One of the problems
with Mozartís mature output is the paucity of mass settings.
He left the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg just as his
style had reached maturity. But the Archbishop had firm views
on the length of services, so that neither of Mozartís two final
Salzburg masses - the Coronation Mass, K317, and the Missa Solemnis
K337 - is expansive. Following these settings, Mozart did not
write a complete mass setting again. Of his two mass settings
written after this period, he left the Mass in C minor, K427
as a magnificent torso and he died before he could complete
the Requiem Mass.
Both the Coronation
Mass, K317, and the Missa Solemnis, K337, have much to commend
them, even if they cannot offer the sort of highly developed
writing which we can find in the Requiem and the Mass in C minor.
The Coronation Mass,
K317, was written in 1779 and is short but grandiose. Its nickname
comes from the story that it was written for the coronation
of a statue of the Virgin, though this story is nowadays viewed
with some scepticism. Still, the mass is written for strings
- without violas and cellos - with oboes, horns, trumpets, trombones
and timpani. Mozart often uses the soloists as a quartet to
contrast with the chorus. The subsequent history of the mass
seems to have justified its nickname: it was used for the coronation
of Emperor Leopold II in 1791 and for that of Franz II two years
The mass is notable
for the lovely soprano solo in the Agnus Dei, which may be seen
as foreshadowing the Countessís aria, Dove Sono, in The
Marriage of Figaro.
The Missa Solemnis,
K337, was written in March 1780 after the Archbishop had given
new requirements for the shortness of the mass settings. The
result is on a similar scale to the Coronation Mass, but with
all the movements being just slightly shorter. Again there are
echoes of The Marriage of Figaro. In the Agnus Dei we
find a foretaste of the Countessís aria, Porgi Amor.
The pairing on disc
of this mass with the Missa Solemnis K337 is quite logical as
they both date from Mozartís final year in Salzburg. Surprisingly,
this pairing does not seem to happen very often, which makes
the re-issue of this disc from Peter Neumann doubly welcome.
Neumann conducts a period instrument group with a fine quartet
The type of solo
writing that Mozart uses means that it is only really the soprano
soloist, Patrizia Kwella, who gets a chance to shine. The other
three are entirely admirable, with Christoph Prťgardien displaying
an admirably clear, focused voice. All blend very well in the
solo ensembles. But it is Kwella who dazzles with her beautifully
shaped and well judged accounts of the sopranoís big moment
in each of the Masses.
The chorus provide
fine, justly-shaped singing though Mozartís choral writing in
these masses does not really challenge. Still, he does have
one or two surprises up his sleeve including a Benedictus in
the form of a choral fugue in K337. The Benedictus of K317 is
also something of a surprise as the Benedictus returns after
the choral Hosanna. Neumann is quite fierce here, you feel that
the Hosanna is interrupting the Benedictus.
The Cologne Collegium
Cartusianum play well for Neumann. They turn in a nicely sprung
and well proportioned performance. It may be that other groups
could play this music with a slightly greater degree of finesse
and sophistication. However the Cologne group are thoroughly
drilled and their performance is more than creditable.
When this disc was
new, Stanley Sadie in The Gramophone was worried about the extremes
of some of Neumannís speeds. I must confess that this did not
bother me and I found Neumannís accounts of the masses pretty
This account of
the masses adds the relevant Epistle sonata from Mozartís complete
set. Each has an Epistle sonata played in the correct liturgical
place, between the Gloria and the Credo. This is a lovely idea.
It helps to break up the masses; after all they were not designed
to be heard in one lump. And the Epistle sonatas were not written
to be listened to en masse, the way most record companies
The CD liner notes
are quite sketchy and the texts of the masses are not included.
If you already have
accounts of these masses, then there is no need to rush out and
buy this disc. But if you only have the Coronation Mass, and donít
have K337 then do buy this one. The Coronation Mass is worth having
if only for Patrizia Kwellaís solos and the K337 is an admirable
performance of a much neglected rarity.