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Biber: Requiem In F Minor / Mccreesh, Gabrieli Consort

Biber / Mcgreesh / Gabrieli Consort
Release Date: 09/27/2004 
Label:  Archiv Produktion (Dg)   Catalog #: 474714   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Heinrich Ignaz BiberGeorg MuffatJohann Heinrich SchmelzerAbraham Megerle,   ... 
Performer:  Timothy Roberts
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli ConsortGabrieli Players
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 21 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is the recording of the Biber F-Minor Requiem to which I referred in my review in the last issue of Arsys Bourgogne’s splendid version, and I’ve been advised of yet a further forthcoming issue by the New York Collegium. All this activity is, of course, inspired by last year’s commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the composer’s death. This is made explicit by Archiv, since they have entitled the disc “A Requiem for Biber.” There is also a subheading taking its name from the six-part Lassus motet that concludes the program: Mors vita in morte sumus (“In the midst of life we are in death”), “life” being represented by Biber’s very different Mass in B flat in what is, I believe, its first recording. This, together with the various Read more pieces interspersed, makes for a very generous playing time (indeed I think the longest-playing CD I’ve encountered), with a playing time of over 30 minutes more than the Arsys Bourgogne disc.

McCreesh therefore starts with a clear advantage over Pierre Cao and his French forces. But how do the performances of the Requiem compare? As one might expect of McCreesh, his vocal forces are slightly smaller than those of Cao, adding to the five required concertists just 10 ripienists as against Cao’s 15. The instrumental forces employed are very similar, with both conductors adding trombones to the six-part strings. But McCreesh, again predictably for a man always seeking new directions, has something else up his sleeve in the employment of all-gut strings and instruments set up according to 17th-century practice, and experiments with Biber’s favorite device of scordatura tuning. Taken in isolation, such things might make little impact on a listener, but comparison with Cao’s all-purpose (and marginally less-well played) Baroque strings does reveal a greater sense of blend of the kind typical of 17th-century consort music, and a less-brilliant, more viol-like tonal huskiness.

In terms of generalized differences between the two performances, the most striking contrast is McCreesh’s greater rhythmic emphasis and theatricality, his accentuation of such overtly dramatic moments as “Rex tremendae” (Sequentia) far greater than that of Cao, who, as I wrote in my original review, concentrates more on the supplicatory or consolatory aspects, aiming at a more spiritual beauty. I think both approaches valid, since the work undeniably aspires to elements of Baroque ceremony. In keeping with this approach, the British conductor also makes more of building real climaxes, the concluding pages of the Kyrie being a good case in point. Nonetheless, I would not like to be without the sensitivity Cao and his forces bring to the work, and one area in which he seems to me clearly superior is the greater projection and insight his five soloists bring to their roles. Indeed the Gabrieli soloists have some surprisingly weak moments, as is clearly evident at such places as the solo bass entries at the opening of the Offertory “Domine Jesu Christe,” and Agnus Dei. It might be argued that the reticence accorded McCreesh’s soloists makes for a more natural balance with the vocal ripienists, but I don’t think that accounts for the greater sense of involvement one feels with Cao’s very fine quintet, about which my only reservation is his use of a female alto. McCreesh’s high tenor is a more satisfactory answer, producing a superior tonal blend in ensembles.

While real enthusiasts will undoubtedly (and indeed should) want both these complementary versions of the Requiem, the more general collector is far more likely to be drawn to the McCreesh, since it will give them another complete Biber Mass rather than Cao’s short, but beautiful Offertories. Anyone searching for a work that typifies the “Life” part of the Archiv disc to perfection would find it difficult to light on a better choice than the Mass in B flat. Composed largely in the contrapuntal stile antico, the work’s extraordinary exuberance and vitality nonetheless reveal it as very much a child of its time. Composed for a six-part vocal ensemble with a floridly virtuosic part for organ, it was probably composed for a smaller church or monastery than the grandiose sacred pieces written for performance in Salzburg Cathedral. Closely unified thematically, with many of the principal motifs derived from descending figures (most spectacularly, the pealing of bells at the start of the Gloria), the Mass is also testament to Biber’s love of running basses and ostinatos. It’s a piece that demands a high level of vocal accomplishment, the voices at times called upon to tumble over one another as if they cannot get their frequently reiterated short phrases out fast enough, the inherent excitement of the work being splendidly realized by McCreesh, his singers, and the excellent organist, Timothy Roberts. I’ve left no space to talk about McCreesh’s extras, so must content myself with drawing attention to the fact that the quiet serenity of Lassus’s Media vita makes for a telling conclusion to this wondrously varied, and, in general, extremely well-performed disc.

Brian Robins, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1.
Requiem in F minor by Heinrich Ignaz Biber
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1692; Salzburg, Austria 
2.
Ciaccona for organ (from Apparatus musico-organisticus, Part 2) by Georg Muffat
Performer:  Timothy Roberts (Organ)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1690 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 3 Minutes 11 Secs. 
3.
Missa ex B, for vocal soloists, chorus & organ, C. 4: Kyrie by Heinrich Ignaz Biber
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1705 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 1 Minutes 47 Secs. 
4.
Missa ex B, for vocal soloists, chorus & organ, C. 4: Gloria by Heinrich Ignaz Biber
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1705 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 6 Minutes 18 Secs. 
5.
Sonata No. 13 by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 3 Minutes 44 Secs. 
6.
Missa ex B, for vocal soloists, chorus & organ, C. 4: Credo by Heinrich Ignaz Biber
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1705 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 9 Minutes 25 Secs. 
7.
Peccator et consolator a 2 by Abraham Megerle
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 4 Minutes 26 Secs. 
8.
Missa ex B, for vocal soloists, chorus & organ, C. 4: Sanctus by Heinrich Ignaz Biber
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1705 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 3 Minutes 42 Secs. 
9.
Praeludium legatura for organ (MS XIV 714 (olim)) by Anonymous
Performer:  Timothy Roberts (Organ)
Written: 16th Century 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
10.
Missa ex B, for vocal soloists, chorus & organ, C. 4: Agnus Dei by Heinrich Ignaz Biber
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1705 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 3 Minutes 35 Secs. 
11.
Ave verum corpus, motet for 6 voices, M. xiii (S. xiii/66) by Orlando de Lassus
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Period: Renaissance 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 3 Minutes 13 Secs. 
12.
Sacro-profanus concentus musicus: Sonata no 2 à 8 by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 3 Minutes 11 Secs. 
13.
Praeludium for organ (MS XIV 714 (olim)) by Anonymous
Performer:  Timothy Roberts (Organ)
Written: 16th Century 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 1 Minutes 23 Secs. 
14.
Media vita in morte sumus, motet for 6 voices, M. ix (S. xiii/90) by Orlando de Lassus
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort
Period: Renaissance 
Date of Recording: 07/2004 
Venue:  Tonbridge, Kent, Tonbridge School Chapel 
Length: 6 Minutes 58 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Really Great Recording of Biber April 14, 2013 By Clifford H C. (Thompson, MB) See All My Reviews "Biber: Requiem In F Minor Heinrich Ignaz Biber 1644-1704 is an interesting study. His music ranges from large scale ceremonial pieces to proto-Baroque music. This disk shows Biber with a foot in both worlds. The Mass in B flat is old fashion with its roots in the past. The mass is supplemented by music of other composers. The intimacy of the Mass is one of its strongest assets. The Gabrieli Consort performs the vocals with such vocal virtuosity. They have some of the best voices for this type of music. The mass is just the starter. The real star of the show is the Requiem performed with a string consort with special tuning. The Gabrieli Consort really pulls out all of the stops for this piece. The energy they put in music is infects the entire ensemble and brings out the best in the music." Report Abuse
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