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Τwo recordings of the 60s

GOUNOD SAINT CECILIA MASS HARTEMANN

Charles Gounod, Messe solennelle de Saint Cécile: two recordings of the 60s

Gounod’s easy going melodramatic Mass makes for comfortable late afternoon listening. It is a piece which combines romanticism with secular music. Apart from the Pretre version, usually listed (1984, EMI DIGITAL, 5561c), there are two older very interesting performances of the piece, i.e. Markevitch with the Prague Philarmonic on DG and Jean Claude Hartemann with the Paris Conservatoire SO on EMI.

The EMI recording has more depth, atmosphere and brilliance while Markevitch’s recording, like so many DG recordings of French music in the sixties, is on the warm side.

Both are very good performances with very good soloists. Stolze on DG has an ideal voice for secular music, while Hoppe on EMI is more weighty. In fact, the male soloists on EMI have more weight and are better projected. As regards female voices, it is strangely the other way around. Female choir and, especially Seefried on DG, have a more forward presence, than their counterparts on EMI. Especially, Lorengar on EMI is recorded in the back but what excellent singing this is! Also Lorengar’s voice, though less weighty than Seefried’s, blends well the choir and sounds as a part of it, a bit stronger and more projected. Both choirs are very good, but on EMI the voices of the choir have proper space between them and are more discernible than on DG. Finally the principal soloists’ voices blend more naturally with the choir and are better constrasted between each other on EMI. As regards the conducting of the orchestra, I prefer Markevitch, especially because he imbues the music with a romantic flavour and the flowing quality of the music makes more impact on the listener. Both performances are very good, but I would go for EMI, because of the recording quality and of the two principals.

GOUNOD SAINT CECILIA MASS DGG 139 111

DGG – SPLM 139 111 – Irmgard Seefried, Gerhard Stolze, Hermann Uhde, Czech Choir and Philarmonic of Prague, Igor Markevitch, 1/66 (The collector should note that this performance is also available on Supraphon Stereo of 1969 – SUA ST 10736).
EMI – (70s German gold EMI Electrola Label – C 063-11076) Pilar Lorengar, Heinz Hoppe, Franz Crass, Choeurs Rene Duclos, Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire Paris, Jean Claude Hartemann (the collector should note that this performance is available on various versions, i.e. EMI ASD 589, UK 1st red semi –circle, 1963, French 1st la voix de son maitre, FALP 790, etc.).

By Epaminondas Tsandis

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