Scattered Remarks upon hearing Tom McFaul's Mass in C-minor
From an exceptionally lovely opening, McFaul has created a beautiful, otherworldly mood — it's just fabulous. There is particularly elegant and smooth chamber music writing in this section, followed by a terrific fugue. He certainly knows how to write a terrific fugue. It's sensational.
The simplicity of the accompaniment in Kyrie is a lovely counterpoint to its tenor's strong melodic line. The entire production, the music, the singing, the entire piece is excellently performed and certainly worthy of composer McFaul's inspired work.
Gloria in excelsis sounds wonderfully "glorious." Soprano and mezzo-soprano duet in Laudaumus, a deft, contrapuntal piece. Gratias agimus — A powerful section with soaring soprano solo above a rich, full chorus. Domine Deus — Bass soloist section is wondrous; a clear, impassioned interplay among soloist, chorus and orchestra which is really outstanding, with marvelously controlled English horn, oboe, bassoon and strings. Qui tollis — Soprano solo is a winding song with guiding flute, lots of originality there. Beautiful woodwind playing. Again, gorgeously combined orchestrations and vocals throughout. Qui sedis — Chorus combines the always-expected purity of a young voice (a boy alto) of perfect intonation, in a quite amazingly performed section.
McFaul certainly got hold of some extraordinary singers here. Soprano solo was also pitch perfect and thankfully free of any vibrato; in fact all singers are easily worthy of Carnegie Hall or Metropolitan Opera performances. Finale — Cum sancto — Chorus and Mezzo Soprano. Very good horn playing here and a terrific bravura trumpet. That was a nice juicy Finale to part one.
Part two: Credo — String quartet gives very fine playing. Et in unum dominum — Good tenor against beautifully soaring melodic line. Crucifixus (chorus) — Oh, one can feel the pathos! Et in spiritum sanctum — Music infused with ineluctable spirituality. Confiteor (tenor and chorus) — Intriguing recitative. Et vitam venturi — I very much like the way McFaul uses the organ here — most effective. Osanna (chorus) — Inspired, heart-lifting. Agnus dei — Dona nobis pacem — Boy alto solo is such a tender performance. The boy has the right simplicity for this. Finale — A soul-shaker. Bravo!
People don't realize the amount of work that goes into a Mass creation. It's mind-boggling. It could take a year or two, even more. Here, Tom McFaul has carried out his inspiration with seeming effortlessness and a fine, talented grace.
— Hugo Fiorato, principal conductor, New York City Ballet
Melody Makes a Comeback
Lovers of modern music need not apply! Happily there is not one revving motorcycle engine or the sound of breaking glass, nor anything remotely experimental about Thomas McFaul's Mass in C minor. If you're like me, however, and you have trouble getting past anything more recent than Stravinsky you will most certainly be pleased with this unabashed tribute to the Baroque style Mass.
Composed in the eighteenth century style of the Cantata Mass, it is obviously (as Mr. McFaul says in his own notes) an homage to the pinnacle of achievement in the form, Bach's Mass in B minor. While Mr. McFaul may not quite have attained such lofty heights (no offense, I trust!), he shows considerable ability with the difficult melodic styles of the fugue and counterpoint (no mean feat), as well as great skill with harmony and orchestration.
Of note in the fugue and counterpoint department are the Christe eleison fugue in the Kyrie, Et resurrexit in the Credo, and also in the Credo, Et Vitam Venturi, and a lovely (if short!) moment when the woodwinds get the subject in the Domine Deus in the Gloria.
Fine melodies abound. (Some of them might even wind up in Andrew Lloyd Webber's next musical.) Among the best: the soprano and mezzo duet (Laudamus te) and the soprano solo (Quoniam) in the Gloria, and the opening of the Credo (Credo in unum Deum). Other notable moments for me include the opening of the Crucifixus in the Credo, a haunting string melody over a repeating quarter-note pattern, and the exuberant Cum Sancto in the Gloria. Beginning in the relative major it marches through just about every key until finally finishing off with a densely orchestrated, most satisfying tierce de Picardie. It's an old trick, but a goodie just the same.
The performances are mostly good, with the unhappy exception of the tenor solo in the Kyrie (particularly in the lower registers), although he does acquit himself better later on, in a duet with the mezzo, and in the Confiteor in the Credo. In general the female soloists are better than the men, especially Greta Feeny, also in the Credo. The chorus and orchestra are excellent throughout.
One might wonder what the point of a piece such as this is, when the repertoire is so vast and distinguished to begin with, and just about everything that can be said in this style has been. Call me crazy, I don't see it that way. I'm just a sucker for a good tune and the rich woven fabric of some decent counterpoint, and Mr. McFaul has provided plenty of both here. Besides, who am I to belittle the efforts of a sinner trying to get into heaven? Listen and enjoy.
— Gavin Spencer, composer
Copyright © 2002–2011, Thomas G. McFaul