Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
As one of Bernstein’s last students, Alsop has tirelessly evangelised for this work. She understands it better than almost anyone, telling Seckerson in this magazine last year, “What’s interesting about Mass is just how prophetic it’s turned out to be. All those boundaries between genres, between different styles of music—they’re gone.” As it happened, Alsop’s long-awaited recording of the piece was pipped to the post by another, also fine, recording from Chandos conducted by Kristjan Järvi. But it is the Alsop on Naxos, with her fine Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which to my mind shows the greater understanding of its myriad styles and undergoes the more convincing and coherent dramatic arc. And she is also blessed with a riveting performer in the central role of the Celebrant—the aptly named Jubilant Sykes.
GRAMOPHONE EDITOR’S CHOICE
Highest praise of all must go to Alsop, however. Having once been Bernstein’s pupil she has now become the most convincing advocate on disc for this previously problematic work. She holds together every strand of this endlessly diverse score, welding it into a convincing musical and dramatic whole. This is perhaps her greatest recording to date, and I don’t doubt that she would say it’s the one closest to her heart.
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL ‘RECORDING OF THE MONTH’
Marin Alsop has done her mentor proud…from the start, Alsop conducts with inspiring rhythmic energy…her pacing is superb…the result is not only a welcome opportunity to revisit Mass but also an experience that is both thrilling and moving….This outstanding performance comes with the benefit of excellent sound…from every point of view, this can be counted a triumphant success.
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW ‘OUTSTANDING’
If the baritone gives the performance its soul, Alsop provides abundant heart. She believes totally in this music, and that faith shines in every measure.
TIM SMITH, THE BALTIMORE SUN (USA)
Maestro Alsop was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein, and perhaps because of that she is one of the few people to be truly qualified to handle such an undertaking…his “Mass” is huge, complex, demanding on more levels than just musical performance…Alsop does a wonderful job moving the orchestra through the extremely rhythmic music…Maestro Alsop keeps the orchestra moving through each section capturing the moments of meditation, in between points of rage and anxiety.
26th August, 2009
As the Celebrant, Sykes gives Bernstein’s work its soul; Alsop adds its heart.
Last fall, Bernstein protégé Marin Alsop led the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in performances of this audaciously eclectic “Theatre piece for Singers, Players and Dancers” that generated large, enthusiastic crowds in Baltimore, Washington and New York.
There were glowing notices in most of the press, too, with little of the dismissive attitude that greeted the 1971 premiere of “Mass” at the opening of the Kennedy Center. Today, the genre-crossing ingenuity of Bernstein’s creation seems more impressive than ever.
The BSO recording has an electric charge throughout and boasts consistently vivid work from vocal and instrumental forces alike…Alsop provides abundant heart. She believes totally in this music, and that faith shines in every measure. As is her wont, she keeps things moving along; the recording clocks in at 14 minutes faster than Bernstein’s (three minutes faster than Järvi’s), but the pacing feels right.
Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun Reporter (USA)
25th August, 2009
Marin Alsop, a self-professed Bernstein protégé, clearly shares in the emotionalism and strong personal involvement to which this work invites all participants – performers and audience alike. She conducts with fervor and intensity…the fervor with which Alsop approaches many sections, such as the Street Chorus’ questioning of the tenets of the Mass, brings heady excitement to the work, and makes this performance as a whole a highly effective one.