WORKS: Palestrina: Missa Te Deum Laudamus; Missa Tu es Petrus; Tu es Petrus a 6; Victoria: Te Deum Laudamus
PERFORMER: The Choir of Westminster Cathedral/Martin Baker
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67785
Since he became Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, Martin Baker has moulded its choir into a very effective instrument for the public adornment of worship. For a glimpse of their sure-footed impact we need only listen to the wonderful Agnus of the Missa Tu es Petrus, the better known of the two masses on this disc.
But these performances are not parts of services, and the CD format makes us focus on the music for its own sake. In the Te Deum Mass this exposes a slightly relentless dynamic, a matter-of-fact briskness in certain sections (the Sanctus), and some occasionally prosaic phrasing (as at the opening of the Benedictus).
Even so, the technical challenges are met with ease, as in the gear-change from duple to triple time at ‘Qui ex Patre’, and the ‘jubilant’ aspects of this celebratory work are enhanced by the high transposition (which occasionally leads to some distortion of sound).
But the content of the mass ranges from ecstatic praise, to tender contemplation, to crucifixion agony, and even a very good choir like this one needs to internalise that landscape (as, clearly, did Palestrina) and reflect it in alert, constantly changing and personal acts of musicianship. Anthony Pryer