... and his last three masses, written in Venice near the end of his long life (1699-1783), are both elegant and profound, equal to the best of Haydn's and Mozart's 'sacred' music. This Mass in G minor, Hasse's swansong, has moments of somber poignancy comparable to the portions of Mozart's unfinished Requiem that Mozart himself composed. And it has moments of resounding magnificence that approach the grandest of Beethoven's ceremonial music.
Unfortunately, it would be hard to convince anyone of that assessment on the basis of this botched recording, made in Dresden in 1990. I suspect that the live performance was thrilling enough, but the CD, like most CDs of oversized choirs, is more rumble than sonority. The choir was founded in 1969 and included roughly three dozen enthusiastic amateurs at the time of this recording, from the Thuringian cities of Jena, Erfurt, and Weimar. It performed "weekend concerts" in the churches of those cities and elsewhere in Saxony. It billed itself as a "Singkreis", in other words, a 'community chorus', and that's what it sounded like. I realize that I sound condescending here, but music of this grandeur deserves more than a single recording by a semi-pro choir.
And the muddy acoustics of a semi-pro choir isn't the worst of this CD. The soloists range from fair to dreadful, with soprano Dagmar Schellenberger, who has the largest role, sounding exactly like the pastor's wife in a small Lutheran congregation, the sort of voice that almost ruined Bach for me in my boyhood. Schellenberger has absolutely no notion of 18th C vocal technique. Alto Alex Köhler is marginally better, as are the tenor and bass soloists, but their roles are too small to compensate for Schellenberger's dire warble.
The "Virtuosi Saxoniae" were performing on 20th C instruments in 1990, as I think they still do today, but the instrumental work on this CD is by far the best of it. Conductor/trumpeter Ludwig Güttler handles the tempi and dynamics of this music quite effectively; his overall "interpretation" deserved better singers. Güttler is a bit of a mountebank with his fraudulent "corno da caccia", an instrumental unicorn that looks and sounds like a mellophone. But this performance could have been so much better, under his baton, with capable soloists and a smaller, better-trained chorus.
Bottom line? It's gotta be done again.