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Mass
List Price: $23.98

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Product Description

While critics at the 1971 premiere found the work derivative and even tasteless, audiences loved this ardent, resourceful, somewhat brazen, ultimately moving Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers. Leonard Bernstein's affinity for his public and for the age in which he lived enabled him to successfully outfit his Mass with a stylish mix of contemporary and ancient modes--rock, jazz, electronic music, Gregorian chant--and place it in a context somewhere between Broadway and opera. Though it lacks the visual component of a live performance, the work holds up well on this Bernstein-led recording, the only complete version on disc. From the popular "Simple Song" to the Stravinskian rhythmic devices and abundant, memorable melodies, the vital creative force of Bernstein is never absent. --David Vernier

Customer Reviews:

  • An amazing and moving collection of different music
    Bernstein's Mass is an amazing and moving collection of many different styles of music. It is structured around the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Mass, featuring a celebrant leading a congregation in a Mass. But things take a different road, as the congregation starts taking on a life of its own, complaining about problems of faith and doctrine. The celebrant tries to hold it together, but ultimately suffers a crisis of faith himself. There's classical church music, and blues, and jazz and rock all mixed together; the result is ultimately very moving and beautiful. I was priviledged to see a performance of the Mass at Tanglewood, at which Bernstein himself was in the audience. I consider this Bernstein's finest work, a fitting memorial for one of our age's greatest conductors....more info
  • An embarrassment
    This is one of the biggest embarrassments of Bernstein's career. In the late 60s/early 70s, everyone was trying to make Catholicism "hip and cool and relevant" in an attempt to appeal to the youth culture of that time. That's why we have time pieces like Jesus Christ Superstar and songs like "Put Your Hand in the Hand" -- a song which would fit nicely here, by the way, so you get the picture. The fact that Bernstein is Jewish, and therefore non-Catholic, didn't seem to deter or bother anyone involved in this ridiculous project. With its dippy-hippy lyrics ("God said it's good to be poor") and mindnumbingly dumb "theological" reflections ("I believe in one God, but I believe in three" huh?) this "mass" is hopelessly dated. This, after all, is a theater piece, not a liturgical mass in the great tradition of Catholic composers such as Beethoven Bruckner and Mozart. As it tries so hard to fit into the youth culture of the early 70's, it ultimately rests there and never transcends into anything musically interesting, spiritually uplifiting, or spiritually challenging. Strong point: "A Simple Song" which is, a simples song from the Psalms sung by Alan Titus without -- mercifully -- any cynical interpolations. Otherwise, file this with the Godspell movie soundtrack. ...more info
  • Bernstein's Mass
    This is one of the most enjoyable CD'S, in that the variation of both the music and the libretto leave one stunned....more info
  • An interesting approach to the Christian faith...
    Even though I always considered L. Bernstien to be my favorite conductor, it took me a long time to like his "Mass". I would listen to it every year or two and gradually it grew on me. Though Bernstien's music is unmistakable, he draws on Mahler, Stravinsky, Ives, Copland and Gershwin. This piece reveals musical genius and also presents an interesting approach to the Christian faith.

    P.S. Bernstien also wrote a symphony called "Kaddish" which is based on Jewish prayers. Like Gustav Mahler, Bernstien must have been quite a seeker and we are to benefit from his variety of religious experiences. ...more info
  • Outstanding
    An excellent cd sung in english with a libretto to guide you. This two cd set is very much worth owning and is conducted by the composer. It is not like the usual mass in that it employs two orchestras, singers, dancers and two choruses....more info
  • (insert your own superlative here)
    'MASS' is nothing less than MASSively magnificent, and it is Bernstein at his best, both as a composer and as a conductor.

    One of the important distinctions to make about this piece is that it is NOT a Mass as Mozart's Great C Minor Mass or Bach's Mass in B Minor are. Those pieces set the text with no additions or commentary. They are concert pieces. This MASS, however, is a theater piece that uses the timeless text of the Roman Ordo Missae along with other lyrics, to tell a story.

    Bernstein composed MASS for the opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and was assured that cost would not be a factor in the writing of the dedicatory piece. As a result, Lenny allowed his imagination to roam freely, and the product of that imagination is the overflowing of talent that is MASS.

    Some commentators (Christians) have dismissed this work as vulgar or blasphemous, and, from a certain standpoint, the piece can certainly be viewed that way. However, as a Christian myself, it has been important to approach this piece open-mindedly. It is, in every possible sense of the word, a masterpiece.

    Bernstein effortlessly blends diverse and sometimes antithetical musical styles throughout the work, from the pealing dissonance of the opening Kyrie, played over a quadrophonic tape, to the simple, Bach-chorale type quality of the final chorus. In between are sections in blues, rock, and skat styles.

    The piece alternates religious severity, as evoked by the Latin texts, with tongue-in-the-cheek irreverence and sarcasm in the English commentaries and chorales.

    There are two recordings of MASS in the catalog. Kent Nagano, with the Berliner Philharmoniker, attempted the piece recently. His recording should be avoided at all costs, even if the Sony version goes out of print.

    Bernstein's reading - this recording - is the other in the catalog, and it is unsurpassed. Alan Titus is competely involved throughout the entire piece, from the lilting Simple Song to the unexpurgated sarcasm of the Fraction: Things Get Broken. Throughout the course of MASS, the assorted vocal soloists give their full committment to this music, with a precision and emotional involvement that is unmatched by Nagano's forces.

    Sound quality is error-free and sonically powerful, despite the age of the recording. The engineers went to lengths unknown to capture the spatial effects (quadrophonic tapes, a multi-level performance area) in stereo, and one can hear the results of their labors in the very first track.

    MASS is a powerful work that offends many simply because it is so devastatingly honest, and for that reason, it deserves our attention. The sheer overflowing of musical talent is overwhelming...you will have to hear this more than once.

    Required Listening for any 20th-Century Classical Music or Bernstein enthusiast....more info
  • wonderful, beautiful, and deep
    I have loved this work since it was first performed as the commissioned work commemorating the opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

    The only thing I would like to add to the other reviews is that this work has a depth that many of its critics have missed entirely. Not surprising. A person who has no interest in the spiritual journey would not care about it, and a person whose faith has never been through a crisis would not comprehend it.

    I fantasize that future generations will appreciate the greatness of "Mass" more than Bernstein's contemporaries....more info

  • Albert Batarse
    A Bernstein classic. You feel like singing it
    over and over and never get tired of it.
    An excellent musical way to communicate with God.
    ...more info
  • Typical hit and miss composer who never found his "voice".
    Many parts of this work are inspiring, rhythmic and moving, but there was little originality, unfortunately, which appears to be typical of Bernstein. The "mad scene" was entirely too long. Some good tunes, however. Overall, buy "Jesus Christ Superstar" instead....more info
  • Mass is phony
    This recording is not what it says it is. I put it in my computer CD player and the information on my monitor listed the performers as conductor Kent Nagano, tenor Jerry Hadley and others. I listened to the recording and the voice is clearly a tenor. Alan Titus is a baritone and Bernstein wrote the piece for a baritone. How can this be possible? I gave it one star but it deserves no stars.

    Barbara Kober...more info
  • An interesting approach to the Christian faith...
    Even though I always considered L. Bernstien to be my favorite conductor, it took me a long time to like his "Mass". I would listen to it every year or two and gradually it grew on me. Though Bernstien's music is unmistakable, he draws on Mahler, Stravinsky, Ives, Copland and Gershwin. This piece reveals musical genius and also presents an interesting approach to the Christian faith.

    P.S. Bernstien also wrote a symphony called "Kaddish" which is based on Jewish prayers. Like Gustav Mahler, Bernstien must have been quite a seeker and we are to benefit from his variety of religious experiences. ...more info
  • You've got to listen in surround...
    If you have have a home theater system with very good speakers, listen to this CD in surround. Leonard Bernstein conceived the music in quad, using the space intelligently, and it still holds up.

    Hats off to original recording engineer Don Puluse (quad was bleeding edge back then) and to CD remixing engineer John McClure....more info