Biber: Missa Salisburgensis; Sonata sancti polycarpi

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LABELS: Archiv
WORKS: Missa Salisburgensis; Sonata sancti polycarpi
PERFORMER: Musica Antiqua Köln/Reinhard Goebel, Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
CATALOGUE NO: 457 611-2
The Missa Salisburgensis was composed in 1682 to mark Salzburg’s 1,100th anniversary as a centre of Christianity. Thanks to the niceties of Baroque protocol, the composer remained anonymous, though it’s now generally accepted Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber was responsible. The Mass was written to take advantage of the amenities and dimensions of Salzburg cathedral; it uses six ‘chori’ (of singers and instrumentalists), five organs and two choirs of trumpets, tromba and timpani, all placed in various locations around the building.


Despite the best efforts of McCreesh and Reinhard Goebel, such a spatial extravaganza does not translate easily to the modest domestic stereo. The music’s dynamic range is such that one moment you’re straining to hear, the next you’re being blown out of your chair; and while the great blasts of brass are thrilling at first, the frequent repetition of what McCreesh calls their ‘bombastic paeans’ can become tiresome. That said, there’s some splendid music here, not least the gentle, folk-like melodies that Biber festoons between his monumental blocks of Baroque pomp. Graham Lock