Notes and Editorial Reviews
François-Joseph Gossec obviously had big ideas when he composed his "mass for the dead", a huge 90-minute work for chorus, six soloists, and a substantial orchestra including multiple trombones, clarinets, horns, and (8) bassoons. Gossec could be regarded as a kind of Parisian Haydn, a master of choral music and equally accomplished as a symphonist, in addition to his prowess as a performer and conductor. Although technically a "requiem", this mass never was celebrated at a funeral, nor was it ever performed complete--rather it became a favorite ceremonial work especially prominent at patriotic celebrations during the French Revolution. Nevertheless, this work shows the effort of a formidable talent who is rarely
acknowledged today, but whose command of orchestral and choral technique deserves higher recognition.
There's no shortage of dramatic moments throughout this work--the Dies irae's effective dotted-rhythm depiction of "trembling" at the day of judgement, the ferociously churning, percussive strings in the Mors stupebit, the Recordare with its highly expressive vocal solos and relentlessly marching orchestral accompaniment, an opera-style aria for soprano followed by a thrilling, highly agitated choral Confutatis, and the ravishingly theatrical soprano recit/aria that opens the Offertorium--interspersed with more delicately scored sections such as the two(!) Pie Jesu movements and the lovely tenor solo Spero in Deo (a masterful creation--dare I say it?--worthy of Mozart).
The choral sections are predominantly full-textured and energetic--the schmaltzy stuff, as in the second Pie Jesu, is primarily left to soloists, who on this disc are technically solid and musically competent and mostly very pleasing to hear. The chorus performs accurately, with sufficient ensemble precision, and with a firm, robust tone that suits the music well. The orchestra is outstanding, and its rich and varied colors--the brass is especially notable--are well-captured by the engineers at this live performance at the Chapelle Royale of Versailles Palace in 2002. At the same time, balances will be a concern for many listeners, who will be just a bit uncomfortable with the closeness of the orchestra--a perspective that tends to shift from movement to movement--and, in sections such as the Tuba mirum, the tendency for the brass-heavy accompaniment to overwhelm the singer (more a scoring than an engineering problem!). On the other hand, what you hear is very realistic and almost tactile in impact: be prepared for the opening drum flourish--you'll literally jump out of your chair! I also advise cutting the lengthy applause at the program's end--what exactly does this adornment do to enhance our listening experience?
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Grande Messe des Morts by François Joseph Gossec
Salome Haller (Soprano),
Ingrid Perruche (Soprano),
Katalin Varkonyi (Alto),
Cyril Auvity (Countertenor),
Benoit Haller (Tenor),
Alain Buet (Bass)
La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy,
Namur Chamber Choir
Written: 1760; Paris, France
Date of Recording: 11/30/2002
Venue: Live Royal Chapel, Versailles Palace, France
Length: 90 Minutes 45 Secs.
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