Liszt: Missa choralis; Via crucis

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COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Missa choralis; Via crucis
PERFORMER: Corydon Singers/Matthew Best; Thomas Trotter (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67199
Typecast as the creator of pianistic pyrotechnics, the complex creative figure that was Franz Liszt could also encompass devotional music of an almost severe purity. This disc brings together two of his religious works, the first one of his four settings of the Mass. The Missa choralis, for chorus and organ, was composed – appropriately enough – partly in the Vatican, in 1865, the year the former virtuoso took the four minor orders of the Catholic Church. Its musical origins lie in plainsong and Palestrina, and the setting is a conscious attempt to remodel 19th-century sacred music along more austere lines. Much of its beauty lies in this restraint, though within circumscribed limits there are many dramatic and harmonically daring touches.

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Even sparer is Via crucis, which was begun the following year but not completed until 1878. This depiction of the Stations of the Cross exists in various versions – here the effect is of an organ solo with vocal and choral interjections. Thomas Trotter attacks the piece with imagination and conviction, also supplying the far more discreet accompaniment to the Missa choralis. Carefully prepared work by the Corydon Singers, with the music thoughtfully steered on its way by Matthew Best. George Hall