Schubert: Mass in F, D105; Mass in G, D167; Mass in B flat, D324; Mass in C, D452; Mass in A flat, D678; Deutsche Messe, D872; Mass in E flat, D950

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Mass in F, D105; Mass in G, D167; Mass in B flat, D324; Mass in C, D452; Mass in A flat, D678; Deutsche Messe, D872; Mass in E flat, D950
PERFORMER: Benjamin Schmidinger, Stefan Preyer, Alexander Nader, Thomas Puchegger (treble), Albin Lenzer, Belà Fischer, Thomas Weinhappel, Georg Leskovich (alto), Jörg Hering, Kurt Azesberger (tenor), Harry van der Kamp (bass), Arno Hartmann (organ); Vienna Boys Cho
CATALOGUE NO: SK 68247, 68248, 53984, 66255
Schubert’s seven masses (also available as a boxed set, S4K 62778) span the whole of his brief career. The four early works (in F, G, B flat and C) which date from his late teens were all composed for the Parish Church in the Viennese suburb of Lichtental, where Schubert had been a chorister. The delightful Mass in G is the best known of these, but the others are also well worth investigating for their characteristically fresh approach to Viennese models (the late Masses of Haydn in particular). The A flat Mass (subtitled Missa solemnis) of 1819-22 is considerably more expansive and expressive, with a fuller use of the orchestra and more extended solo passages. Between this and the equally grand E flat Mass of 1828, his miraculous last year, came the far simpler Deutsche Messe, really a sequence of German sacred songs for common use in Viennese churches.

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Sony has been assembling this set (the first on period instruments) over the last couple of years: the later works have already been issued on two separate discs, and now reappear together with two new discs containing the four early masses. The three Austrian recording locations are pretty well matched – the orchestral sound is particularly vibrant and detailed throughout – but occasionally the young tenors and basses of the Chorus Viennensis fail to cut through the textures. The distinctive timbre of the Vienna Boys Choir strikes me as just right for this music, and the treble soloists drawn from its ranks acquit themselves pretty well (even if there is a tonal imbalance with Jörg Hering’s lyric tenor and Harry van der Kamp’s hollow bass). Once or twice only are the performances anything less than polished; often they are a great deal more than that.