Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Johann Simon MAYR (1763-1845)
Mass in C Minor
Wolfang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Salve Regina
Quis te comprehendat
In te Domine speravi

Marina Ulewicz soprano
Christa Mayer alto
Thomas Cooley tenor
Thomas Gropper bass
Vokalensemble Ingolstadt
Georgian Chamber Orchestra, Ingolstadt
Franz Hauk, conductor
Recorded Asam Kirche, Ingolstadt April 2001
GUILD GMCD 7231 [65.48]


Commissioned to write a work for the monastery of Einsiedeln, Johann Simon Mayr submitted his Mass in C Minor in 1826. In a lively and admiring exchange of letters Mayr was told that whilst undeniably successful it was "perhaps too longÖand too scholarly" for performance there. The monastery forces performed the work, though, and the last recorded performance was in 1837. It is quite probable that the work has lain unpublished and unperformed until this recording, made in the Asam Kirche, Ingolstadt, not far from Mayrís birthplace.

It is in fact a fascinating work, reflective of a particular cultural cross-fertilization between the German and Italian schools. Its ethos is broadly Haydnesque but strong echoes of Mozartís late liturgical works can be heard as can, remarkably, orchestral sonorities more associated with Rossini and borrowings from Mayrís pupil, Donizetti. It was in Italy that Mayr had first come to prominence, studying under Bertoni, Director of San Marco, and writing the first of his operas. Mayr became and remained until his death Maestro di Capella at Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergano.

In the Mass Mayr adopted the Italian tradition of multi-movement settings, which frequently entailed only one verse being set. Far from limiting him it seems to have liberated his inherently expressive and dramatic powers Ė this is an intensely involving work and the conclusion of the Gloria, an allegro spiritoso of galvanizing effectiveness, involves spirited violin writing, chirping Rossinian woodwind and a choral climax of elegance and passion. It is only one of many felicities; Et incarnatus est is an operatic aria in itself, with the solo violinís filigree traceries, soloistsí and chorusí interjections Ė though only the middle section is actually by Mayr; he borrowed the rest from Donizettiís Credo of 1824, an unusual act of homage by Master towards Pupil.

The superb fugal Hosanna in excelsis is all Mayrís however and shows once more his technical gifts married expertly to a sure dramatic sense. It is exceptionally short, at one and a half minutes, but a Mass of this type is inherently short-winded and Mayrís sureness of footing ensures that the work never sags or fractures. The alto and tenor duet in the Agnus Dei is notable, not only for its lyricism, but also for the orchestral writing which is always inventive, imaginative and constantly alive. Mayrís writing for woodwind is memorable for its soloistic colour and confidence and everywhere his dramatic sense informs the score.

The soloists cope well with the Massís demands; they are integrated into the fabric of the score with great skill and the soprano Marina Ulewicz is the pick of the quartet.

As a pendant are three works by Mozart. The Salve Regina is identical to the Benedictus from the Mass in C major and appears as an appendix in the Koechel Catalogue. Quis te comprehendat is an arrangement of the adagio of the Serenade for Brass K361 (370a) Ė the choral arrangement tacked on is certainly not Mozartís own work. In te Domine speravi is a revision of K505, A Scena con Rondo, written for Nancy Storace, the first Susanna. It is expressively done by Ulewicz who has to compete with a beefy organ part.

The Choir perform well and the chamber orchestra Ė woodwind especially Ė particularly so. Praise too to Franz Hauk, who shapes the Mayr into newly minted life. The sound is undistractingly good and the booklet notes are tremendously informative and comprehensive. Altogether this is a genuinely worthwhile discovery.

Jonathan Woolf



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