declamation of the text and a rejection of all artistic gestures associated with the Enlightenment. Rheinberger’s double-choir Mass—though undeniably dependent on earlier models—exhibits the composer’s new-found freedom and flexibility when writing sacred music.

Right from the opening bars, the antiphonal writing harks back to the late-Renaissance splendour of Venice’s cori spezzati (spaced choirs) tradition, and the spectres of Bach and Mendelssohn are never far away. However, this music belongs to Rheinberger and shows to great effect his gloriously unpredictable powers of invention. At the heart of the Mass are the concise and largely syllabic settings of the long Gloria and Credo texts. Of note are a few moments of brazen word painting (as outlawed by the Cecilian movement) at the words ‘et incarnatus est’, ‘descendit’ and ‘ascendit’ in the Credo. The expansive Kyrie precedes these central movements, and the Credo is followed by an ethereal Sanctus, a gently dancing Benedictus, and an Agnus Dei whose carefully notated dynamic contrasts and elliptical modulations lead into an extended ‘dona nobis pacem’ section whose instrumentally conceived textures create a symphonic conclusion to this remarkable piece.

from notes by Jeremy Summerly © 2006

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Details for CDA67559 track 22
Benedictus
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-06-55922
Duration
2'24
Recording date
14 July 2005
Recording venue
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Brahms & Rheinberger: Mass (CDA67559)
    Disc 1 Track 22
    Release date: June 2006
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