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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Sacred Music
Regina Coeli in B major, K. 127 (1772) [16:57]
Laudate Dominum (Vesperae solennes de confessore, K339) (1780) [4:58]
Te Deum laudamus, K 141 (1769) [7:30]
Exultate, Jubilate, K 165 (1773) [15:14]
Ave verum corpus, K 618 (1791) [3:05]
Regina Coeli in C major, K. 108 (1771) [16:00]
Simona Houda Šaturová (soprano)
Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno
Czech Chamber Soloists/Petr Fiala
rec. 11-13 January 2007, Josef Dobrovsky Hall, Convent of the Brothers of Mercy, Brno. DDD
ARCO DIVA UP0101 – 2131 [64:14]


The music collected on this CD includes quite a bit of fairly early Mozart; I do wonder if all of it is equally worthy of our attention.

There are two settings of the Regina Coeli, both of which feature prominent soprano solo parts. The setting in B major is the later of the two and annotator Alena Borková comments on its "compositionally more mature structure [which] opens new horizons for the virtuoso solo soprano." That may be true but actually I find the earlier setting in C major more interesting. It’s also more fully scored, containing parts for horns, trumpets and timpani. These enliven the textures in the festive first and fourth movements of the C major Regina Coeli. In these movements the music does indeed have, in Borková’s words "youthful eagerness" and that quality comes across in this spirited performance. In the two inner movements soprano Simona Houda Šaturová has the limelight and she sings very well indeed.

She also contributes significantly to the B major setting. Hers is a relatively light voice and it seems to be very well suited to Mozart. She has a gleaming top and also produces a nice, round sound in the lower register of her voice. Throughout the disc her tone is pure and clear and her singing gave me a good deal of pleasure. I’ve not heard her before but I was very impressed.

The disc contains two well-known showpieces for the soprano voice, the lovely Laudate Dominum and the solo motet Exultate, Jubilate, which, apart from the absence of a solo trumpet, has much in common in terms of spirit and design with Bach’s celebrated cantata BWV 51. Miss Šaturová is heard to good advantage in both these Mozart works. In Laudate Dominum she sustains a beautiful line and sings with an enticing tone. Exsultate, Jubilate is even more of a test. As Alena Borková observes this piece overshadows all the rest of the music that Mozart composed in these Italian years and I love the description that the music is "covered with the pollen of Italian melodiousness." Miss Šaturová’s singing in the first section of the motet is light and joyful. Once again she maintains an excellent line and she also negotiates the vocal pyrotechnics very adroitly. She’s poised in the andante aria ‘Tu virginum corona’ and rises splendidly to the virtuoso challenges of the concluding ‘Alleluia.’ Hers is a most winning account of this piece.

The rest of the programme contains one gem and one dud. The justly popular Ave verum corpus is given a smooth, quietly devoted performance and thankfully conductor Petr Fiala keeps the music moving forward and thus avoids the risk of sentimentality. The Te Deum was written when Mozart was thirteen and, quite frankly, sounds like it. To be blunt I really wonder if this music would be played today if the name Mozart were not on the title page. It’s pretty routine fare and it didn’t engage my interest at all, despite the spirited performance.

In this Te Deum and throughout the programme the thirty-strong choir sings very well. They produce a nicely blended sound and articulate the music nicely. They are well supported by the orchestra, whose members sound to be playing on period instruments – certainly there’s no vibrato from the strings – though this isn’t made clear in the booklet. Petr Fiala conducts the programme stylishly. The performances are presented in very good, clear sound and the booklet, which is in Czech and English, includes the texts and translations into both languages.

I find the quality of the music on this CD is somewhat variable. I doubt if I shall ever listen to the Te Deum again and the two settings of Regina Coeli are of limited interest. The other pieces, however, are in a much superior class. But if the musical quality is inconsistent the same cannot be said of the performances, which are uniformly excellent. If the programme appeals then the disc is thoroughly recommendable.

John Quinn


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