Immortal Bach Ensemble

Schubert: Mass in E flat major; Stabat Mater

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Schubert's Mass No. 6 in E flat major was his last completed mass, written just months before his death. It frequently has the sweetness and gentleness typical of the composer's liturgical music, but Schubert's use of three trombones gives this mass a weightiness not generally associated with his music written for worship services, and several of the movements are surprisingly emphatic. The Sanctus is majestic and genuinely frightening, emphasizing the awesome fearfulness of confronting holiness, and the opening of the Agnus Dei is surprisingly urgent. The Mass also has some moments of transcendent loveliness, particularly the Et incarnates est, which includes the unusual ensemble of a trio for soprano and two tenors. Throughout, there are innumerable little melodic, harmonic, and orchestrational felicities that give the piece a melting tenderness that balance its moments of gravity. Schubert's brief, lyrical, and impassioned Stabat Mater in G minor fills out the disc. The Leipziger Kammerorchester, led by Morten Schuldt-Jensen, is primarily made up of members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, so it's no surprise that the orchestral playing is exquisitely shaped and nuanced. The Immortal Bach Ensemble (formerly known as GewandhausKammerchor) sings as though it has this music in its blood, with a sweetness that's never sentimental or cloying. The soloists sing with appealing naturalness, ease, and grace. Naxos' sound is a little close and crowded, but there is good balance between the chorus and orchestra.

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