According to the accompanying booklet (which
can be read on-line) Mozart's Vesperae, K321, was the
second of the composer's three settings of the Vespers. Grove
(1982 revision) lists only two, this and the "de confessore"
of 1780, K339, also composed in and for Salzburg. Certainly
the de Dominica is not wholly appropriate as Mozart sets
the psalms prescribed for the feast of the confessor, substituting
Psalm 116 Laudate Dominum (tr 5) for the prescribed Psalm
113. The instrumentation is typical of that used in Salzburg
Cathedral at the time with neither horns nor oboes in use.
The Litaniae Lauretanae was written
in 1774. Dr. Stanley Sadie, the eminent Mozart scholar, suggests
in Grove (ibid) that its scale indicates it may have been written
for Salzburg Cathedral, being a polished essay in the traditional
Salzburg manner, with choruses in a free homophonic style with
much expressive melody and bravura writing for the soloists.
In this performance the Hanover Band, period
instrument specialists, are joined by the choir of New College
Oxford whose tradition of choral singing dates from 1379 and
whose director, Edward Higginbottom, brings good control and
rhythmic vitality to the proceedings. The reverberant acoustic
and the forward setting of the choir dominate the performance.
In K 321 the soloists, particularly the higher registers (the
trebles and altos are pre-pubescent boys as is traditional in
the U.K. choir schools) are set too far back as is the Band.
This hides some weak solo singing on tk1 and tk2 but does not
allow us to fully appreciate the strength of the treble on tk5.
The Litaniae seems to come off much
better in terms of balance and, in consequence. proves a much
more enjoyable experience. The soloists show particular accomplishment
in the Regina angelorum (tk10) and the Agnus Dei (tk11).
Despite my reservations, this is a welcome
issue given the dearth of recordings of this repertoire particularly
on period instruments. The front cover is typical French arty
style and you could easily miss the name Mozart. There are brief
notes in French and English. The accompanying libretto has a
French translation only.
Robert J Farr