Es war Robert Schumann, der Johannes Brahms Anfang der 1850er Jahre den Sinn für den »alten Gesangsgeist«, für die Chorpolyphonie des 16. Jahrhunderts, eröffnete. In den folgenden Jahrzehnten sollte sich Brahms in seiner Chormusik Stück für Stück die alte Kunst erarbeiten und lernen, sie mit seinem eigenen »progressiven« Stil zu verbinden. Auf der vorliegenden CD lässt sich diese Entwicklung an ausgewählten Chorwerken nachvollziehen. Abgerundet wird das Programm durch die Messe op. 109 von Joseph Rheinberger. Es singt der Chor der Westminster Cathedral.
Brahms's Missa canonica is something of a rarity: composed around 1856, the work lay unperformed until 1983 despite being regarded highly enough by its composer for him to have re-used some of its material in the popular motet Warum ist das Licht gegeben?. The absence of both Gloria and Credo settings (these texts being too long to be easily suited to the form of a canon) probably explains the neglect, yet the four movements of this work show all the hallmarks of Brahms's compositional mastery and deft handling of choral effect that are well known from his many motets, six of which, including the sublime Op 30 Geistliches Lied, are also recorded here. Concluding this new disc from Westminster Cathedral is the extraordinary double-choir Mass in E flat by Joseph Rheinberger, Leichtenstein's most famous organ prodigy. This is music born of the polychoral Venitian tradition of Gabrieli and Monteverdi, nurtured on the harmonic milk of Bach and Mendelssohn, and finally offered up to the world as a miniature choral symphony that is uniquely Rheinberger's. The Choir of Westminster Cathedral, under Master of Music Martin Baker, takes on the challenges presented by these varied works with panache to create a disc that is sure to appeal.
»It is hard to imagine finer singing of these sacred scores from Brahms and Rheinberger than that from the Westminster Cathedral Choir. The Cathedral choristers display a remarkable technical prowess and refinement. From the riveting Kyrie of the Missa Canonica to the symphonic conclusion of the Agnus Dei of the Mass for double choir, Martin Baker directs winning performances, that are marvellously fresh and well-paced. In the exceptional ecclesiastical acoustic of Westminster Cathedral the male choir's timbre is rich and immediate, with a robust edge that seems ideal for these compelling scores. The highlight for me is the direct and vital quality to the Westminster choir's singing in Rheinberger's magnificent Mass. The contribution from organist Matthew Martin is first rate, providing immediacy, without ever being obtrusive. These are superbly performed and recorded sacred works that lovers of choral music will surely relish.« (Musicweb)
»Baker and his choir do a fine job with these pieces. The conclusion to Schaffe in mir is wonderfully exciting … while the close to Geistliches Leid, a work too easily dismissed as ›just‹ a church anthem, is gorgoeously ardent. In Warum? Baker does not overlook the dramatic side of the text and turns in a performance that is both technically excellent and exciting. And Rheinberger's Mass, a beautiful work with rich sonorities, has a fine musical sensitivity and flow« (American Record Guide)