Review By Jerry Dubins ,Fanfare,July 2011
This marks the end of Morten Schuldt-Jensen’s run of Schubert’s six numbered masses for Naxos.
For Schubert, the A♭-Major Mass had an unusually long gestation, seven years in total if one counts an 1826 revision he made in the hope that it would secure him a position at the Imperial Court Chapel. It didn’t. Said to be the composer’s own favorite among his Latin Masses, it represents, according to All Music Guide, “probably the finest and most perfectly balanced fusion of traditional sacred style with Schubert’s own radiant songfulness and astonishing inventiveness among the composer’s choral pieces.”
Review By Philip Greenfield,American Record Guide,July 2011
…my verdict is somewhat mixed. It is not screechy in any way, nor do I feel a musicological chill in the air. To the contrary, the performance sports a fair amount of grace and charm. The Kyrie, for example, catches a lovely spiritual flow, and it’s hard not to smile when the hunting horns pop out for the ‘Hosanna in excelsis’ interludes later in the Mass. When things do plop down to earth, it’s because important contrapuntal passages fail to take off under this conductor’s care. The most notable example is the ‘Cum sancto spiritu’ fugue, which should finish off the Gloria with tremendous elan but doesn’t. Schuldt-Jensen conducts it like a nun chaperoning a prom, checking for hemlines and respectful distances when a bit of
But here’s where things get complicated. While Sawallisch’s reading is more exciting (especially in that ‘Cum sancto’ fugue), it’s not the best entry of his set. I think it lacks charm, with its beefy, unsmiling textures and heavy solo voices. Mea culpa, I don’t know any other recordings to recommend. Maybe you should keep both performances handy; begin here, switch to Sawallisch for the Gloria and Credo (which also is admirably dramatic), then finish things off with the last few sections from Schuldt-Jensen and his Immortals. Naxos may not have given us Schubert for the ages, but when it’s good, it’s very good.
Review By Guy Engels,Pizzicato,March 2011
Schuberts fünfte Vertonung einer lateinischen Messe hat symphonische Dimensionen – sowohl was die Dauer als auch die Struktur anbelangt. Die Herausforderung für die Interpreten besteht darin, Schuberts Melodik, den spirituellen Hintergrund und die symphonische Größe in die rechte Balance zu bringen. Das ist Morten Schuldt- Jensen und seinen Ensembles durchwegs geglückt. Er präsentiert uns einen eher empfindsamen Schubert, der nie romantisch aufbrausend ist. Zudem weiß der Dirigent die Messe auch inhaltlich wunderbar zu gestalten: zurückgenommen, demütig im einleitenden Kyrie, wo um Vergebung gebetet wird; freudvoll und schwungvoll im Lobgesang des Gloria mit einer herrlichen Schlussfuge; dramatisch im Crucifixus-Satz des Credo.
Das Solistenquartett passt stimmlich perfekt zusammen, der Chor singt homogen und transparent, und das Orchester zeigt nach zögerlichem Beginn, dass es auch kraftvoll, intensiv romantisch spielen kann.
Review By David Vernier,ClassicsToday.com,February 2011
If you’re a fan of Schubert’s sacred choral music, this Naxos series, which includes all six Masses and other church works, promises consistently fine performances as good or better than the catalog competition, very well recorded in the complementary acoustics of a Leipzig church. A significant advantage is the presence of the same performing forces throughout the series—and they are solid, well-practiced, and very effective interpreters of this music, which, especially in the earlier works, isn’t always the most dynamic or inventive or inspired. However, this Mass No. 5 in A-flat major, completed in 1822 when the composer was what for him would turn out to be the “ripe old age” of 25 (he revised the Mass four years later)—is a work
The opening is a nifty little imitative sequence—first a choir of winds, then one of strings, followed by the choral sopranos and altos, then tenors and basses, gradually bringing everyone together. There are other memorable moments—the powerful fugal conclusion to the Gloria, the dramatic opening section of the Credo, complete with brass interjections, the strange “horn-call” recurring theme in the Sanctus. Perhaps most memorable is the sheer number and variety of ideas Schubert has crammed into this 40-minute work, which may not add up to the most cohesive Mass ever written, but it’s hard to fault the composer for the attractiveness of those ideas or for his command of orchestral and choral resources.
Schubert’s C major Magnificat is not a complete setting of this beloved text—it uses only the beginning “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” and “Deposuit potentes de sede” verses, concluding with the “Gloria Patri”. Its relatively short timing (not quite nine minutes) and big scoring (four soloists, choir, pairs of oboes, bassoons, trumpets, and drums, plus strings and organ) probably ensures its virtual neglect by concert programmers, but there’s some fine music here, especially the “Deposuit…” section that features lovely Mozartean writing for the ensemble of soloists. As mentioned, Schubert fans should not hesitate, and if you’re a listener looking for a way in to the composer’s church music, this is an excellent place to start. Recommended.