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Choral Works - Bach, Biber, Brahms, Faure, Krenek, Mahler, Monteverdi


Release Date: 10/11/2011 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 2908520  
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachGabriel FauréClaudio MonteverdiJohannes Brahms,   ... 
Performer:  Charles BrettIngrid SchmithüsenPeter KooyHoward Crook,   ... 
Conductor:  Philippe HerrewegheMarcus CreedKent NaganoAndrew Manze
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Chapelle Royale ParisMusique ObliqueLes Petits Chanteurs de St. Louis,   ... 
Number of Discs: 10 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available from hmGold:

10-CD sets of Baroque & Romantic music


This set devoted to choral music brings together some of the finest works in the whole western canon. Among them are Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine, Bach's Trauerode, Brahms's secular choruses, Mahler's Eighth Symphony, and Fauré's Requiem. In other words, this box invites you to a unique
Read more traversal of the choral repertoire – in more than ten hours of music! – ranging from the Baroque era to the twentieth century.

These titles were originally released between 1987 and 2005.

Reviews of some of the original recordings that make up this set:

Bach's Cantatas BWV 76 & 198
Two cantatas, one secular, one sacred, each concerned in very different ways with respect for one who has died, show how Bach treated musically the emotional aspects of text and occasion. Obviously, the death of a revered monarch was a solemn event that deserved appropriately respectful expression, including personal acknowledgement of the depth of the survivors' grief. The Cantata BWV 198, commonly known as "Trauerode" (funeral ode), was written to commemorate the life and grieve the death of Christiane, Electress of Saxony, who became Queen of Poland but remained a Lutheran despite her husband's conversion to Roman Catholicism. This relatively expansive cantata, from which Bach later borrowed music for his St. Mark Passion (opening and closing choruses and three arias), is rich in the uniquely Bachian mannerisms of mourning, its colorful minor-key harmonies and extended arias crafted for maximum emotional impact. The Cantata BWV 78 is based on the chorale tune "Jesu, der du meine Seele", and concerns a sinner's plea for salvation through the redemptive power of Christ's crucifixion. Besides Bach's skillful passacaglia-like treatment of the chorale in the opening chorus, this work also features a duet ("We hasten with feeble but eager steps") whose surprisingly literal depiction of the text sounds almost like a polka! This reissue from Harmonia Mundi, part of the label's commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Bach's death, is just as musically solid, authoritative, and satisfying as it was at its original 1988 release. The instrumental playing is superb, and soloists Ingrid Schmithüsen, Charles Brett, Howard Crook, and Peter Kooy are particularly engaging in the arias. Conductor Philippe Herreweghe keeps a sensible pace throughout--no speed contests--but goes a little heavy on the downbeats in the opening chorus of BWV 198 (homage to Harnoncourt?). There's lots of competition from other labels, given the big anniversary next year, but Harmonia Mundi felt confident enough of this version that there was no need to offer a newly minted replacement--and you should feel the same.

– David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com

Fauré's Requiem
If one takes the published metronome marks as a guide, Herreweghe is very slightly on the slow side in the Offertoire, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei and In Paradisum, elsewhere spot on. For this first recording of the Nectoux score I would have preferred 'authentic' tempos as well, but the performance otherwise is so beautiful that I cannot complain too bitterly. Agnes Mellon is almost as pure-voiced as Rutter's Caroline Ashton (on Collegium/Gamut) and Peter Kooy has as beautiful a light baritone as Rutter's Stephen Roberts, but a slightly more steady one. Herreweghe's chorus (using children's voices in the upper parts) and his orchestra are as fine as Rutter's, and his recording has rather more space around it. And his fill-up is another fascinating restoration: the Messe des Pecheurs (later much revised as the Messe basse, and included in that version as part of Rutter's coupling) is a work of touchingly naive innocence, to which the two suppressed movements by Messager add a charming element of Gounod-ish lyricism. Prettily scored for women's voices, wind trio, string quartet, double-bass and harmonium, it is not nearly so unified as the revised version of course, but it is slightly fresher in sound and not quite so sweet. It completes a recording of major importance, to which all future performances of the Requiem (and not only those using this edition) will need to refer.

– Michael Oliver, Gramophone

Biber's Missa Christi Resurgentis
The music on this disc is about sonority, about the brilliance of trumpets and strings in a live, reverberant acoustic such as that of Salzburg cathedral, for which at least some of these works were conceived. And Andrew Manze and his English Concert unequivocally deliver (albeit in the less-opulent confines of London's Temple Church), from the opening fanfare through the vibrant, tuneful, richly scored sonatas that periodically spice this thoughtfully organized program. The featured work is a Mass, the Missa Christi Resurgentis, likely written for Easter in 1764. It's a lavish celebration scored for two four-part choirs, an added bass singer, plus two instrumental ensembles, designed to be performed antiphonally in a grand display. Here, Andrew Manze enhances the work with authentic touches, such as opening and closing trumpet fanfares and instrumental "sonatas" interspersed throughout. In fact, it's these instrumental pieces--including the four Sonatas at the end of the program--that really demonstrate the brilliance and beauty of Biber's compositional skill, his command of "sonority" and how to maximize its effect in a large acoustic space.

– David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com

Brahms Choral Works
Great German 19th-century composers looked back to the great period of polyphony; Mendelssohn revived the name of Bach, while Bruckner brought his expertise as a contrapuntist to phenomenal heights with studies of Palestrina. Brahms perfected his compositional techniques by studying music he found in Schumann’s private library and later traded contrapuntal exercises with Joachim. Although the German Requiem is the choral work by Brahms, there is a wealth of other music for the medium (his few conducting appointments were with choral societies). This set explores both sacred and secular music. The unaccompanied motets are for mixed choir from four to eight voices, the latter producing thick textures of orchestral colour, while the canons in the Missa canonica and the Motets, Op. 29, reveal Brahms’s total mastery of that complex form. The 35-strong Berlin Radio Chamber Choir under its English conductor Marcus Creed meets head on the chromatic harmonies of the two Motets, Op. 74, taxing the ability of any choir to sustain pitch. Their singing is superb, a blend of vibrato and range of tone colour achieved with apparent ease, the phrasing always stylish. The secular music includes four songs for women’s choir (Brahms formed such a choir in Hamburg), two horns and harp, the horn in the first song seeming about to launch into the finale of his First Symphony. After a slightly ragged start the choir settles into this unique and ravishing sound, the best a beautiful performance of ‘Der Gärtner’ (The Gardener). The quartets with piano, using texts from Goethe to forgotten minor poets, have a sophisticated, intimate charm, and yet are both melodically inventive and harmonically progressive, for which pianist Alain Planès uses a Riedel piano of the period (1870) in his sensitive accompaniments. The two sets of Gypsy Songs provide a contrast in rhythmic vitality and uninhibited mood while each of these revelatory discs shows how Brahms turned to the choir throughout his creative life to produce diverse and beautiful works.

– Christopher Fifield, BBC Music Magazine

Mahler's Symphony no 8
[A]s an artistic conception of the work I have no doubt whatsoever that Kent Nagano's interpretation represents a veritable landmark in the history of the symphony. No other performance captures more of the music's mystery and sensuality, revels in the rich details of its orchestration to such a welcome degree, or offers such a clear and characterful distinction between the work's two parts. What this means, practically speaking, is that Nagano realizes the first movement's overwhelming polyphonic rhetoric as successfully as he does the second movement's drama and theatricality, and the result is a feeling of musical completeness, of fulfillment when the work comes to its close, that no rival performance quite matches.

Nagano views the Eighth as a symphony with voices, and not as an oratorio. In other words, the two excellent choirs sound (as placed) from behind the orchestra, and the soloists aren't unnaturally highlighted. At the biggest moments the instruments and organ (thrillingly captured) tend to dominate, but never at the expense of good balance or reasonable clarity. And unlike so many performances, the choirs really characterize what they sing. Listen, for example, to their pleading tone at "Infirma nostri corporis". The great double fugue is overwhelming, its anguished climax grinding its way toward a return to Tempo I (a perfectly-judged Allegro impetuoso) so well-timed that it's positively explosive. The coda also raises the roof, a "joyful noise unto the Lord" in which the concluding rising scales in all of the voices, enlivened by a particularly intelligent accelerando, have a real physical impact. Along the way Nagano reveals numerous details (in the brass parts particularly) that you seldom notice, and which in turn energize the texture.

At about 65 minutes long (the entire performance is just two minutes shy of an hour and a half), this performance of Part 2 ranks with the slowest on disc, but the extra time is deceptive. Nagano spends most of it in the opening stages (up to the entrance of Pater profundis) and in the concluding Chorus mysticus. This has profound structural implications, creating a clearly delineated musical frame within which the more lively (and very vividly contrasted) events of Goethe's drama take place. I don't think anyone has created a more tangible sense of mystery in the opening Poco adagio than Nagano achieves here; for once the ensuing "chorus and echo" really sounds like one--the atmosphere is palpable. The tempo then increases steadily, imperceptibly, until the entrance of the women and the (particularly ethereal) boys offers a dazzling burst of light. Nagano revels in these "heavenly" episodes, shamelessly milking the luminous writing for harps, celesta, piano, and mandolins. The interlude describing the first appearance of the Mater gloriosa, for example, lingers over every luscious detail of the scoring. Nagano knows how to give the music meaning, and he makes it matter, inviting us to leave questions of "good taste" behind and care about it as much as he does.

When it comes to the solo contributions, on the whole the men are a bit better than the women. Tenor Robert Gambill does a surprisingly good job in the all-but-impossible role of Dr. Marianus, and bass Jan-Hendrik Rootering is a particulary strong Pater profundis. Among the women, Lynne Dawson's Gretchen doesn't come close to Edith Mathis (for Kubelik), but the others are all more than adequate. Sally Matthews' very distant, barely audible Mater gloriosa is just right, a heavenly voice from above rather than a soprano in extremis stuck in a balcony somewhere. From "Blicket auf" onward, the performance is so exquisitely beautiful that it's impossible to describe. Among existing recordings, the sheer loveliness of texture recalls Sinopoli, but with none of his rhythmic slackness and sloppiness. The Chorus mysticus, taken very slowly, returns once again to the atmosphere of the movement's opening Poco adagio, definitely conveying the sense that "the drama is now over."

Sonically, this is without question the best recording of the symphony ever made. It gives a very realistic impression of huge forces gathered in a large space, capturing plenty of room acoustic without significant loss of clarity. The closing pages are overwhelming, undistorted and uncongested. I can't wait to hear this in SACD surround format. Despite all of these clear advantages, I find this a difficult release to rate. Among modern performances Chailly clearly has the better singers overall, but his conception doesn't compare to Nagano's vision of the work. I wouldn't want to live without either of them. So if the singing matters to you most, Chailly is your man (or Kubelik on Audite); but if you want the most interpretively insightful and moving rendition of the piece on disc, you will have to hear this.

– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Lass, Fürstin, lass noch einen Strahl, BWV 198 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Charles Brett (Countertenor), Ingrid Schmithüsen (Soprano), Peter Kooy (Bass),
Howard Crook (Tenor)
Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Chapelle Royale Paris
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; Leipzig, Germany 
2.
Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Ingrid Schmithüsen (Soprano), Peter Kooy (Bass), Howard Crook (Tenor),
Charles Brett (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Chapelle Royale Paris
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
3.
Requiem, Op. 48 by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Peter Kooy (Baritone), Agnès Mellon (Soprano)
Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Chapelle Royale Paris,  Musique Oblique,  Les Petits Chanteurs de St. Louis
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887-1890; France 
Date of Recording: 09/1988 
Length: 37 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
4.
Messe des pêcheurs de Villerville by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Jean-Philippe Audoli (Violin)
Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Chapelle Royale Paris,  Musique Oblique,  Les Petits Chanteurs de St. Louis
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881-1882; France 
Date of Recording: 09/1998 
Length: 17 Minutes 13 Secs. 
5.
Vespro della Beata Vergine by Claudio Monteverdi
Performer:  Peter Kooy (Bass), David Thomas (Bass), Guillemette Laurens (Soprano),
William Kendall (Tenor), Agnès Mellon (Soprano), Vincent Darras (Counter Tenor),
Howard Crook (Tenor), Gerard O'Byrne (Tenor)
Conductor:  Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ghent Collegium Vocale,  La Chapelle Royale Paris,  Les Sacqueboutiers du Toulouse
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1610; Mantua, Italy 
Length: 89 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
6.
Songs (3), Op. 42 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859-1861; Germany 
7.
Songs (4) for Female Voices, 2 Horns and Harp, Op. 17 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1860; Germany 
8.
Songs (7), Op. 62 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1874; Austria 
9.
Songs (5), Op. 104 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Austria 
10.
Zigeunerlieder, Op. 103 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Alain Planès (Piano)
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887-1888; Austria 
11.
Vocal Quartets (3), Op. 64 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Alain Planès (Piano)
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862-1863; Austria 
12.
Vocal Quartets (4), Op. 92 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Alain Planès (Piano)
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1884; Austria 
13.
Vocal Quartets (3), Op. 31 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Alain Planès (Piano)
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Germany 
14.
Vocal Quartets (6), Op. 112 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Alain Planès (Piano)
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Austria 
15.
Lamentatio Jeremiae prophetae, Op. 93 by Ernst Krenek
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941-1942; USA 
Length: 73 Minutes 33 Secs. 
16.
Symphony no 8 in E flat major "Symphony of A Thousand" by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Lynne Dawson (Soprano), Sally Matthews (Soprano), Sophie Koch (Alto),
Elena Manistina (Alto), Robert Gambill (Tenor), Detlef Roth (Baritone),
Jan-Hendrik Rootering (Bass), Sylvia Greenberg (Soprano), Sigurd Brauns (Organ)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin,  Windsbach Boys Choir,  Middle German Radio Chorus Leipzig
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906; Vienna, Austria 
17.
Missa Christi resurgentis by Heinrich Ignaz Biber
Conductor:  Andrew Manze
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Concert
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1674; Salzburg, Austria 

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