Bernstein: Mass

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Bernstein: Mass


Gramophone Awards 2010

Editor's Choice

Gramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - September 2009



Catalogue No:




Release date:

17th Aug 2009




1 hour 43 minutes


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Bernstein: Mass

Jubilant Sykes (baritone)

Morgan State University Choir, Peabody Children's Chorus, Morgan State University Marching Band & Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop

CD - 2 discs


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When Leonard Bernstein was asked by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to compose the inaugural piece for the opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D. C., he wrote ‘The Mass is also an extremely dramatic event in itself—it even suggests a theater work’.

Premièred on 8 September 1971, with additional words by Stephen Schwartz of Godspell fame, Mass is a remarkable visionary piece with a kaleidoscope of musical styles that touches on themes of political protest, existential crisis, and religious faith lost and found.

Leonard Bernstein: Mass

Devotions before Mass: Antiphon: Kyrie eleison (High Soprano, Bass, Soprano 2, Alto, Tenor, Baritone)

Devotions before Mass: Hymn and Psalm, "A Simple Song" (Celebrant)

Devotions before Mass: Responsory, "Alleluia" (Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto, Tenor, Baritone, Bass)

First Introit: Prefatory Prayers (Street Chorus, Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Soprano, Celebrant, Boy Soprano, Boys' Choir)

First Introit: Thrice-Triple Canon: Dominus vobiscum (Celebrant, Boys' Choir, Street Chorus)

Second Introit: In nomine Patris (Boys' Choir, Chorus, Celebrant)

Second Introit: Prayer for the Congregation, "Almighty Father" (Chorus)

Second Introit: Epiphany (Celebrant)

Confession: Confiteor (Chorus)

Confession: Trope, "I Don't Know" (First Rock Singer and Descant, Second Rock Singer, Male Street Chorus)

Confession: Trope, "Easy" (First Blues Singer, Second Rock Singer, Second Blues Singer, Third Rock Singer, Third Blues Singer, First Rock Singer and Descant, Celebrant, Chorus)

Meditation No. 1

Gloria: Gloria tibi (Celebrant, Boys' Choir)

Gloria: Gloria in Excelsis (Chorus)

Gloria: Trope, "Half of the People" (Street Chorus, Chorus)

Gloria: Trope, "Thank You" (Soprano, Street Chorus)

Meditation No. 2

Epistle: "The Word of the Lord" (Celebrant, A Young Man, Another Young Man, Street Chorus, An Older Man, A Young Woman)

Gospel-Sermon: "God Said" (Preacher, Street Chorus, 5 Solo Voices)

Credo: Credo in unum Deum (Celebrant, Chorus)

Credo: Trope: "Non Credo" (Street Chorus Male Group, Baritone) - "Crucifixus" (Chorus)

Credo: Trope, "Hurry" (Mezzo-soprano) - Sedet ad dexteram Patris (Chorus)

Credo: Trope, "World without End" (Street Chorus, Mezzo-soprano) - Et in Spiritum Sanctum (Chorus, 3 Solo Voices)

Credo: Trope, "I Believe in God" (3 Solo Voices, Street Chorus, Rock Singer, Chorus)

Meditation No. 3 (De profundis, Part 1) (Chorus, Celebrant)

Offertory (De profundis, Part 2) (Boys' Choir, Chorus)

The Lord's Prayer: Our Father … (Celebrant)

The Lord's Prayer: Trope, "I Go On" (Celebrant)

Sanctus (Celebrant, Boys' Choir, Chorus, Counter-tenors, Street Chorus)

Agnus Dei (Soloists of Street Chorus, Street Chorus, Celebrant, Chorus)

Fraction: "Things Get Broken" (Celebrant)

Pax: Communion, "Secret Songs" (Boy Soprano, Bass, Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Street Chorus, Celebrant, Chorus)

BBC Music Magazine

September 2009


“…is a virtual triumph from beginning to end, and the only recording for me worthy of sitting next to the composer's own. …Alsop's tight-knit, symphonic pacing delineates the structure of the work without diluting its exuberant eclecticism or softening its hard road towards spiritual reawakening: the final Communion is among the most moving passages ever recorded. She is no slouch, too, when it comes to that elusive Bernstein groove; if you aren't dancing around the room during the Gloria in Excelsis, you haven't got a soul to save, my friend!”

Gramophone Magazine

September 2009

“…Alsop's Jubilant Sykes is the best of all possible Celebrants. Mass follows the Celebrant to the darkest place a proselytiser for faith can travel - from sneaking doubt towards a full-scale breakdown as, in Bernstein's climactic scene, he trashes the altar and sends the sacraments scattering. Sykes brings an intensity that chills. Just as the Celebrant flips comes the most remarkable passage of all - a funky 10-bar refrain of "Dona nobis pacem"... Alsop ensure this passage pushes the Celebrant over the top... the orchestral playing too, here and throughout, is lusty and unafraid to let go.”

Gramophone Classical Music Guide


“Bernstein's relationship with God is dangerous, probing, transformational.
There are those, of course, who proffer that Bernstein thought he was God, that's why he could stand in defiance against Him. But Mass reveals a man thirsting for faith but petrified of blind acceptance. Bernstein's religion was muscular and intellectualised, and the experience of Mass expands, rather than contracts, the further you travel towards the essence of its cosmology.
Alsop's Jubilant Sykes is the best of all possible Celebrants. There can be few roles in contemporary music theatre that demand so many sides of a performer. He must disentangle music of gnarly complexity; he needs an operatic sensibility, but must also swing like a hipster jazzer and declaim with authentic rockist swank. Sykes's voice shakes with James Brown's ecstasy, snarls with Janis Joplin-like indigence and projects through the labyrinth of Bernstein's tricky melodic contours like any trained voice would.
He was born to play this part.
Although she doesn't drive things quite as far as Bernstein, Alsop is pacey, creating a dramatic slipstream that is powered relentlessly onwards by the awkward discontinuities and jagged narrative.
Even if the atheist cannot quite love the God-fearing D major affirmation of the final scene, it doesn't matter. The journey, the process of discovery, counts for more.”

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