Giovanni Ristori Missa in C major to be taken seriously

A commenter took me to task for my recent review of Jan Dismas Zelenka’s Missa Omnium Sanctorum. “The point of a mass setting is not to be “fun” and Zelenka would probably abhor that characterization of this work… Anyway, it was his friend [Giovanni Alberto] Ristori who was responsible for the “fun” masses in Dresden.”

Ristori did serve at the court of the Saxon Elector along with Zelenka. Based on this recording, I’m not sure I’d call him the fun one. (Actually,  in my review “fun” was the description of the performances, not the music).

Still, Ristori has a distinctively different style than that of his colleague. It draws more on the Italian operatic tradition and centers around the beauty of the human voice.

The Missa in C major features some beautiful choral set pieces with sparkling counterpoint. Not fun, but heartfelt, and perhaps joyful.

Far more serious in character is the Litaniae de Sancto Xaverio and the Miserere in C minor. In both these works, the Sächsisches Vocalensemble seems to have a thicker, darker texture. Yes, some of it’s in the music (minor vs. major), but some of it’s in the performances.

Soprano Heidi Maria Taubert sings with a clear tone that has a little bit of edge. It’s especially effective in the Miserere. The alto part is sung by countertenor David Erler. The blend of Erler’s voice with Taubert’s enhances that brassy edge even more. And, I think, it works well.

Although this album was recorded in a church, ambiance was kept to a minimum. Overall, that’s a good thing. The contrapuntal passages could easily be muddied. My only complaint was the decay at the end of movements. It just seems to fall off too abruptly.

Overall, though, a good recording of some well-performed music. I found it a very satisfying listening experience. But not fun.

Giovanni Alberto Ristori
Missa in C major; Litaniae de Sancto Xaverio; Miserere in C minor
Heidi Maria Taubert, soprano; David Erler, countertenor; Andreas Post, tenor; Cornelius Uhle, baritone
Sächsisches Vocalensemble; Batzdorfer Hofkapelle; Matthias Jung, director
CPO 555 200-2

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