Cherubini’s Missa Solemnis/Muti

0 of 5 stars

Missa solemnis in E
Antifona sui canto fermo 8. tona
Nemo gaudeat

Ruth Ziesak (soprano), Marianna Pizzolato (mezzo-soprano), Herbert Lippert (tenor) & IIdar Abdrazakov (bass) [Missa solemnis]

Bavarian Radio Chorus

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Rlccardo Muti

Missa solemnis recorded at concerts on 22 & 23 June 2006 in Philharmonie am Gasteig, Munich; Motets recorded 18 & 19 April 2007 in Herkulessaal der Residenz, Munich

Reviewed by: Antony Hodgson

Reviewed: September 2007
CD No: EMI CLASSICS 3 94316 2
Duration: 51 minutes



I have always felt that there is a recognisable ‘Muti sound’ when this conductor performs late-18th-century or early-19th-century music. In fact Riccardo Muti is an excellent example of a musician who is able to use a modern orchestra to represent the nature of earlier music accurately. He does not necessarily reduce the orchestral forces but still achieves notable clarity – woodwind is carefully balanced, keyed trumpets are never allowed to overpower and, as is particularly evident in this recording, he tends to have the timpanist playing with hard-headed sticks.

All these merits are ideal in the “Missa solemnis” – particularly since the Philharmonie am Gasteig has an exceptionally resonant acoustic – lucidity is never compromised and detail is notable. The form of the “Missa solemnis” finds Cherubini (1760-1842) considering the instrumentation with great care – the opening ‘Kyrie’ is accompanied only by strings and the use of full orchestra in the succeeding ‘Gloria’ make all the greater impact as a result. Although the style is by no means similar, Haydn’s masses are recalled because this music is so optimistic – especially the radiant soprano solo in the ‘Credo’. Even the deep bass solo sadly intoning Christ’s burial is somehow comforting, enabling Cherubini to make ‘Et resurrexit’ a brilliant and joyful episode.

It is not usual for ‘O salutaris hostia’ to be incorporated into the mass but here this brief, gentle movement, weaves voices and orchestra together in such a way as to create a glowing texture. This is a fine example of controlled sotto voce from the chorus. The final ‘Agnus Dei’ ends reflectively and very quietly (no applause of course) and the interval of twenty seconds prior the next work is a further indication of the thoughtfulness in the production.

Michael Fend’s booklet note says nothing about the two motets (although texts and translation are included for all the music). The three-minute “Antifona” is unaccompanied and the seven-minute “Nemo gaudeat” has organ accompaniment. This sad music does tend to wind down the tension but these two serious motets make a useful foil to the joyful “Mass”.

The orchestral playing is always sensitive and it is clear that Muti has tremendous sympathy for this fine selection of liturgical music. The recording is outstanding and the gorgeous acoustic acts as a great enhancement.

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