Brahms’s Missa canonica is something of a rarity: composed around 1856, the work lay unperformed until 1983 despite being regarded highly enough by its composer for him to have re-used some of its material in the popular motet Warum ist das Licht gegeben?. The absence of both Gloria and Credo settings (these texts being too long to be easily suited to the form of a canon) probably explains the neglect, yet the four movements of this work show all the hallmarks of Brahms’s compositional mastery and deft handling of choral effect that are well known from his many motets, six of which, including the sublime Op 30 Geistliches Lied, are also recorded here.
Concluding this new disc from Westminster Cathedral is the extraordinary double-choir Mass in E flat by Joseph Rheinberger, Leichtenstein’s most famous organ prodigy. This is music born of the polychoral Venitian tradition of Gabrieli and Monteverdi, nurtured on the harmonic milk of Bach and Mendelssohn, and finally offered up to the world as a miniature choral symphony that is uniquely Rheinberger’s.
The Choir of Westminster Cathedral, under Master of Music Martin Baker, takes on the challenges presented by these varied works with panache to create a disc that is sure to appeal.