Baltimore, Md. (July 28, 2009) – The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) today announced that a new commercial recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers will be released on the Naxos label on August 25, 2009—the 91st birthday of the late composer. This two-disc set is the fourth audio recording ever produced of Mass and will be available for purchase on Naxos, Amazon.com and the BSO’s website, BSOmusic.org. There will also be an iTunes pre-release available for purchase on August 11, 2009. Bonus material complementing this CD release is available at BSOmusic.org/Mass. Mass was recorded in studio recordings held at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on October 21-22, 2008.
Music Director Marin Alsop, a Bernstein protégée, led the BSO in critically acclaimed, sold-out performances of Mass on October 16-18, 2008 at Baltimore’s Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and on October 26 at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. These performances and the associated studio recording featured nearly 250 performers, including baritone Jubilant Sykes as the Celebrant, Morgan State University Chorus, the Peabody Children’s Chorus and a stellar Broadway cast of 20 performing as the “street people.” The semi-staged production included costuming and musical movement with direction by award-winning stage director Kevin Newbury. In addition to the Baltimore and Washington events, the BSO also performed Mass on October 24 at New York City’s Carnegie Hall as a highlight of its citywide festival, Bernstein: The Best of All Possible Worlds, and as part of The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall’s Bernstein Mass Project, at the United Palace Theater in Upper Manhattan on October 25 where approximately 500 New York City public school children sang in the chorus of Mass alongside the BSO.
“Leading the Baltimore Symphony, the fabulous cast and all of those talented young people in this work was an incredibly emotional and spiritual experience for me. Bernstein felt deeply connected to Mass. It was very rewarding to see audiences and our musicians also find an intensely personal, visceral connection to the work. I am thrilled that this experience can live on for future generations through this recording.” - Maestra Alsop
The BSO performances earned praise from Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times, “Some pieces that seem trendy at their birth soon fade away. But the essence and achievement of Bernstein’s Mass have become clearer over time…how [Bernstein] would have loved seeing his Mass touch so many people…” Tim Smith from The Baltimore Sun agreed, “The BSO sounded vibrant, the Morgan State choristers delivered richly, and the well‐chosen cast, headed by Jubilant Sykes as the Celebrant, came through with often electrifying intensity in this imaginatively staged presentation…The music shone through with consistent emotional power. I think Bernstein would have loved it all.” In addition, the performances of Bernstein’s Mass were numbered among the top 5 musical experiences of the year by The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Jamie Bernstein, daughter of the late composer, attended the New York performances of Mass. “It takes a village to put on Mass—and Marin Alsop has organized her musical village with magnificent results,” said Ms. Bernstein of her reaction to the performances and CD release. “This is a rich, sensitive performance of my father's most personal work: explosive, touching and truly cathartic.”