Augsburger Domsingknaben Chamber Choir

Karl Kempter, Anton Diabelli: Pastoralmessen

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The Pastoralmessen or Pastoral Mass designation of the two works heard here delivers less than it promises; the notes (which are in German only) devote a single paragraph to the tradition, which was centered on southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Its musical characteristics apparently include unspecified shepherd's melodies flavored by reed instruments, as well as the venerable association between shepherds and 6/8 time. If the intent was to explore this tradition, the performers might have added another instance; those on the disc (originally recorded in 1984) add up to a scant 46 minutes and change. The chief attraction of the program is the presence of a very attractive and virtually unknown work (at least outside of the German realm), beautifully performed. Both works are generally in the idiom of the early Schubert masses, and anyone who directs a choir capable of the modest technical demands of, say, the Schubert Mass in G major, D. 167, should get to know these works, as well. The standout is the Pastoral Mass in G major, Op. 24, of Karl Kempter (1819-1871), a composer born in the Swabian town of Günzburg. The simplicity of expression in the work's encounter with the mass text is beautifully matched here by the Augsburger Domsingknaben boychoir, one of those regional German ensembles that eloquently testify to the high quality of general musicianship that persists in that country. The soprano and mezzo soprano soloists, Reinhold Zott and Hermann Hintermayr, are especially effective. Sample the beginning of the Credo (track 3) for an idea of the flavor of this work; the text "Credo in unum deum" is set in unison. The texture contracts to a quartet for the text describing Christ's incarnation; gradually expanding in varying groups through the resurrection and conclusion of the creed. The treatment of the text is fresh throughout. The Mass in F major, Op. 147, by Anton Diabelli is a less significant work, with a lot of melodies marked by the singsong quality present in Diabelli's most famous work, the theme on which Beethoven based his 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120. But the engineering treatment of Munich's Herkulessaal is fine and has held up in the reissue, and the Kempter mass is well worth the time of anyone whose interests involve choral music, the early Romantic period, or the distinctive musical culture of the Alpine region and its foothills.

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