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Bernstein: Mass / Sykes, Alsop, Baltimore SO

Release Date: 08/25/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559622-23   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Jubilant Sykes
Conductor:  Marin Alsop
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 44 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Leonard Bernstein's own version bettered? Yes, indeed! This is, handily, the best sung, best played, most intelligently interpreted recording of Mass currently available. Of course, Bernstein's rendition always will have sterling qualities, including some wonderful solo singers with really characterful "pop" and Broadway voices, but for its sheer musical integrity combined with the advantage of the composer's final revisions to the score, this version is unbeatable. Jubilant Sykes, as the Celebrant, easily outclasses Alan Titus' very fine premiere recording of the role. His voice has more edge; he's more at ease with the various pop idioms; he sounds radiant at the work's opening and grows
Read more increasingly desperate as it proceeds. This only serves to make his climactic breakdown tragically believable.

The various street singers are, one and all, terrific. "God Said" becomes the work's comic climax, which is as it should be. "I believe in God", "Confession", "World Without End", and "Thank You" are both idiomatic and beautifully sung. The children's choir sounds luminous in the Sanctus, while the adult chorus, from Morgan State University, sings with gusto as well as immaculate diction, with every word clearly comprehensible. Marin Alsop knits the whole ensemble together with infallible insight and verve. Her tempos, a bit different from Bernstein's, quicker here ("God Said"), a touch slower there (the wild dance in the Offertory), are no less right.

It's all fabulously recorded with a glittering impact that never turns unduly aggressive. The multi-textural layering in the climactic Dona Nobis Pacem comes across as both musically and physically overwhelming. Mass has its detractors, but when performed with this kind of conviction the piece can be inexpressibly moving. Alsop never has made a finer recording--it's both a tribute to her mentor Leonard Bernstein, as well as to her exceptional talent as an exponent of his music.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Mass by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Jubilant Sykes (Baritone)
Conductor:  Marin Alsop
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; USA 

Sound Samples

Mass: Devotions before : Antiphon: Kyrie eleison (High Soprano, Bass, Soprano 2, Alto, Tenor, Baritone)
Mass: Devotions before : Hymn and Psalm, "A Simple Song" (Celebrant)
Mass: Devotions before : Responsory, "Alleluia" (Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto, Tenor, Baritone, Bass)
Mass: First Introit: Prefatory Prayers (Street Chorus, Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Soprano, Celebrant, Boy Soprano, Boys' Choir)
Mass: First Introit: Thrice-Triple Canon: Dominus vobiscum (Celebrant, Boys' Choir, Street Chorus)
Mass: Second Introit: In nomine Patris (Boys' Choir, Chorus, Celebrant)
Mass: Second Introit: Prayer for the Congregation, "Almighty Father" (Chorus)
Mass: Second Introit: Epiphany (Celebrant)
Mass: Confession: Confiteor (Chorus)
Mass: Confession: Trope, "I Don't Know" (First Rock Singer and Descant, Second Rock Singer, Male Street Chorus)
Mass: Confession: Trope, "Easy" (First Blues Singer, Second Rock Singer, Second Blues Singer, Third Rock Singer, Third Blues Singer, First Rock Singer and Descant, Celebrant, Chorus)
Mass: Meditation No. 1
Mass: Gloria: Gloria tibi (Celebrant, Boys' Choir)
Mass: Gloria: Gloria in Excelsis (Chorus)
Mass: Gloria: Trope, "Half of the People" (Street Chorus, Chorus)
Mass: Gloria: Trope, "Thank You" (Soprano, Street Chorus)
Mass: Meditation No. 2
Mass: Epistle: "The Word of the Lord" (Celebrant, A Young Man, Another Young Man, Street Chorus, An Older Man, A Young Woman)
Mass: Gospel-Sermon: "God Said" (Preacher, Street Chorus, 5 Solo Voices)
Mass: Credo: Credo in unum Deum (Celebrant, Chorus)
Mass: Credo: Trope: "Non Credo" (Street Chorus Male Group, Baritone) - "Crucifixus" (Chorus)
Mass: Credo: Trope, "Hurry" (Mezzo-soprano) - Sedet ad dexteram Patris (Chorus)
Mass: Credo: Trope, "World without End" (Street Chorus, Mezzo-soprano) - Et in Spiritum Sanctum (Chorus, 3 Solo Voices)
Mass: Credo: Trope, "I Believe in God" (3 Solo Voices, Street Chorus, Rock Singer, Chorus)
Mass: Meditation No. 3 (De profundis, Part 1) (Chorus, Celebrant)
Mass: Offertory (De profundis, Part 2) (Boys' Choir, Chorus)
Mass: The Lord's Prayer: Our Father ... (Celebrant)
Mass: The Lord's Prayer: Trope, "I Go On" (Celebrant)
Mass: Sanctus (Celebrant, Boys' Choir, Chorus, Counter-tenors, Street Chorus)
Mass: Agnus Dei (Soloists of Street Chorus, Street Chorus, Celebrant, Chorus)
Mass: Fraction: "Things Get Broken" (Celebrant)
Mass: Pax: Communion, "Secret Songs" (Boy Soprano, Bass, Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Street Chorus, Celebrant, Chorus)

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