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Schumann: Missa Sacra / Swedish Radio Choir

Schumann: Missa Sacra / Swedish Radio Choir

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Less well known among his works, the Missa sacra, Op. 147, bears witness to Robert Schumann’s late interest in sacred music – and in particular in Catholic church music. The work would have a rather difficult fate: during Schumann’s lifetime, it was neither published nor performed in its entirety. Even after its posthumous première, opinions were lukewarm. Wrongly so: the Missa sacra is a fascinating attempt to update sacred music through a refined post-classical musical language. It was originally conceived for orchestra, but Schumann also made a version for organ, presented here. This version allows great vocal transparency and immediacy, thus contributing to a clearer vision of the work. The Vier doppelchörige Gesänge for mixed choir a cappella, Op. 141, are also undeservedly neglected works: they constitute the high point in Schumann’s music for choir. These four songs unite both secular and religious-themed, the latter component being musically emphasised by the effect of multiple choirs. These two fascinating works are performed by the Swedish Radio Choir under the direction of Kaspar Putninš. Among his recordings for BIS is the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom by Rachmaninov (BIS-2571), which has received widespread critical acclaim, for example being awarded a prestigious Diapason d’Or by the French magazine Diapason.


Schumann’s Missa Sacra, Op. 147, was one of the last things he wrote, and it wasn’t published until after his death. As it happens, it is marvelous, and it was probably just waiting for a top-notch reading of the sort that it receives here. Schumann attempts to merge the rather conservative structure of the Classical mass with Romantic stylistic ideas, and the work is really not like anything else he ever wrote. The Four Songs for Double Choir, Op. 141, close out the program; written slightly earlier, they are rare and quite persuasive. Yet it is the mass that may rewrite the choral repertory lists a bit; in this lovely performance, it is a gem.

-- (James Manheim)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: BIS
    • UPC/Barcode: 7318599926971
    • Item Number: BIS-2697