Biber is described by Andrew Manze as epitomizing the renaissance of interest in early music in general. This spectacular work is a baroque Easter mass in a splendorous style similar to Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610. Biber was based in Salzburg and at this time it was customary to use instrumental works during the mass liturgy. The mass was probably performed in the Salzburg Cathedral in 1674. Some of the sonatas heard here – such as the Sonata à 6 – are found in the manuscript for the mass; others were selected by Manze. There are actually only five choral sections of the Mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The thrilling choral climax of the last is followed by a short fanfare and four of the sonatas.
The Mass is a perfect work for multichannel reproduction because it makes major use of antiphonal techniques just as did the earlier works of the Gabrielis for St. Marks in Venice. Engravings from the period show musicians played from the four organ galleries, just as in Venice. The Mass uses two four-part choirs plus an additional bass voice – who is heard with two other bass soloists in several places during the work. The instrumental sections of strings and brass sometimes work against one another for instrumental “choir” effects. Other touches add to the spatial and colorful nature of this Mass: many duets for trumpets or cornetti, as well as violin duets. In fact the Archbishop had no less than a dozen trumpeters in his retainer.
The Mass is a thrilling work from beginning to end. With surround playback one can imagine being in Salzburg Cathedral and experiencing the sheer sounds of the performers all around you. With the balance of instrumental to choral sections in the work, even listeners more partial to instrumental music will be captivated by this glorious liturgical work, as well as by the exciting performance by Manze’s forces.
— John Sunier