Notes and Editorial Reviews
Bap Nos. Grosse Messe
Ich bin ein schwebendes Luftblatt
Raphael Immoos, cond;
Susanne Doll (org);
Vera Schnider (hp); Cappella Nova
Text and Translation)
The Swiss composer Meinrad Schütter was born in 1910. Over a long creative life (he died in 2006), he composed a substantial amount of choral and other vocal music. The Mass setting on this CD has one of the most complex datings I have seen: 1939/50–70/78. Essentially, it was sketched in 1939, but only completed in stages in the period 1950–70, the Credo finally being added in 1978 at the special request of the chorusmaster who was finally to premiere it in 1981. Listening to the 32-minute work through, one is struck by a certain stylistic variation. For example, the Gloria has a much more prominent organ part than the other movements; the Credo is rather more melodious than the rest, shot through with hints of Poulenc, whereas the other movements are dutifully more angular. I have to report that the work as a whole comes over as rather earnest; the Gloria, again, does not sound glorious or radiant, for example. I don’t know the extent to which the professional choir, the soloists (drawn from the choir), or the organ contribute to the sense of underwhelm. The soloists’ intonation is occasionally less than exemplary and the organ certainly sounds recessed. The Gloria terminates on a chord that sounds as if it is supposed to be emphatic, but isn’t. But this is beginning to sound too negative. The performance sounds like a good one (I don’t have a score), and the music surely deserves to be heard. Schütter clearly had a distinctive voice and my difficulty warming to it is my problem, not his.
The programming of the CD as a whole makes a satisfying In Memoriam. Its centerpiece is the
, and it opens and closes with settings of the Lord’s Prayer. First, Schütter’s 1992 setting, and to finish, Janá?ek’s
comes a brief fragment of Gregorian chant,
Resurrexi, et adhuc tecum sum, alleluia
(I have risen and am always with you)—pertinent under the circumstances. Then the Mass followed by the piece by Christian Henking, and finally the Janá?ek.
In his piece Henking (b.1961) sets the words “Ich bin ein schwebendes Luftblatt” (I am a leaf floating in the air), taken from something that Schütter said close to the end of his life. The idea of the leaf floating from life to death is brought out in this short work, which mixes avant-garde techniques with relatively conventional vocal lines. The effects are apparently intended to convey the machinery keeping the old man alive in hospital (lots of hissing and shushing), while the more melodious passages symbolize the craving for life on the one hand and the feeble, fragile man on the other. It’s an interesting work that leaves me wishing Henking hadn’t pulled his punches.
the familiar prayer is set in the Rhaeto-Romanic dialect, a version of German spoken in part of Eastern Switzerland. It inspired the composer, though inevitably when sung it comes over to the non-native speaker as sounding like German. At three and a half minutes it ends within its length, starting somewhat angularly and relaxing into an air of supplication. This contrasts with Janá?ek’s setting, which exceeds 16 minutes, is divided into five movements, and requires a tenor soloist, harp, and organ. This work predates the more familiar
by a quarter of a century, but is entirely idiomatic. Again one feels that the performance is a little self-effacing—one could ask for more fervor—though the choir is entirely at ease with the music. A case in point would be the third movement (“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”). The mood here is very positive, the tempo is brisk, and the movement just consists of these words set over and over. There needs to be more shaping of the two minutes of music and more of a sense of getting somewhere. While this is a relative comment (I am suggesting that more is needed, not that none is present), it does seem to stand as a comment on the whole disc, which nevertheless deserves a hearing.
FANFARE: Jeremy Marchant
Works on This Recording
Grosse Messe, for 3 voices, chorus & organ by Meinrad Schütter
Daniela Immoos (),
Susanne Doll (Organ),
Susanne Puchegger (),
Michael Feyfar ()
Venue: Pauluskirche, Basel, Switzerland
Length: 30 Minutes 37 Secs.
Otcenás, for tenor, chorus, harp & organ, JW 4/29 by Leos Janácek
Vera Schnider (Harp),
Michael Feyfar (),
Susanne Doll (Organ)
Written: 1901; Czechoslovakia
Venue: Pauluskirche, Basel, Switzerland
Length: 15 Minutes 30 Secs.
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