Bernstein: Mass / Sykes, Alsop, Baltimore Symphony

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Leonard Bernstein's own version bettered? Yes, indeed! This is, handily, the best sung, best played, most intelligently interpreted recording of Mass currently available. Of course, Bernstein's rendition always will have sterling qualities, including some wonderful solo singers with really characterful "pop" and Broadway voices, but for its sheer musical integrity combined with the advantage of the composer's final revisions to the score, this version is unbeatable. Jubilant Sykes, as the Celebrant, easily outclasses Alan Titus' very fine premiere recording of the role. His voice has more edge; he's more at ease with the various pop idioms; he sounds radiant at the work's opening and grows increasingly desperate as it proceeds. This only serves to make his climactic breakdown tragically believable.

The various street singers are, one and all, terrific. "God Said" becomes the work's comic climax, which is as it should be. "I believe in God", "Confession", "World Without End", and "Thank You" are both idiomatic and beautifully sung. The children's choir sounds luminous in the Sanctus, while the adult chorus, from Morgan State University, sings with gusto as well as immaculate diction, with every word clearly comprehensible. Marin Alsop knits the whole ensemble together with infallible insight and verve. Her tempos, a bit different from Bernstein's, quicker here ("God Said"), a touch slower there (the wild dance in the Offertory), are no less right.

It's all fabulously recorded with a glittering impact that never turns unduly aggressive. The multi-textural layering in the climactic Dona Nobis Pacem comes across as both musically and physically overwhelming. Mass has its detractors, but when performed with this kind of conviction the piece can be inexpressibly moving. Alsop never has made a finer recording--it's both a tribute to her mentor Leonard Bernstein, as well as to her exceptional talent as an exponent of his music.

--David Hurwitz, (10/10)

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8559622-23

  • UPC: 636943962220

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Leonard Bernstein

  • Conductor: Marin Alsop

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Jubilant Sykes


  1. Mass

    Composer: Leonard Bernstein

    Ensemble: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Jubilant Sykes (Baritone)

    Conductor: Marin Alsop