Herreweghe dirige le Collegium Vocale Gent et l’Orchestre des Champs-Élysées dans une interprétation savoureuse de la musique d’église de Bruckner
(Ivan Hewett -The Telegraph)
Bruckner, Mass No 2 in E Minor & Te Deum review: Philippe Herreweghe conducts an exquisite album
Herreweghe leads the Collegium Vocale of Ghent and Orchestre des Champs-Élysées in a flavoursome performance of Bruckner’s church music
By Ivan Hewett, CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC – 21 October 2020 • 11:30am
Bruckner’s reputation as a composer of some of the grandest symphonies ever penned has thrown his church music into the shadows. Yet Bruckner himself valued it highly. He was a deeply pious man, and once said that after his death, when he had to justify his life in front of the Almighty, he would offer his huge setting of the 5th-century Latin hymn the Te Deum, rather than one of his symphonies.
In terms of musical quality the Te Deum is certainly worthy to stand beside the symphonies, as this new CD reminds us. It appears alongside the Mass in E minor which Bruckner composed about fifteen years before the Te Deum, in 1866. They make a fascinating pair because when he composed the Mass Bruckner had not yet become fully himself. There are intriguing stylistic hangovers from earlier music styles, including an actual quotation from a 16th-century Mass.
And in terms of sheer sound, the piece stands out from anything else in Bruckner’s output. It was composed for the consecration of a chapel at a grand outdoor ceremonial, so to make enough sound to carry across the air Bruckner accompanied the choirs with the penetrating sound of wind instruments, which at the premiere in 1866 were performend by an Imperial infantry wind band.
The sound of that band is lovingly recreated on this CD by the wind players of the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées, who use old instruments of the period. They give this recording a very special sound, less purely massive and more flavoursome and rounded. The balance with the choir is exquisitely handled by conductor Philippe Herreweghe, the Belgian-born conductor who over a fifty-year career has founded no fewer than two choirs and two “period instrument” orchestras, all front-rank. The choral singing is every bit as refined and beautifully dovetailed as the orchestral playing, which is no mean feat as Bruckner’s vocal writing often lies cruelly high.
In the Te Deum, composed for a large choir and a full orchestra the antique stylistic quirks disappear and the grand Bruckner we know from the symphonies appears. The word often used to describe his late style is “monumental” but Herreweghe clearly doesn’t buy into the cliché. He certainly catches the huge, triumphant quality of the opening, a feeling which keeps coming back in later movements, but it’s never a heavy triumph. As always he conjures a transparent, surpassingly beautiful sound from the musicians, including the very fine quartet of vocal soloists, and he keeps the tempos light and flexible. And the gentle Te Ergo with its descending violin solo has a rapturous tenderness.
Some might object that at 51 minutes the CD is on the short side, but the depth and intensity of the music-making make it worth the price.