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GRAMOPHONE (11/2005)
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Harmonia Mundi

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Reviewer: Richard Lawrence

Two enjoyable approaches to a longforgotten antiphonal Mass by Biber


The Missa Christi resurgentis seems to have lain in obscurity for centuries, known about but otherwise ignored, until brought to life by James Clements and published by A-R Editions in the US. The New York Collegium gave the first modern performance in 2003 and The English Concert followed a year later with the European premiere. The recordings differ in the way the music is presented: both are very welcome.


After perhaps descending to the crypt to sneer at the tomb of Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo, Mozart's employer, the visitor to the Baroque cathedral of Salzburg cannot fail to be impressed by the interior with its four galleries. Biber, who had joined the service of the Archbishop Maximilian Gandolph in 1670, made full use of the cathedral's spatial opportunities: two four-part choirs are complemented by string and brass groups used, like Venetian cori spezzati, both antiphonally and in combination.


The Mass was probably written for Easter 1674. It begins with a sonata, the strings answering the brass. Andrew Manze takes i t straight; while Andrew Parrott, by slurring the second and third notes, adds an appealing rakishness to the phrase. 'Christe eleison' sees the first of several appearances by three basses, a difficult ensemble to balance. The Americans, with a light first bass, make it sound quite airy. The English Concert, at a slower speed and a lower pitch, tend to growl away in their boots. The 'Et exspecto' section of the Credo finds Manze's sopranos singing high with a real sense of awe.


In general, the singing of the Choir of The English Concert is the more accomplished: some of the solo work in Parrott's choir sounds tentative and the boy alto causes moments of unease for the listener. The orchestral playing is first-rate on both recordings.


Which to choose must depend on the supplementary pieces. ...

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