PAËR Missa Piena • Roderich Kreile, cond; Dresdner Kreuzchor; Staatskapelle Dresden; Sibylla Rubens, (sop); Anke Vondung (alt); Jörg Schneider (ten); Georg Zeppenfeld (bs) • CARUS 83.246 (61:27 Text and Translation)
This is another in the series of recordings made in the rebuilt Frauenkirche in Dresden, as noted under Homilius. It is the first recording of a Mass by Ferdinando Paër (1771–1839), born in Parma, the son of a musician (his name was originally spelledRead more Pär). He went to Vienna in 1798 and Dresden in 1802, where he was appointed Hofkapellmeister for life two years later. With Napoleon’s victory in 1806, he was released to succeed Paisiello at Napoleon’s court. He spent the rest of his life in Paris through all the political changes. With his unparalleled trilingual competence, he is dubbed “The European Paër” in the notes, a phrase that misses the pun of the original, “Der Europaër Paër.” (The original notes are also more complete with reference to his earlier years.) But his wide fame diminished after his death, and he was unknown on records until 1962, when Michel Dens recorded an aria for Pathé. In 1971 several more recordings appeared, and his real break came when Peter Maag recorded his opera Leonore in Munich in 1978.
While Paër’s operas are his most important works, he composed a fair amount of church music, including two masses. His Missa Concertata was written for Napoleon in 1811, but the present work dates from Dresden in 1805. Since an offertory extended its length to a full hour, the length caused it to drop out of the repertoire after Paër left Dresden, but he conducted it in Paris several times. It has the characteristics of orchestral masses composed around the turn of the century, but Paër uses varied and original ways of disposing singers and players. Unfortunately, this approach is even less suitable for a liturgical service than the works of Haydn and his contemporaries, not only for style but also for length, as even Dresden recognized. Still, it makes an interesting musical composition. The singing and playing are first-rate and the sound is captured most effectively. If church music of this era appeals to you, grab it while you can, for it is not likely to be bettered.