Stefanie True (soprano), Helen Charlston (mezzo-soprano), Gwilym Bowen (tenor), Morgan Pearse (bass); Orchestra and Choir of the Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr
AAM AAM011 60:14 mins
Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812) was among the most celebrated musical figures of the Classical era. A dazzling pianist, he was a composer of remarkable originality whose keyboard sonatas display virtuosity and imagination foreshadowing the Romantics. The excellent notes accompanying this recording show his Solemn Mass to be shrouded in a certain amount of mystery. Dating from around 1810 it was dedicated to Prince Nicholas Esterházy and presumably was intended to add to the august line of the six masses Haydn composed for the court, but there is no hard evidence that it was performed at the time; thus, the Academy of Ancient Music’s 2019 Barbican performance could well be its premiere.
The work is fluent, imaginatively orchestrated with impressive contrapuntal writing. There are some fascinating harmonic touches, notably in the ‘Qui tollis’ and the expressive ‘Et incarnatus’. The ‘Et resurrexit’ is intoxicatingly uproarious and the ‘Sanctus’ and ‘Benedictus’ charming. But perhaps Haydn’s example weighed a little too heavily and in places Dussek seems to be trying rather too hard, with the sheer brilliance of the writing becoming a distraction. This enjoyable, well recorded rendition, with lovely solo singing, has clear passionate advocacy; notwithstanding the odd rough edge the performance does Dussek’s mass proud.