The lovely Second Mass of Charles-René has been, like its composer, nearly forgotten. This Mass has never before been recorded, and its composer is most often remembered only as a teacher, most notably as a teacher of the young Maurice Ravel. Yet Charles-René was a much-respected and active member of the music scene of turn-of-the-19th-century Paris, a colleague of the likes of Charles-Marie Widor, and twice a second-place finisher to Debussy in the prestigious competition, the Prix de Rome, for composition.
The Second Mass is presented here by the MIT Women’s Chorale, a concert choir open to all women of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University communities. Founded in 1933, the Chorale’s repertoire covers a wide range of styles, from medieval to contemporary, including both sacred and secular music, with special emphasis on works written originally for women's or treble voices.
Enhancing the performance of the Mass are the lovely voices of Anna Ward, soprano, and Stephanie Scarcella, mezzo-soprano, singers with active careers in the New England area, as well as the beautiful organ accompaniment of Susan DeSelms. The organ of United Parish Church (formerly Harvard Congregational), Brookline, Massachusetts is the 1932 Aeolian-Skinner instrument often played by the late E. Power Biggs. The recording includes sacred motets from composers whose music was part of Charles-René's musical environment, César Franck and Gabriel Fauré. Kevin Galiè, J.D., M. Mus., who has directed the Chorale since 2008, is featured in a wonderful performance of organ works by Gabriel Pierné, a nearly exact contemporary of Charles-René.