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Menotti, Vierne: Masses / Ferris, Gibbons, Fair, Et Al

Release Date: 10/31/2006 
Label:  Cedille Records   Catalog #: 7001   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gian Carlo MenottiLouis Vierne
Performer:  John VorrasiDeborah FairJoan GibbonsTom Sillitti,   ... 
Conductor:  William Ferris
Orchestra/Ensemble:  William Ferris ChoraleComposer Festival Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Cedille has made a good decision in choosing this program to launch its new mid-price FOUNDation imprint. First, Menotti's Mass proves surprisingly engrossing and substantial, and, not surprisingly, full of beautiful melodic material and operatic-style passages and movements. Never having heard this work before, and being very familiar with the operas, I was expecting something more clever and catchy than profound. Well, what Menotti gives us is not exactly profound, but it's undeniably lovely and often very powerful, and the music, an intriguing stylistic mix, is weighty and thoroughly developed enough to give the textual/liturgical material its due.

Although originality is not much in evidence--Fauré, the
Read more Debussy of Pelléas, and Tchaikovsky's character effects in the ballets are never far away, nor are the film-music, plot-action orchestral devices--Menotti nevertheless knows how to write a very good theatre piece that at once successfully captures the significance of the Mass (and each of its movements) as a sacred, spiritual experience.

He's fortunate here to have some very fine soloists--not a weak link in this group--and an absolutely first-rate choir and conductor (Menotti sanctioned this performance and attended the rehearsals and concert from which this recording was made). The choir sopranos and tenors are worthy of special mention for their gorgeous tone and uninhibited ease in the upper-register passages. This is currently the only available recording of Menotti's Mass--a puzzle, given its immediately appealing character and standard performing forces--but the performances are excellent, and the sound, from a Chicago concert in 1982, is remarkably good thanks to expert remastering by engineer Bill Maylone.

Vierne's Messe solennelle is more stylistically and thematically cohesive than the Menotti, but it's anything but subtle; written for choir and two organs, it assumes a large performing space, large choral forces, and a room-filling organ sound. This performance, from a 1988 concert at a Chicago church, satisfies Vierne's requirements--including the support of two magnificent organs (whose specifications are thoughtfully included in the liner notes)--and makes a solid impression.

The William Ferris Chorale again makes a fine sound but seems less comfortable with the performing space and with the demands of coordinating organ and vocal parts. But in spite of the few out-of-sync moments, the overall performance is the kind that would leave an audience enthralled, especially regarding the big climaxes, rich tutti choral textures, and the visceral impact of the organ sound (very well recorded). In all, this proves not only an engaging program, but, particularly in the case of the Menotti, a welcome and important addition to the choral catalog. Warmly recommended. [1/11/2007]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Missa O Pulchritudo by Gian Carlo Menotti
Performer:  John Vorrasi (Tenor), Deborah Fair (Mezzo Soprano), Joan Gibbons (Soprano),
Tom Sillitti (Bass)
Conductor:  William Ferris
Orchestra/Ensemble:  William Ferris Chorale,  Composer Festival Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; Scotland 
Date of Recording: 12/12/1982 
Venue:  Live  St. James' Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois 
Length: 43 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is sung in Classical Greek and Latin. 
Messe solennelle in C sharp minor, Op. 16 by Louis Vierne
Performer:  Dexter Bailey (Organ), Thomas Weisflog (Organ)
Conductor:  William Ferris
Orchestra/Ensemble:  William Ferris Chorale
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; France 
Date of Recording: 05/20/1988 
Venue:  Live  Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Chicago, 
Length: 29 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is sung in Classical Greek and Latin. 

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