Bruckner: Mass No. 1 in D minor; Motets

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COMPOSERS: Bruckner
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Mass No. 1 in D minor; Motets
PERFORMER: Luba Orgonasova (soprano), Bernarda Fink (alto), Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Eike Wilm Schulte (bass); Monteverdi Choir, Vienna PO/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 459 674-2
Bruckner is one of those composers you either love or loathe. The trouble is, most people make up their minds only after hearing his symphonies. But Bruckner also composed some of the most original and profound church music after Bach, and although there are clear connections between the symphonies and the liturgical works, the musical voice is quite distinct. The connections with Rococo and Renaissance choral styles are much clearer – it’s surprising how well the shades of Haydn, Wagner and Palestrina get on with each other – and yet the music never sounds derivative or nostalgically archaic. The first of the three numbered Masses is the least-known, but it’s an exceptionally compelling, deeply felt work. John Eliot Gardiner keeps up the pace impressively (profundity doesn’t always mean slowness in Bruckner, especially not at this relatively early stage in his career), with crisp rhythmic articulation. And it’s wonderful to hear this music sung by a really first-rate choir – still more so in the five magnificent short motets. Matthew Best’s Corydon Singers, fine as they are, aren’t quite in the same league, technically speaking, though there’s a warmth in their sound and intimacy of expression (well caught by the Hyperion recording) which after a while I began to miss in the Gardiner. Still, this ought to make a few converts. Stephen Johnson

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