Review by Oakland November 13, 2007 (11 of 11 found this review helpful)
|It was 1:00 am and after listening to Berlioz’ Requiem (Maazel on Decca vinyl) at rather loud levels, my better judgment told me to tone it down a bit, lest I start getting family protests. I couldn’t locate the Brandenburg Concertos I wanted to listen to, but I saw this Biber work a few SACDs down the shelf. I had listened to it once before about a month ago and actually enjoyed it pretty well for a first listen. So, I said what the heck, I’ll give it another spin.
What a revelation! What can I say but that this is *wonderful* music, wonderfully performed, and wonderfully recorded. The music is most definitely Baroque although Biber owes nothing to J. S. Bach, whom he pre-dates. Neither (at least in this composition) does he owe Pachelbel who was but 18 when “Missa Christi resurgentis” was composed.
If I were to characterize “Missa Christi resurgentis” I would call it “festive liturgical canonical”, that follows a Roman Catholic high mass. (I was an altar boy and had quite a bit of exposure to this genre). While it is most definitely a vocal work, it is also an instrumental work. The 15 “movements” are dotted with independent parts for vocal and instrumental and their coming together in glorious synergy. And the musicianship is simply eminent. Together their music making is “clean” and prismatic in a way that I don’t believe is quite possible with large orchestral forces.
But this ensemble is not without resources. In addition to the choir, 2 sopranos, 2 tenors, 2 altos, and 3 basses, the instruments include: two violins, two viola, cello, violone, cornet, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, and organ and harpsichord and theobro (bass lute) continuo.
Even though I had the very best intentions of playing this music at low levels the dynamic range of the music put that to “bed” (no pun intended) rather quickly. The trumpet and cornet, especially, sometimes soar to angelic heights and the choir, too, help make this a most festive occasion. Also, the bass, while not “powerful”, makes it presence felt (literally) in a way that is both articulate and dignified.
Multi-channel listeners should be prepared for a different, somewhat ambitious, presentation that I have also experienced in some newly recorded SACD liturgical (especially) works. Compared to most multi-channel classical SACD recordings a paradigm shift may be in order. Newbies to multi-channel could preceive it as being "too much". If I were to introduce someone to SACD multi-channel this would *not* be my disc of choice, at least not without having explained the intent of the producers (and composer?). The liner notes say it best: “Engravings from the late 17th century Salzburg show musicians performing from the four organ galleries during mass. Positioning groups of musicians around the building in this way heightens the effect of passages of music in which the ensemble is divided into smaller groups engaging in (antiphonal) “dialogue” …….
In other words, your rear channels will earn their keep with this recording. In fact, the opening fanfare is from the rear only. Also, make sure your center channel speaker is up to snuff because the trumpets and cornets will place special demands on it.
I found the surround deployment of choir and musicians in this recording to be effective, but not entirely so. While the the “surround” aspects of the presentation of vocalists and musicians is effectively portrayed it falls short with respect to “height” and “distance”. On my system I did not get the feel that any of the musicians and or vocalists were “high” in the galleries or that they (the vocalists especially) were some distance from the congregation as they would be in a spacious cathedral or other large venue. For the most part they seemed at floor level in relative close proximity to the listener. The exceptions are found with the fanfares that very successfully depict a “distant” and “offstage” placement.
The two channel, on the other hand, is quite successful in that you can sometimes be fooled into thinking that music is coming from the surrounds when in reality they are silent. While the multi-channel is not entirely successful it gives more that it gives up and I do prefer it to the two-channel. But you have a choice. If you don’t like it one way, listen the other way.
Either way I strongly recommend this disc.
Robert C. Lang
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