Cherubini: Missa solemnis in E; Motets

COMPOSERS: Cherubini
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Cherubini
WORKS: Missa solemnis in E; Motets
PERFORMER: Bavarian Radio Choir and SO/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: 394 3162
Riccardo Muti has championed the sacred music of Cherubini for over quarter of a century now; a labour of love, it’s been one informed with the incense-perfumed imprimatur of emotional authenticity. Instinctively Muti goes beyond the merely ‘concert performance’ – even if some might find the scale of the Bavarian forces and the homogeneity of the ‘finish’ a touch ‘writ large’ here. Especially when so much of the E major Missa solemnis seems to look back to the Classical models of Mozart – the Kyrie and Gloria in particular.

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For the ‘et resurrexit’, however, Cherubini almost anticipates Bruckner, whilst the opening of

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the Sanctus invokes Verdi. Muti conjures blazing fervour for both, though it’s actually some of the quietest music which mesmerises most – the exquisitely prayerful ‘O Salutaris’, an interpolated oasis of religiose restraint before the powerfully-wrought, beautifully shaped Agnus Dei in which Cherubini comes closest to the musical ambitions of his admirer Beethoven. It offers a heartfelt plea for peace, torn between the serene faith of the major key and the intruding doubt of the minor key answer. Muti’s pacing is flawless again, the solo quartet and choir poised, the orchestral layering a benediction. Even the hardened non-believer will mutter a grateful ‘Amen’! Paul Riley