Assessing Bernstein’s Mass, in new Philadelphia Orchestra recording

Posted on: March 22, 2018

“There ought to be a musical term for a work that is not, first and foremost, a piece of music,” writes Peter Dobrin in Thursday’s (3/15) Philadelphia Inquirer. “Bernstein’s Mass is hung on a musical frame. But more saliently to most audiences, perhaps, it is religious, it is social, it is political…. Whether the Mass can be heard as pure music—listening as you might do with, say, a Haydn symphony—is something listeners get to decide for themselves with the just-released Deutsche Grammophon recording by the Philadelphia Orchestra and a battery of forces led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin…. The recording, drawn from Verizon Hall concerts between April 30 and May 3, 2015, has tremendous energy…. Conceived by Bernstein and Godspell composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz, the Mass comes across in recording as an erratic aural trek through music theater, sacred music, rock, classical, jazz, carnival music, and parade music, with a little Copland and more Blitzstein, and on and on…. The piece was written to help celebrate the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington in 1971…. [Mass] is a powerful artifact, a musical and theatrical response to a deeply troubled time that has cycled back into even greater relevance.”

Posted March 22, 2018