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Mass No.2 in E Minor, Mass in C Minor
O du liebes Jesu Kind, In jener letzten der Nachte

Ludmilla Kuznetzova (Mezzo), Ludmilla Golub (organ)
Russian State Symphonic Capella and Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Valeri Polyansky
Chandos CHAN 9863 [59.09]
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The Mass in C major was Bruckner's first of seven and is minimalist in being scored for only an alto supported by two horns and an organ: the only forces available to the seventeen-year-old schoolmaster-organist at the time. Ludmilla Kuznetzova, placed well forward in the large acoustic of the Grand Hall of Moscow Conservatory, has a rich and distinctive timbre and she responds with deep feeling to the Latin text, though some may find her Slavic pronunciation a little disconcerting.

The main work is the Mass No.2 in E Minor. Wind and brass accompany the chorus, which in this recording emerges smooth and mellow under Polyansky's expert direction. Not least in the short Sanctus which Robert Simpson has called "perhaps the finest single movement in the whole of Bruckner's early maturity". Here Palestrina's influence is at its strongest in being based on a line from his 1570 Missa Brevis for which Bruckner delivers an eight-part canon which the Russian choir weaves into an unforgettable web of sound that penetrates to the core of Bruckner's art. In the long Credo vigour alternates with that distinctive calm grandeur Bruckner was capable of and hearing these passages performed by this Russian choir should make us hear his better known symphonic passages with new ears. It's hard to imagine anyone failing to be deeply moved by this performance and I recommend it warmly to admirers of Bruckner and choral singing. A special word of praise also to the engineers for balancing the instruments against the choir so well.

Magnificent singing recorded in an ideal acoustic with voices and instruments matched perfectly.

Tony Duggan



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