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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Masonic Music (Complete)
Dir, Seele des Weltalls, K429 [7:26]
Adagio in F major, K410 [1:44]
Adagio in B flat major, K411 [5:48]
Lied zur Gesellenreise, K4681 [3:46]
Zerfliesset heut’, geliebte Bruder, K483 [2:27]
Ihr unsre neuen Leiter, K484 [3:25]
Die Maurerfreude, K471 [6:52]
Maurerische Trauermusik (Masonic Funeral Music), K477 [4:02]
Die ihr des unermesslichen Weltalls Schöpfer ehrt, K619 [7:58]
Adagio & Fugue in c minor [5:38]
Lobegesang auf die feierliche Johannisloge, K148, ‘O heiliges Band der Freundschaft [3:49]
Eine kliene Freimaurer-Kantata: Laut verkünde unsre Freude, K623 [12:54]
see end of review for performer details
rec. Rehearsal Hall, Staatstheater Kassel, Germany, 5-6 November 2007. DDD.
Booklet with texts but no translations.
NAXOS 8.570897 [65:49]
Experience Classicsonline

We already have good recordings of Mozart’s Masonic Music, from Peter Schreier in the Philips Complete Mozart Edition, coupled with the Litanies (no longer available in the UK except as an iTunes or download?), and on Decca from István Kertész (425 722 2).
Mozart never conceived of all this music being played at the same time. These items were intended for different occasions, so that we have works in a range of moods, variously combining solo tenor, two tenors and baritone, choir, piano, small instrumental ensemble and chamber orchestra. Moreover, different conductors have different ideas of what ‘complete’ Masonic music should include: Schreier omits the Adagios, K410 and K411 but includes K623a, Laßt uns mit geschlungenen Händen, not included on the new CD. Kertész omits the Adagios, K410 and K411 as well as the Adagio and Fugue, K546. Peter Maag, on a vintage 2-CD Vox set (CDX5055), includes De profundis, K93, Sancta Maria, K273 and the well-known Ave verum corpus, K618.
The best-known work here, sometimes included on its own as a filler for performances of Mozart’s Requiem, is the short orchestral Mauerische Trauermusik or Masonic Funeral Music, K477. Roberto Paternostro on the new recording takes this work at a rather faster pace than usual – 4:02 against Kertész’s 5:49 and Schreier’s 4:45. It works reasonably well, but there’s some loss at this speed of the sense that this is funeral music; it almost sounds like a completely different work. I’ve heard only the extremely slow opening sample of the Vox/Maag, which runs to 7:22. Karajan takes 6:05 on an EMI CD of strange bedfellows, combining Brahms’s Second Symphony, the Mozart and Strauss’s Metamorphosen. Slowest of all is Bruno Walter at 7:40 though, paradoxically, he seems to keep the music flowing more than anyone - CBS/Sony, not currently available in the UK? If Walter, Kertész, Maag and Karajan are arguably too funereal, Paternostro seems to miss the spirit of the work entirely – it is called Trauermusik, after all – but he maintains much of its essential dignity.
Paternostro’s tempi in the opening Dir, Seele des Weltalls (trs. 1-2), are also rather faster than Schreier’s or Kertész’s. This works well in this short cantata of praise to the sun, soul of the whole universe and provider of fruitfulness, warmth and light. The opening section is for choir, the second an aria for tenor, thanking the sun for the return of spring. The men of the Kassel State Opera Chorus acquit themselves well and Heo Young-Hoon’s light tenor voice is very well suited to the aria, fully worthy of comparison with Walter Krenn on the Kertész recording. By coincidence, too, though Paternostro takes just 3:04 for the opening chorus against Kertész’s 3:40, both take 4:22 for the tenor aria.
The Naxos recording closes in jubilant mood, as it began, with the Masonic cantata Laut verkünde unsre Freude, K623, proclaiming the joy of belonging to the brotherhood (trs.14-17). This is the penultimate item on Kertész’s recording and Schreier opens, equally appropriately, with this cantata. Paternostro is actually slightly slower than Schreier in the opening and closing choruses, matches him almost exactly in the tenor aria, and is very slightly slower in the remaining sections. He’s also slightly slower than Kertész overall. He takes 1:45 for the final chorus, where his two competitors both take 1:30. It’s not a huge difference, but I think that it gives them both a slight edge in this work and leaves us with a final item in the Naxos recording that doesn’t quite go with a bang.
Psychologists stress the importance of first and most recent encounters – the ‘primacy’ and ‘recency’ effect; if the primacy effect of this Naxos recording is favourable, the recency effect is slightly against it, though I wouldn’t make it a big issue. Young-Hoon’s singing in this work is matched by that of Lars Ruehl, second tenor, and Jürgen Appel, baritone.
The two Adagios (trs.3-4) could well pass as movements from the wind serenades. Both receive performances which fully justify their inclusion here when the rival complete recordings omit them. The Adagio and Fugue, K546 (trs.11-12) also receives a good performance from the Kassel Spohr Chamber Orchestra.
Otherwise, with the exception of the Trauermusik, all the items are vocal. Young-Hoon and the chorus, separately or together, acquit themselves well and are supported in style by the pianist, Alberto Bertino, and the orchestra. As in the final Laut verkünde, the earlier Die ihr des unermesslichen Weltalls ehrt (tr.10) is a shade slower than Kertész or Schreier, without seeming in any way too slow, while all three take Die Mauerfreude (tr.8) at a similar pace.
The recording is good throughout. The presentation, too, is fine, with excellent notes and a readable English translation. The German texts are provided, but not English translations, though the paraphrases in the notes are certainly helpful. I’m pleased to see at least the German texts when I’ve criticised Naxos - and others - recently for making libretti available only online. In fact, to give praise where it’s due, I know that one dedicated Naxos employee has recently been hard at work trying to tidy up the online libretto for the Fasch Passio which I criticised last year – see review. That’s an A for effort, so consider the ‘thumbs up’ which I withheld from that recording now to be earned.
With its price advantage over the mid-price Kertész and the downloads of the 3-CD Schreier recording, the new Naxos CD may be safely recommended. It comes, too, with a bonus download track from Haydn’s Farewell Symphony.
Brian Wilson

Performer details
Dir, Seele des Weltalls
Die Maurerfreude
Heo Young-Hoon (tenor) Male Voices of the Kassel State Opera Chorus; Kassel Spohr Chamber Orchestra/Roberto Paternostro

Adagio in F major
Sabine Neher, Alfred Wurm (basset-horns) Kuriko Maruyama (bassoon)

Adagio in B flat major
Tetsuo Hirosawa, Markus Euler (clarinets) Sabine Neher, Alfred Wurm, Margarete Fiedler (basset-horns)

Lied zur Gesellenreise
Die ihr des unermesslichen Weltalls Schöpfer ehrt
Heo Young-Hoon (tenor), Alberto Bertino (piano)

Zerfliesset heut’, geliebte Bruder
Ihr unsre neuen Leiter
Lobegesang auf die feierliche Johannisloge
Heo Young-Hoon (tenor), Alberto Bertino (piano) Male Voices of the Kassel State Opera Chorus

Maurerische Trauermusik (Masonic Funeral Music)
Adagio & Fugue in c minor
Kassel Spohr Chamber Orchestra/Roberto Paternostro

Eine kliene Freimaurer-Kantata: Laut verkünde unsre Freude
Heo Young-Hoon, Lars-Oliver Ruehl (tenor) Jürgen Appel (baritone) Male Voices of the Kassel State Opera Chorus, Kassel Spohr Chamber Orchestra/Roberto Paternostro


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