The Vespro della beata Vergine of Heinrich Ignaz Biber receives top billing on this beautifully recorded release from the Accent label and West German Radio. It's more a collection of pieces than a discrete work and thus has been comparatively neglected among the daring output of this early Baroque Austrian composer. It would have been interspersed with other music in performance, and here it is presented with short motets by Johann Caspar Kerll and a sonata by Biber himself. The Vespers setting shows Biber's typically progressive quality, not so much in the harmonic daring that pervades some of his works but in its harmonic-melodic orientation, its resolute quality that makes it sound more of the 18th century than of the 17th. But the real find here is the Missa In fletu solatium obsidionis Viennensis (Mass in Comfort for Tears during the Siege of Vienna), composed as Vienna was under attack from Turkish forces during the Battle of Vienna in 1683 by the now little-known Kerll. The battle was preceded by epidemics of plague and dysentery, one of which took the life of Kerll's wife. The result is a mass that reflects its surroundings to an unusual degree; the large, extremely somber fugues that conclude the Gloria and especially the Credo are unlike anything else in the sacred music of the 17th century. The performances by German vocal group Cantus Cölln under Konrad Junghänel have an appealing richness, although the choir, with two voices per part, is underpowered for the size of the works and the imposing surroundings in which the music would originally have been performed.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Missa in fletu solatium obsidionis Viennensis|