on 11 September 2007
This must be one of the most extraordinary and beautiful pieces of choral music ever written. It stands so much alone and complete that words are superfluous. While it was written in the magically creative year 1922, the composer did not release it for performance until 1963, and it is recognized as a profound expression of Martin's religious faith.
This over-used phrase does little justice, however, to what Martin has achieved. He has used all the resonant acoustics which a church can offer and all the tension generated by the close-moving dissonance and resolution of a complex arrangement for five small sets of a capella male voices. The result is something wonderful - a combination of form and environment creating a work of art complete in itself. It becomes an expression of something almost solid, quite separate from either its components or its performance, yet dependent on both. The piece requires the chorus to have control over extreme nuances of pitch and dynamics and over the issue of sound so that every silence - between the sections of the mass, between the musical phrases, sometimes between two chords - becomes a physical and integral part of the whole. This can only happen when the pauses are perfectly defined, by a choir which is perfectly in time and perfectly in unison.
Listen to it - then listen to it again and again. A quite exceptional performance of an astonishing musical achievement.
on 11 November 2013
Having just heard Pizzetti's Agnus Dei in a BBC TV programme on Requiem music, I returned to this recording and of Frank Martin's Mass for Double Choir. Result: it confirms the other reviews: these two works are sensational and the performances near celestial. And no, I'm not going O T T. Aided by spacious recording which, if anything, is possibly a tad too distant, the overall effect is moving to a rare degree. If you love the highest quality choral music this purchase is highly likely to join your personal eight Desert Island Discs. CB
on 6 January 2006
I too heard this piece on Radio 3 and bought the CD as a result of that. The singing is absolutely top notch and both the pieces, previously unknown to me, were a revelation. Some of the harmonies in the Martin show is relative modernity but otherwise one could be forgiven for thinking it was written by one of the great polyphonic masters of the past.
on 19 March 2005
Having bought this on hearing it on Radio 3, I can thoroughly recommend this recording (of the Martin mass). I was slightly dubious on a recording by an all-male choir since personally I prefer the sound of a mixed adult choir, but somehow the voices blend perfectly and James O'Donnell's direction is fantastic. Every listen reveals new delights, and the music itself is so layered and haunting, particularly the beginning of the Sanctus.
I've not listened to the Pizzetti - I just skip back to the beginning as soon as the mass finishes. But the money is worth it just for the Martin.