DVOŘÁK Mass in D
For the latest instalment of Naxos’s traversal of Dvořák’s choral works, Antoni Wit directs two of Spain’s most venerable and prestigious musical institutions, the Orfeón Pamplones (recorded just before their acclaimed visit to the 2015 BBC Proms) and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, founded in 1879 by Pablo Sarasate, no less.
The Mass in D of 1887 is most often heard in its original version with organ accompaniment. The orchestral revision was commissioned by Novello in 1892, the same year that Dvořák penned his Te Deum. Although Wit’s ponderous approach to the opening Kyrie spoils somewhat the composer’s Andante con moto marking, rendering it sluggish, things perk up considerably with the sparkling Gloria, aided by crisp orchestral playing. Alas, there is some horribly wayward choral tuning around the six-minute mark. This occurs again later on in the quieter, descending passages in the Benedictus, when the unaccompanied choir is juxtaposed against the unwavering pitch of a particularly tasty electronic organ.
At full throttle, however, the choral singing is impressive, if a little soprano-heavy. Their Germanic-Latin diction is another plus. It is a pity, though, that the solo quartet did not agree beforehand on their pronunciation ground rules. The soprano, Ewa Biegas, is the main culprit in this respect. Mezzo Marina Rodríguez-Cusí is in particularly rich voice, ideal for this repertory, and both of the male soloists, Javier Tomé and José Antonio López, are on splendid form, relishing their legato lines, most notably in the ruminative Agnus Dei.
At half the length of the Mass, the popular Te Deum is in many ways a superior work – almost a mini four-movement choral symphony. Its largely joyous atmosphere is akin to Janáček in his most breezy, outdoors mood. The score’s orchestral colours are vividly etched and matched by splendidly ebullient choral singing.