BRUCKNER: Mass No. 3 in f – Lenneke Ruiten, sop./ Iris Vermillion, mezzo/ Shawn Mathey, tenor/ Franz Joseph Selig, bass/ Rundfunkchor Berlin/ Orch. de la Suisse Romande/ Marek Janowski – Pentatone multichannel SACD PTC 5186 501, 62:13 [Distr. by Naxos] (4/8/13) ****:
It has been postulated, with good reason, that Anton Bruckner’s three masses were but preparatory pieces that paved the way for his symphonies. In other words, the latter were religious works without the words. One can hardly posit the entire symphonic oeuvre of Bruckner as “religious” in origin without taking this stance to a certain extent. Certainly the spirituality of the three masses found its way into the symphonies. But they served an even greater purpose in terms of the gradual expansion of the composer’s orchestral power. By the time we arrive at this mass (1867) he was exploring many new and even radically profound emotional states reflective in a wild and wooly textual adaptation, ever stretching musically what he felt the texts could bear.
Bruckner being Bruckner, he kept revisiting this piece, mostly in terms of the orchestration, until his “final” version in 1893, the basis for this recording. I must say that Janowski has the full measure of the work; the chorus is broad and mostly on top of the score (a few pinched top notes come across as flat but nothing serious), and the orchestra, the Suisse Romande, becoming more and more a seriously formidable Bruckner ensemble. Pentatone offers some very wide and spaciously-deep sound, taking full advantage of the surround speakers to provide some wide-ranging and exceptionally rich sonic ambiance. This series is progressing nicely, getting very close to being the second complete surround sound set of Bruckner symphonies, with the addition of the masses as well. Recommended!