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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
A Mozart Celebration from Stephansdom - A Celebration of the Wiener Sangerknaben (Vienna Boys' Choir)
Church Sonata in C major, K.278
Mass in C minor, K.427: Credo. Et incarnatus est
Graduale "Sancta Maria, mater Dei", K.273
Vesperae solennes de Confessore, K.339:
Laudate Dominum
Coronation Mass† in C major, K.317:
Kyrie. Gloria. Credo.Sanctus. Benedictus. Agnus Dei
Ave verum corpus, K.618
Litaniae Lauretanae, K.195: Agnus Dei
Church Sonata in C major, K.329
Sandrine Piau (sop); Dietmar Kerschbaum (ten); Wolfgang Bankl (bass)
Unnamed soprano and alto soloists from the Wiener Sangerknaben (Vienna Boys' Choir)
Chorus Viennensis and Wiener Sangerknaben
Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy
rec. live, Domkirche St. Stephen, Vienna, 27 January 2006
Picture Format 16:9. Sound; PCM Stereo. DD 5.1. DTS 5.1.
Subtitles in Latin, English, German and French
Bonus: Mozart in Vienna. A film by Marieke Schroeder with the participation of Daniel Barenboim, Angelika Kirchlanger, Thomas Quasthoff, Peter Sellars and others.
EUROARTS DVD 2055168 [68:00 + 59:00 bonus]


The opening pictures giving a view of the church are superb (Ch.1) and the photography never falls below that high standard. The concert is of a wide selection of Mozartís religious music. It takes place within the quite magnificent setting of the Domkirche St. Stephen. The cameraís movement around the architecture and ornamentation of the building adds significantly to the enjoyment of the concert.
 
The boys of the Wiener Sangerknaben (Vienna Boys Choir) are in their traditional sailor suits whilst the men are in dark suits. The soloists are situated at the front of the small orchestra. The programme consists of orchestral pieces and combinations of the choirs and soloists. The boysí choir is something of a disappointment. Far too often they have their heads down into their scores (Ch. 6) resulting in poor vocal projection into the warm, but not over-reverberant, acoustic. I was also disappointed in the vocal quality of the choristers chosen as soloists in the Coronation Mass excerpts where their tonal colour is distinctly thin (Chs. 7-12). It is many years since I heard the Vienna Boys live, but I well remember the purity and excellent range of their voices. On this evidence the choristers in the British cathedral choir schools are significantly superior. Of the named soloists the soprano Sandrine Piau sings the Et incarnatus from the Mass in C minor (Ch. 4), the Laudate Dominum (Ch. 6) and the Agnus Dei (Ch 14). Although she makes good efforts at phrasing and expression, her voice fails to soar. It needs bringing forward and projecting. Of the two men, the bass of Wolfgang Bankl is particularly pleasing and his firmness in the Coronation Mass is a particular strength. In the orchestral items (Chs. 2 and 15) Bertrand de Billy conducts briskly with well-pointed rhythms. The well-wrapped audience show a cultured appreciation.
 
A major value of this issue comes in the bonus of Marieke Schroederís documentary on the subject of Mozartís last ten years in Vienna. It describes a capital city of two hundred thousand citizens, some living fifty to a house! It was a particularly interesting time in Vienna with Emperor Joseph, who commissioned Cosi fan tutte, intent on reform. It was a turbulent time for Mozart, particularly after the Emperorís premature death and him not a favourite at the Court of his successor. Using Mozartís writings, contemporary scholarship and interviews with renowned artists from music and opera production, the film investigates the changing picture of the composer from the 1780s to the present day. In the process it takes the viewer to the very heart of modern Vienna. There are some fine musical excerpts.
 
The concert component of this DVD would have been a lot better with a quality soprano and better rehearsal for the choir. However, musically it does present a diverse range of Mozartís religious music and can be recommended as such. Mozart and Vienna lovers can enjoy the bonus many times over.
 
Robert J. Farr
 

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