Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Epistle Sonatas
C major, K329 (?1779) [4:02]*; G major, K274 (1777) [3:16]; B flat major, K68
(?1772) [2:43]; F major, K224 (?1776) [4:15]; B flat major, K212 (1775) [3:16];
D major, K245 (1776) [3:39]; C major, K263 (1776) [3:32]*; F major, K145 (1774)
[2:56]; A major, K225 (?1776) [3:53]; C major, K336 (1780) [3:59]; E flat major,
K67 (?1772) [2:28]; G major, K241 (1776) [2:53]; C major, K328 (?1779) [4:14];
D major, K144 (1774) [3:11]; F major, K244 (1776) [3:29]; D major, K69 (?1772)
[2:33]; C major, K278 (1777) [3:40]*
The King’s Consort: Simon Standage,
Michael Comberti (violins); Jane Coe (cello), Ian Watson (solo organ), Robert
King (continuo organ, director); * The Classical
Orchestra of the King’s Consort/Robert King
rec. 8-10 September 1989, St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead
Garden Suburb, London HYPERION HELIOS CDH55314 [59:37]
Formerly issued as Hyperion CDA66377, this CD offers very acceptable
performances of some generally very attractive music
from one of the more neglected areas of that enormous
landscape of delight and humanity which exists in the
music of Mozart.
The Sonate all’epistola, sometimes referred to as the Sonate
da chiesa (Church Sonatas), were written for use
during the Mass in Salzburg, most (or perhaps all)
of them being composed after Mozart’s appointment in
July 1772 as Konzertmeister to the Prince-Archbishop
Hieronimus Franz von Paula, Count Colleredo. A few
may have been written earlier. They appear to have
been used to fill the gap between the reading of the
Epistle and the Gospel during Mass, an instrumental
substitute for the singing of the Gradual, as it were.
Until Alfred Einstein’s discovery, and 1940 publication,
of two lost sonatas from the group, modern musicians
knew only fifteen such sonatas, but now we have seventeen.
Though they sometimes (see Nicholas Kenyon’s useful Faber
Guide to Mozart) get discussed as keyboard works,
in fact only a few of them give real prominence to
the organ, which often plays only a continuo role.
All are in one movement; all are attractive; all but
three are written for chamber forces; only K263,
278 and 329 make use of a larger string ensemble, supplemented
by two oboes, two trumpets and two horns (plus timpani).
for K.67 all of them either carry a marking of allegro or
seem to assume such a marking. All are in major keys. The
general nature of the music has frequently – and understandably – called
forth adjectives such as “bright”, “joyous” and “cheerful”.
Indeed, the mood is more or less uniform throughout (with
the exception of the more meditative K.67) but, given Mozart’s
inventiveness even in these pretty slight compositions,
there is little risk of boredom.
suspect that few listeners would guess that this music
was written for a sacred context; much of it sounds as
if it belongs in a serenade or a divertimento; some is
proto-symphonic; some sounds like part of an organ concerto.
Still, if one thinks of the kind of exuberant rococo decoration,
full of roseate cherubs and gilded stucco angels, to be
found in the cathedral in Salzburg, then a kind of aptness,
to do with lightness and complexity of texture, begins
to come into focus. Like the rococo decoration itself,
this is not music calculated to fit in easily with Northern
Protestant conceptions of the sacred!
enough, some of the pieces have a greater appeal than others.
If Mozart rarely nods, he is at least more fully awake
on some occasions than on others. K.263, for example, is
rather bland and predictable. But elsewhere there are many
lovely things. In K.145 forte statements are followed by
piano restatements to exquisite effect; K.225 is built
around some delightful melodies and K.245 is full of assured,
mature writing; K.274 is subtle and sophisticated, containing
as many musical ideas and inventive details as most works
ten times its length; K.278 is a remarkable quasi-symphonic
piece, full of a sense of drama, especially in the ways
in which it deploys the trumpets and the timpani; the organ
is foregrounded splendidly in K.336, which might readily
have served as the first movement of an organ concerto.
King and his forces give us intelligent, well-judged and
entertaining performances, though the recorded sound is
not perhaps the last word in vividness. Though I only heard
it once and don’t have it to hand for comparison, my memory
is that a Chandos recording (CHAN-8745) by I Musici de
Montreal, conducted by Yuri Turovsky and with Genevieve
Soly as the solo organist, discovered even more vivacious
jubilation in this music.
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