WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART ( 1756 -1791)
Dixit & Magnificat, K193 9.49
Vesperae Solennes de Dominica, K 321 26.07
Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, K339 24.31
Greta De Reyghere (sop); Marijke
van Arnhem (mezzo); Rewnaat Deckers (ten); Jan Van der Crabben (bass). Collegium
Instrumentale Brigense; Capell Brigensis; Patrick Peire.
Recorded Steurbaut Studios,
Ghent. 10-12 August 1996 Naxos 8.554158 [60.38]
Naxos have released an all Belgian/Flemish recording of three of Mozart's
works for liturgical use calling the CD "Solemn Vespers". Do not be put off
by the sobriety of the title - these are pieces written for church occasions
but which easily stand alone as pure music and as such they are there to
The three works on the disc were written by Mozart when he was employed by
the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Each takes the standard form in use by
the Church, to write music incorporating Psalms and the canticle, the Magnificat.
Because of the limitations of the format, there are repetitions of the text
used - for instance Dixit Dominus, Psalm 109 appears three times with differing
settings, while other psalms are used on two occasions and the closing Magnificat
in each of the three.
During his time at Salzburg Mozart suffered from the decision made by the
Archbishop, who insisted that the Vespers were not to be written as arias
and ensembles in the operatic style - limitations which are reflected in
the works on this CD. K339 in particular seems to me to show Mozart straining
to break free from the restraints he was under.
This is a splendid CD. Long gone are the days - if they ever existed - when
Naxos recordings and their like could be dismissed as a cheap label with
third division performers. If that were ever true - which I doubt - it is
certainly not the case here. The performers are excellent and the disc is
The opening work Dixit & Magnificat, K193, dated from 1774, scored for
trumpets and drums, three trombones, strings and organ opens with a lively
Dixit Dominus, and instantly brought to mind the later Haydn Masses of some
years later. The soloists play little part in the Dixit which following a
lively opening switches to a slower tempo for the Gloria and the fugal ending
from et in saecula. The Magnificat, with its early use of the soloists, has
an attractive close with a well-balanced chorus against strings and trombones
with a chamber organ.
Vesperae Solennes de Dominica, K321 ( Solemn Vespers for Sunday from 1779)
has similar orchestral forces, and in addition to the Dixit Dominus and
Magnificat uses the text of four psalms. Especially notable were the soloists
in Confitebor tibi Domine (Psalm 110), some lovely four part writing for
the choir in Psalm 112 (Laudate Pueri), the soprano's control in the long
lines of Laudate Dominum, and the martial ending with trumpets and drum rolls
in the closing Magnificat.
The third setting on the disc, Vesperae solennes de Confessore, K339 - (Solemn
Vespers for a Confessor -1780) - is almost certainly best known for its setting
for soprano soloist of Laudate Dominum - surely one of Mozart's greatest
melodies. Beautifully sung against the simplest of accompaniments of strings,
small organ and bassoon, this is a real highlight. The chorus - as throughout
- is splendid. The Psalm settings are sung magnificently. The highly suitable
recording acoustic with its slight reverberation rather points towards the
Ghent studio being an erstwhile church, a plus point for works such as these.
The four soloists, fine individuals without a weak link, are well-balanced,
and can be heard clearly but not over prominently. The chorus is good in
all sections and the recording favours them slightly over the orchestra,
though not enough to be a problem. The orchestra itself, which uses modern
instruments, clearly is a responsive unit with admirable internal balance.