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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Vesperae Solennes de Confessore K. 339 (Laudate Dominum)
Exultate Jubilate K. 165

Messe K. 317, Kronungsmesse (Agnus Dei)
Messe in c moll K 427 (Et incarnatus est)
Litanae de venerabili altaris sacramento, K 243 (Dulcissimum convivium)
Franz Josef HAYDN (1732 - 1809)

Il ritorno di Tobia (Come se a voi parlasse)
Die Jahreszeiten Hob. XX1 no 3 (Welche Labung für die Sinne; Licht und Leven sind geschwachet)
Die Schöpfung Hob. XXI no 2 (Nun beut die Flur das frische Grün; Auf starkem Fittiche schwinget sich der Adler stolz)
Stabat Mater Hob. XXBIS (Quis est homo qui non fleret)
Annick Massis (soprano)
Choeurs et Orchestra Colonne/Daniel Inbal
Recorded Live 21 Oct 2003
CASCAVELLE VEL 3073 [76:06]


Mozart and Haydn both wrote considerable quantities of sacred music, after all both worked for patrons (the Archbishop of Salzburg in Mozart’s case and Prince Esterhazy in Haydn’s) who required a regular supply of music for their chapels.

On this disc soprano Annick Massis and the Colonne Orchestra present a series of soprano arias extracted from Mozart and Haydn’s sacred works. Massis does not have an extensive discography so this solo recital should have been very welcome. Unfortunately, I could not raise too much enthusiasm either for the programme or for the performances.

The Mozart selection starts with the well known ‘Laudate Dominum’ from the Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, K 339. Given that a choir was engaged for the disc (the excellent but underused Choeurs Colonne), it would have been nice to have included more of the Vespers than just this famous snippet. Thankfully, the ‘Exultate Jubilate’ is given complete. The remaining items though are further excerpts, from the ‘Coronation Mass’ and the ‘Mass in C minor’. All of these are well known items and I can understand the desire to include them, but surely we could have had a better balance between familiarity and novelty. As it is, the only unfamiliar Mozart piece is ‘Dulcissimum conivium’ from the Litany, K 243.

With the Haydn pieces, the mix is somewhat similar. Massis sings two items from ‘The Seasons’ and two from ‘The Creation’. Welcome novelty is provided by ‘Come se voi paprlasse’ from his rarely performed oratorio, ‘Il ritorno di Tobia’ (written for Vienna in 1775) and a movement from the ‘Stabat Mater’.

Of course, such unimaginative programming can be transcended by the quality of the performances. After all, young artists must be allowed to retread the steps of their elders and re-visit familiar works. But here, Massis seems to be somewhat on auto-pilot. The recording is billed as a live recording, though there is little evidence of an audience; in fact I began to wonder whether any tapes from the dress rehearsal had been used.

Massis has an attractive, lyric voice and is known for her performances in coloratura roles. Her voice has the right bright, focused qualities for these pieces and copes well with the tessitura. But these pieces were written for virtuosi. Massis, however, rarely produces brilliance in the more complex, coloratura passages. The few moments of great beauty that I found on the record were in the cooler, lyrical passages.

Massis is well supported by Daniel Inbal and the Colonne Orchestra. The orchestra plays in a crisp, lively style and under Inbal’s secure direction they produce a well sprung, chamber-like sound.

I would have liked to have enjoyed this disc more; we must hope that Annick Massis swiftly produces a rather more brilliant recital disc in the future.

Robert Hugill

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