Some reviewers complain about the big, distant recording acoustic here but it isn't soupy and conveys a sense of space and grandeur, essential for this large-scale work to make its impact. The opening brass and drum fanfares are deliberately removed to a gallery to give the right effect - a point apparently missed or misunderstood by some earlier reviewers - and the focal point for the remainder of the work is more closely positioned but still spacious.
What is more of a problem for me is the quality of the solo and choral singing: it is all a bit under-powered compared with the oomph of the trumpets (trombas and clarinos), timpani, and organ; the basses are growly, the countertenors squawky and the sopranos a bit thin - I think they needed more voices in general to match the splendour of the instrumentation. That's a mild gripe and a lot of the time the vocal contribution is more than satisfactory but it is an intermittent problem.
The musical content is great fun: exuberant, declamatory, confident and energised in the way the of the best Baroque music of this genre, the big blocks of polychoral sound virtually assaulting the ears, pummeling the listener into submission with waves of sound - in the best possible manner, you understand. It rolls on relentlessly and triumphally, asserting the supremacy of the One True Church and its local princes, both secular and religious. The "Et incarnatus est" forms and interlude in the Credo and comes as welcome relief from the onslaught, as do the artfully inserted sonatas with their ornate string and brass top melodic lines.
I don't see the point of concluding with a rather nondescript motet but let that pass; this is generally great fun.
If you like your Baroque music loud and luscious, then this is the disc for you. When you play it first, be aware that the two introductory pieces are not as loud as the later ones, so set your volume low to start off with! McCreesh, Goebel and their crew have recreated the full pomp and atmosphere of the time (as far as we can tell). The recording is well-defined and, perhaps surprisingly, for a work of this scale, it does not deteriorate into a miasmic wash of sound. The directionality is very good, even on "ordinary" two-channel stereo. Thoroughly recommended!
I am the first to admit that the Black Ops department of the Australian Knappertsbusch Association has gone rogue on many an occasion. One of its operatives, I’m ashamed to say, pushed Jeggy into the murky waters of the Adelaide River during a boat cruise; lucky for him, Brutus (the eighty year old, 5.5m super croc) had just chowed-down on a bull-shark and was in no mood for skin ‘n’ bones. Further afield, the radioactive toupee that was sent to Norrington, the Bhopal-grade man-perm conditioner that was placed with Rattle’s toiletries and the appointment of Thomas Fey as the resident, in-house conductor of the Chernobyl Philharmonic - one and all are cause for shame, not least for their failure to deliver a certain result.
Nevertheless, there’s one guy we don’t mess with: the formidably-named Reinhard Goebel. By any measure, he’s an Ayatollah of the Period Practice Taliban. His recent concert with the Berlin Philharmonic was arguably more of a capitulation (on the orchestra’s part) than France 1940 or Singapore ’42. Over the years, his reputation for astringency and ideological purity has struck terror into the rank and file of the Australian Knappertsbusch Association, all of whom regard music as metaphysics and not an avenue by which to broadcast the horrors of desertification and the void.
Herein is reparation, if not redemption: Goebel’s stupendous, convert-or-die account of Biber’s Missa Salisburgensis, composed to celebrate Catholicism’s 1100th anniversary in the birthplace of Mozart. Come the opening of the Kyrie, I do not know how any one – not even Brutus – could avoid falling to their knees in homage at the plenitude and inspiration on offer. This is the handiwork of a master. Nor does it stop there: the remainder of the Mass is just as much fun, not to the exclusion of profundity or encounter. When it has such weapons in its armoury, it’s no wonder that the Old Firm continues to fight on and resonate forth: it ain’t done yet. Notwithstanding all the atrocities he has perpetrated over the years, I cannot recall another performance from Goebel where the baseline is so warm and spiritualised; for once, he vents rite. The absence of clipped phrasing also enhances the affair. Listen to the trumpets as they close the Agnus Dei – as Elvis would say, that’s glory, glory baby! The two epistle sonatas (as I’ll call them) add to the joy of the affair. Many a review has mentioned the challenge of recording this vast array in a cathedral. Don’t worry about it too much. It was never going to be the perfect acoustic experience. Not that it matters when the ordnance is what is.
What a disc! I might be drummed out of the AKA myself for awarding Five Stars to Goebel but this is a triumph of arms where he takes no prisoners! Capitulate in glory!
in a review of 11 dec 2011 i recounted my thrill at "discovering" biber. i finished it by saying i was afraid to order another of his works for fear of disappointment. fear no more. although it is not completely established that this is the work of biber it is brilliant with everything i enjoy about renaissance/baroque music; great choral singing, bags of brass, violin solos everything. i just wish i could have heard it in salzburg cathedral during one of my many visits there. this recording is the recommended cd in my "rough guide to classical music" (also from amazon and reviewed) and in fact their comments were what persuaded me to buy. great recommendation, wonderful music, marvellous value for money and arrived two days ahead of estimated delivery date. beat that !
Trumpets, drums and a great choir on full throttle! I agree with A Customer about the quiet introduction so do not be tempted to turn up the volume or put it on when driving in a built up area - you will get at least 6 points. A brilliant buy.
I have just recently come to know some of Biber's work, and it seems amazing that 60 years of my music interest has not included this composer until now. There appears to be some question as to the actual composer of this Mass, well, it doesn't really matter, this is BIG, BOLD, and BRASSY and a great deal at the price.
If you have never heard of Ignaz von Biber now is your chance. A brilliant example of religious music of the time. In fact it is timeless. Paul McCreesh has once again worked an amazing opus for us to relish.
Excellent recording and performance. I remember singing in this piece at York while I was studying for a music degree at Hull many years ago when it was than attributed to Benevoli. A rare and great experience then; wonderful to enjoy this recording now.