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Martin: Messe; Messiaen / Daniel Reuss, Rias Chamber Choir

Martin / Rias-kammerchor / Reuss
Release Date: 02/14/2012 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 1951834  
Composer:  Olivier MessiaenFrank Martin
Conductor:  Daniel Reuss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Frank Martin's Mass, completed in 1926, premiered in 1963, and now perhaps his most frequently performed work, usually is described as "austere". It is, but with emotional, musical, and even sensual layers the word doesn't describe. The austerity is obvious in the homophonic, medieval flavor of the Kyrie, and often is heard throughout the Mass. A related layer reflects Martin's exploration of liturgical music from the medieval to Stravinsky, as in the motoric rhythms of the Benedictus and the Baroque-like swing of the Laudemus te. The sensual can be heard in the ecstatic Hosanna and in the sheer physical beauty of the writing for the double choir. This Catholic Mass penned by a Calvinist
Read more composer stands as one of the great choral monuments of the 20th century.

It's fared well on disc, with performances that run the gamut from Robert Shaw's reverential 1994 outing for Telarc to this lively one by Daniel Reuss and the RIAS-Kammerchor, which for my taste now displaces the North German Figural Choir's (Thorofon) rendition. Reuss' version is among the fastest, nicely balancing the disparate elements of the work and making them adhere in ways reminiscent of another worthy recording by James O'Donnell's Westminster Cathedral Choir (Hyperion). Reuss triumphs because his chorus is a mature, truly virtuoso ensemble, the voices blending beautifully yet reflecting the intensity that lies just beneath the music's cool surface. He's also helped by wide-ranging engineering that's spacious yet immediate and detailed.

The chorus is just as good in the Songs of Ariel despite a slightly quavery alto solo in "You are three men of sin". Written in 1950 (in English) to excerpts from Shakespeare's The Tempest, Martin later reworked Ariel's choruses into his opera Der Sturm, set to Schlegel's translation of the play. I've yet to hear a performance to match this one--for the precision of "Come unto these yellow sands," the gorgeous soft singing in "Full fathom five," the airborne lightness of "Before you can say 'Come' and 'Go,'" the chilling drama of "You are three men of sin," or the virtuosity and balance of the choral imitation of a flying swarm of bees in "Where the bee sucks."

Messiaen's Cinq Rechants is roughly contemporaneous with Martin's Ariel Songs and reflects a rougher, wilder approach. Celebrating sensual love, its text is peppered with names of famous lovers (including Bluebeard!) while mixing French, quasi-French, onomatopoeic syllables, and made-up words based on Sanskrit and Quecha. This may sound off-putting, but the results are terrific--the tricky rhythms offer challenges to a virtuoso choir, and the music is oddly affecting as the songs swing from erotic outbursts to subdued yet intense meditation. With Messiaen's brief motet from 1937, O sacrum convivium, the disc comes full circle with a meditative, homophonic work sharing some qualities with the Kyrie of Martin's Mass. A fitting conclusion to a wonderful disc.

– Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com, reviewing original release Harmonia Mundi 901834 Read less

Works on This Recording

O sacrum convivium! by Olivier Messiaen
Conductor:  Daniel Reuss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; France 
Language: Latin 
Mass for Double Chorus by Frank Martin
Conductor:  Daniel Reuss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Language: Latin 
Gesänge (5) des Ariel by Frank Martin
Conductor:  Daniel Reuss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; Switzerland 
Language: English 
Rechants (5) by Olivier Messiaen
Conductor:  Daniel Reuss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; France 
Language: French 

Sound Samples

Mass for unaccompanied double choir: I. Kyrie
Mass for unaccompanied double choir: II. Gloria
Mass for unaccompanied double choir: III. Credo
Mass for unaccompanied double choir: IV. Sanctus
Mass for unaccompanied double choir: V. Agnus Dei
Five Songs of Ariel (after Shakespeare's "The Tempest"): I. Act I, sc.2 - Molto tranquillo
Five Songs of Ariel (after Shakespeare's "The Tempest"): II. Act I, sc.2 - Trčs calme
Five Songs of Ariel (after Shakespeare's "The Tempest"): III. Act IV, sc.1 - Allegro molto
Five Songs of Ariel (after Shakespeare's "The Tempest"): IV. Act III, sc.3 - Allegro
Five Songs of Ariel (after Shakespeare's "The Tempest"): V. Act V, sc.1 - Allegretto grazioso
Cinq Rechants: I. Modéré
Cinq Rechants: II. Bien modéré
Cinq Rechants: III. Lent, caressant
Cinq Rechants: IV. Trčs vif
Cinq Rechants: V. Vif
O sacrum convivium. Lent et expressif

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