Menotti's success as an opera composer didn't quite meld with postwar aesthetics, relying as it did on the singable, the moving and the rousing. His style was always personal and recognizable, true, but it was also pretty conservative. But that seems not to be the only reason Menotti sort of disappeared from the limelight - those few who know them seem ready to admit that his later operas are noticeably inferior, as if his inspiration had dried up a little, and the memorable moments are fewer and farther between. The ambitious Missa "O Pulchritudo" (1979) is a late work, and I have to admit that - despite flashes of creativity - there is, indeed, quite a bit of distance between the memorable passages. The style is melodic and conservatively dramatic in a way you would associate with 19th century works in the genre, but Menotti always balanced on the edge of the downright banal, and there are some misses as well in the work at hand.
The title refers to his replacing the traditional Credo movement with the motet "O Pulchritudo", but that is pretty much the only thing in the Mass that could be said to border on the original. Still, despite the conservative nature of the music there are some fine things - said motet is rather beautiful, the opening Kyrie has some power, and the Agnus Dei is touching. But overall there is, to be honest, too little here; Menotti employs slow tempi throughout, and when the material tends to meander (many of the movements are far overlong) the listener's attention soon starts to wander off as well. Overall it is not a bad work, and fans of the composer will certainly want to hear it, but it is hardly a must-have.
The Vierne Messe Solennelle (with organ accompaniment - two organs, in fact - whereas the Menotti is of course with full orchestra) is a different matter (and a curious contrast to the somewhat bombastic Menotti). This tightly constructed, introverted work may not be among the composer's greatest masterpieces, perhaps, but it is a work of poignant beauty, shimmering atmosphere and genuine inspiration. The performance is also beautiful, and the sound is aptly spacious and clear - in the Menotti there are certain tendencies toward slightly dense textures, though both singers and instrumentalists acquit themselves well. In sum, my misgivings about the Menotti work - and I won't by any means claim that it is a bad one - do not suffice to undermine a clear recommendation for the disc as a whole, at least if the program appeals.