The Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno has already made a name for itself on MDG with its recordings of the Shostakovich symphonies, the Missa Solemnis and Krenek's opera Karl V. As Crescendo reported, "the singers have an effortless command of extremely high passages". A new recording of the 17 Bruckner motets gives the choir, founded in 1990 in the Moravian capital, a chance to show off its impressive a cappella qualities as well.
Anton Bruckner was concerned with sacred music all his life. This was only natural for a man brought up in the strict Catholic faith and strongly influenced in his musical development by the organ music of the churches in his Upper Austrian homeland. His highly sophisticated High Romantic works are intended for liturgical use and faithfully embody the accord of traditional faith, truly childlike religiosity and immediate relevance to the present - virtues never spurned by the great symphonist, for that matter.
The five settings of the "Tantum Ergo" in various keys give listeners an instructive opportunity to experience composing history at first hand. Written at a time when Bruckner was a self-taught composer, these wonderful samples of his ability still provide a vivid impression of his deep Christian faith today. There is an immense expansion of the expressive form in the setting of this text within the "Pange Lingua" motet of the 1860s - and that applies even more so to the "Ave Maria" and the "Ecce sacerdos magnus" for four- to seven-part choir, whose tonal impact is splendidly reinforced by three trombones, cellos and double-basses.
The Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno may be a recent formation, but it already has an impressive record as one of the best and most-sought-after professional choirs in Europe. Its repertoire centres on oratorios and cantatas. It gives some 70 concerts annually at home and abroad. The founder, music director and conductor of this redoubtable ensemble is Petr Fiala (b. 1943), a graduate of the Brno Conservatory and the Janácek Academy of the Arts in the subjects of composition studies and conducting.
Reviews"Those who still think of Bruckner as no more than a clumsy, naive musical bumpkin must never have heard these rich and exquisitely crafted marvels. They display many of the devices and qualities of his symphonic blockbusters, though in much more compact form. His long experience as an organist taught him how to handle big blocks of sound. And his careful study of Bach and (especially) the Renaissance masters left him with a penchant for long, chant-like melodic lines and modal harmonies-though he treated them in the context of his native late-romantic idiom... What a pleasure to hear this lush and lofty music from the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno-one of the Czech Republic's very finest professional choruses. Configured here as a big chamber choir (57 voices), they deliver levels of power, tonal fullness, and sacred sincerity that I've never heard before in this music." - ARG