WORKS: Requiem; Mass in E flat; Otce nás
PERFORMER: Shelley Everall (soprano), Lynette Alcantara (contralto), William Kendall (tenor), Peter Harvey (bar); Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge/Geoffrey Webber
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 914 DDD
Full marks for initiative. This enterprising issue brings together all of Puccini’s small-scale sacred works along with some real choral rarities by Janácek. The real curiosity, however, is Janácek’s E flat major Mass, which offers a fascinating insight into the composer’s working methods. This is not, of course, the famous Glagolitic Mass, although that work owes a lot to this composition from Janácek’s teaching days in Brno. The composer destroyed the manuscript after plundering it for the later work, but conscientious pupils preserved the Kyrie, Agnus Dei and much of the Credo.
Ace reconstructor Paul Wingfield has gone to work on the sources, providing a convincing conclusion to the Credo and adding an early version of the ‘Svet’ movement of the Glagolitic Mass, though sung in Latin.
Gonville and Caius College Choir, conducted by Geoffrey Webber, turns in admirable performances. It lacks the warmth of Eastern European choirs and its Czech isn’t always convincing, but its bright, alert tone is a pleasure to the ear. Oddly enough, the Englishness of the sound causes more confusion in Puccini’s brief Requiem – complete with a modal viola solo, it sounds almost like Vaughan Williams.
Organ accompaniments are excellent, as are the male soloists, and the recording balance is exceptional. Jan Smaczny