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Works on This Recording
Grosse Messe, Op. 37 by Walter Braunfels
Stuttgart State Opera Chorus,
Stuttgart State Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A 20th Century Masterpiece July 8, 2013
By Andrew F. (Brockton, MA) See All My Reviews
"I readily admit that I am at a disadvantage when I try to speak about sacred music, although the greatness of Bachs masses and Magnificat, the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, the Haydn and Schubert masses, and the Cherubini requiems is obvious to all listeners. To find parallels in 20th Century music can be somewhat different; the fascinating mysteries in the music of Messiaen, the Durufle Requiem, Taneyevs cantata At the Reading of a Psalm, the sacred works of Petrassi, Stravinskys Symphony of Psalms (but not his Mass) are among the supreme devotional works of the modern era. Possibly, the finest of all is Frank Martins Mass and his Requiem. I would not consider Bernsteins Mass and Puccinis Messe di Gloria in the same league. Now we have the Braunfels Grosse Messe. I had begun to believe that my advocacy of Braunfels as one of the 20th Centurys greatest composers was in doubt after the Oehms release of the Organ Concerto. But this mass is a masterpiece, possibly because the listener is not assaulted with overwhelming music of praise, but music of pain, sorrow, and introspection. The Kyrie that begins the mass is grave and mysterious, and the dissonance is very modern (although this is a tonal, late romantic composition). All expectations are hence thwarted; there is as much ethereal rapture as there is lingering agony. The music speaks of a century riddled with cruel wars and ill will as much as with great hope. This is a live performance and as such, subject to infrequent coughs and orchestral gaffes. The conducting by Manfred Honeck (who also gave us Braunfels Te Deum on the Orfeo label) is outstanding. The soloists are fine with the exception of the basso Attila Jun, who seems to be skating around to fine the correct notes. This recording is difficult to find in the US, and its sole distributor (as I have been told by an authority) is charging an outrageous wholesale price (despite the fact that it is Decca). Your best bet is to seek out merchants from foreign sources. But this recording is an absolute must."