Janowitz, soprano/ Grace Hoffman, alto/ Albert Gassner, tenor/ Waldemar
Kmentt, tenor/ Franz Crass, bass/ Choir and Symphony Orchestra of the
Bavarian Radio/ Rafael Kubelik – Audite Stereo-only SACD
92.541 53:46 (Distrib. Albany) ****:
Schubert drafted his E-flat Mass on a commission from Michael
Leitermayer in June 1828. Schubert followed the Viennese tradition in
liturgical music quite rigorously, restricting his use of wind writing
without flutes, two horns, two trumpets, and three trombones to support
the choir. The expansiveness of the textures, comparable to those of
the “Great” C Major Symphony, includes rich harmonic modulations and
repetitions as well as long-phrased melodies, several of which recall
the Overture to Rosamunde. Schubert employs fugal counterpoint from the
antique style for his Gloria, Credo, and Sanctus sections; although,
with his typical modesty, Schubert expressed a desire to study further
with Simon Sechter, the Viennese master of the contrapuntal exercises.
The completed Mass was performed posthumously on 4 October 1829, eleven
months after Schubert’s death.
Recorded 22 March 1968, this elegant performance captures conductor
Rafael Kubelik (1914-1996) in top form, demonstrating his capacity to
balance weighty blocks of sound and shifting semi-operatic textures.
The solo voices, embedded into the tissue of the choral concept, eschew
the high coloratura virtuosity we find in Mozart’s Great Mass in C
Minor. We do have a magnificent trio in Et incarnatus est and lovely
soli in the Agnus Dei. The Sanctus achieves a dramatic impact more akin
to Weber’s Wolf-Glen scene from Der Freischuetz. The blending of
classical Viennese sacred music tradition in the manner of Haydn and
Mozart and Schubert’s own subjective style occurs with silken
precision, a performance to rival Erich Leinsdorf’s equally convincing
1960 version featuring tenor Fritz Wunderlich (Testament SBT 1111).
Kubelik’s vocal cast congeals seamlessly, wherein Gundula Janowitz
sails in the Benedictus, and the Dona nobis pacem, with its dark
agogics and the full vocal quintet and chorus, hurls itself forward in
mighty declamation. In augmented surround sonic splendor, courtesy of
Otto Petzak, the totality of the effect proves piously spellbinding.