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Martin: Mass, Passacaille; Pizzetti / O'donnell, Et Al


Release Date: 02/10/1998 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67017   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ildebrando PizzettiFrank Martin
Performer:  James O'Donnell
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

These are magnificent performances. Only 18 months ago we had an outstanding record of Frank Martin’s beautiful Mass for Double Choir from Harry Christophers and The Sixteen. Now comes another of comparable quality and distinction, which you should acquire even if you have the Collins issue. Written in 1922, the Agnus Dei being added four years later, the Mass is one of Martin’s most sublime compositions. He never encouraged performances of it and it did not enter the public domain before the 1960s and took some time before it was firmly established in the repertory. A little to my surprise, I found it gained enormously from using boys’ rather than female voices. Some years ago when comparing Ralf Otto and the Frankfurt Vocal Ensemble with Read more Stephen Darlington and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, I thought the women naturally scored over the boys in terms of understanding and maturity. It is a measure of James O’Donnell’s achievement with Westminster Cathedral Choir that the gain in purity and beauty is at no time at the expense of depth and fervour. This is an altogether moving and eloquent performance, often quite thrilling and always satisfying.

Harry Christophers offers a group of rare Martin pieces including the magical Funf Gesange des Ariel, written for Felix de Nobel’s famous Netherlands Chamber Choir, and the Cantate pour le 1er aout for chorus and organ and the Ode a la musique. The new disc brings us a fine performance by O’Donnell of the Passacaille, not abundantly represented on CD at present, and the Pizzetti Messa di Requiem, also composed in 1922. Pizzetti’s music enjoys all too little exposure these days. His suite, La Pisanella, ought to be a popular repertory piece and I hope Daniele Gatti will champion it in this country. The received wisdom, however, is that it is in his a cappella music that Pizzetti is at his finest and in his 1951 monograph Guido Gatti spoke of his setting as “the most serene and lyrical of all ... from Mozart’s to Gabriel Faure’s”. Serene and lyrical it most certainly is, and it will come, I suspect, as a revelation to those encountering it for the first time. I intend no disrespect to the expert Danish performance on Chandos but this is in a different league. There is a fervour and a conviction about the Westminster performances of both the Requiem and the 1937 De profundis (which Pizzetti wrote to mark the healing of his breach with Malipiero). The luminous tone this choir produce in both these inspired and masterly works will ring in your ears long after you have finished playing this splendidly recorded disc.

-- Robert Layton, Gramophone [3/1998]
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Works on This Recording

1. Messa di Requiem by Ildebrando Pizzetti
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922-1923; Italy 
Date of Recording: 07/1997 
Venue:  Westminster Cathedral, London, England 
Length: 28 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
2. De profundis by Ildebrando Pizzetti
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937 
Date of Recording: 07/1997 
Venue:  Westminster Cathedral, London, England 
Length: 5 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
3. Mass for Double Chorus by Frank Martin
Conductor:  James O'Donnell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Date of Recording: 07/1997 
Venue:  Westminster Cathedral, London, England 
Length: 25 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1922).
Composition revised: Switzerland (1926). 
4. Passacaglia for Organ by Frank Martin
Performer:  James O'Donnell (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; Switzerland 
Date of Recording: 07/1997 
Venue:  Westminster Cathedral, London, England 
Length: 11 Minutes 13 Secs. 

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