Pleasant, Mendelssohnian mass
Evan Wilson | Cambridge, MA | 05/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In there continuing series of Dutch music, Chandos now gives us a long, attractive mass by Johannes Verhulst who was apparently a major figure in Dutch musical life of the 19th century, though his name is unknown these days outside the Low Countries. A student of Mendelssohn, Verhulst's Mass has some of the character of that composer's oratorio "Elijah" which is readily apparent from the beautifully serene opening bars. Mendelssohn isn't the only model, however. Verhulst was apparently renowned in the Netherlands for his conducting of Beethoven, and there are several places in this Mass which clearly reveal that influence including one powerful build up where he sounds ready to launch into the finale of the 5th symphony. Despite these influences, there are many fine and distinctive passages including an entire section sung a capella, and several interesting fugues. There are, to be sure, a few bald patches as well, but overall this is an attractive, warm-hearted piece of mid-century romanticism that would grace the concert hall. The perfomance is OK if a little underpowered. I'm not sure all the musicians were completely comfortable with what had to be new music, because there's a tentative quality to certain passages (particularly among the soloists). Moreover, as the piece ends quietly, the performance seems to peter out rather than drawing us to a peaceful close. I can imagine a better perfomance, but I can also imagine many far worse ones and given Chandos good sound and the rarity of the material, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to lovers of Mendelssohn and similar composers."