Masses For Celebration
Orchestra of New Spain
Grover Wilkins, conductor
…..Under the direction of Grover Wilkins, the Orchestra of New Spain is composed of forty musicians, instrumentalists and singers, specializing in Baroque music as well as ideal exponents of the dramatic music of the 18th century. The stability of the Orchestra's membership brings to the repertory an unusual sensitivity to its original purpose and the expression thereof.
…..There is a pleasurably relentless quality to Courcelle’s choral music, an insistent forward momentum that grabs the listener and barely lets up for the entire length of a piece. Courcelle imparts to these masses an effortless grandeur without resorting to pomp and circumstance. The instrumental and vocal textures are varied and effective, and the composer sets up a compelling dialogue between the soloists and larger choral forces. Wilkins and his orchestra deliver a sound that’s full-bodied yet perceptive to detail, and they immerse themselves fully in the excitement of the music. This is a wonderful recording—thrilling music and captivatingly performed.
Berna Can, Early Music America, April 2010
Grover Wilkins, who wrote the composer’s entry for the current New Grove , has been unearthing the forgotten music of Courcelle and his contemporaries in Spain for 20 years. A decade ago, he recorded a sampling of the music for the Spanish Radio/TV label, a program of a Mass, a Matins responsory, and two works by contemporaries. About the same time, he included two Matins responsories on a Dorian recording of Courcelle’s contemporaries. The two masses heard here, dating from 1750 and 1763 respectively, are fine examples of the Classic style heard in Haydn’s early works. The Gloria and Credo are divided into contrasting movements with none of the textual compression that was briefly observed in Vienna. The two works are characterized as based on hymn tunes, but “Exsultabunt sancti in gloria” is not actually a hymn (only a gradual and an offertory exist on that text).
Wilkins, who works in Dallas and Madrid, recorded both masses at a concert in Dallas after 16 months of concerts focused on Courcelle. The singers and players are expert, making a very impressive sound for the 40-member ensemble. Except for the applause at the end of each Mass, there is no hint of the audience. After Wilkins’s two previous recordings and a recent Glossa disc that includes one of his works, this is the most impressive example of Courcelle’s music that we have. It is worth noting that, while the familiar texts of the Mass are omitted (no loss), the printed notes are ample and need not be downloaded from the label’s Web site. This is highly recommended.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber www.arkivmusic.com
…..As in so many religious works of the time the influence of the opera is clearly noticeable, in particular in the solo sections. A striking example is 'Quoniam tu solus sanctus' from the Gloria of the Missa Exultabunt sancti in Gloria. In addition to the solo sections there are duets, trios and quartets, and some tutti sections also contain short passages for solo voices.
These are live performances of a concert in Dallas in Texas, USA. As a consequence there are some technical imperfections, but by and large these performances are pretty good. Choir and orchestra are doing a fine job, and the soloists are mostly good as well…..This is definitely a very interesting and musically compelling disc of a composer who fully deserves attention. This recording has made me curious about other music by Courcelle. Hopefully we will hear more from his oeuvre in the future.
Madrid 1752: Sacred Music from the Royal chapel of Spain
"Nebra’s [Matins music is] spiced with harmonies pointing toward early classicism. Courcelle’s Epiphany responsories are more flamboyant and more elaborately textured. All the music is dramatic in impact... and quite beautiful."
"Mr. Wilkins leads persuasive performances by the Spanish period-instrument orchestra and 16-voice chorus, captured in an ample church acoustic."
Scott Cantrell, November 11, 2001, Dallas Morning News
"It’s way past time for performers and record companies to be taking a greater interest in choral music from 18th-century Spain, but better late than never. ... The best music here, the stuff we’ve been waiting for, comes from [Francisco] Courcelle [who] shows a real flair for text setting, for melody, and for orchestration, and a consumate mastery of polyphony."
"The choir assembled for this performance is quite a fine outfit, not only technically polished but capable of an impressive range of expression (not always the case in performances of music from this period....) Likewise for the Madrid Barroco orchestra, which effectively supports the chorus while capturing and confidently articulating the music’s substantial excitement and drama."
"... the music is well worth hearing, and the performances are very, very good ... an enticing introduction to these two composers and to a long-neglected repertoire. I for one will be on the lookout for more Courcelle."
David Vernier, November, 2001, Classics Today
Un Legado Recuperado
Musica de la Corte de España en el Siglo XVIII
Orquesta Sinfónica y Coro de RTVE
Director: Grover Wilkins
El Coro y la Orquesta de RTVE…han hecho un trabajo excelente bajo la dirección de Wilkins, que certifica con la batuta su condición de especialista, conocedor profundo.
Carlos Gomez Amat, El Mundo Madrid, December 13, 1995
El Maestro Grover Wilkiins…consíguio de los instrumentistas y cantores de RTVE excelentes versiones…”
Enrique Franco, El Pais - Madrid, December 13, 1995