Attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Missa solemnis in C, KV.C1.20 (ed. Martin Sokoll and Franz Hauk) [43:37]
Simon MAYR (1763-1845)
Te Deum in D (1805) (ed. Franz Hauk) [24:28]
Priska Eser-Streit, Katja Stuber (sopranos)
Merit Ostermann, Roland Schneider (altos)
Andreas Hirtreiter, Marc Megele, Jörg Schneider (tenors)
Robert Merwald, Andreas Burkhart (basses)
Simon Mayr Choir
Ingolstadt Georgian Chamber Orchestra/Franz Hauk (organ)
rec. Asamkirche Maria de Victoria, Ingolstadt, Germany, 29 September - 1 October 2007. DDD.
Texts and translations included.
NAXOS 8.570926 [68:05]

Simon Mayr wrote ‘Mozart’ on his copy of the Missa Solemnis in C which opens this recording. It remains an open question whether he meant Leopold or Wolfgang Amadeus – another copy in Salzburg contains the name Wolfgang Amadeus, crossed out and replaced with his father’s name. Whichever Mozart we attribute it to – or even Brixi, Vogel or Vogler, who have all been candidates at one time or another – it’s a fine work.

Keith Anderson maintains a scholarly aloofness in his notes, merely noting that modern research supports the possible attribution to one or other Mozart. Having been trained in circumspection at the learned institution where Mr Anderson now teaches, I’m merely going to say that the music sounds to me worthy to have been written by Mozart fils – I’m even prepared to rate it higher than some of the short Masses which he composed in Salzburg. Naxos don’t claim it as a first recording, but I don’t recall ever hearing it before.

Mayr’s Te Deum is fully worthy to be heard in the same company. Again, there are some caveats about the theory that it was performed at Napoleon’s coronation as King of Italy – some have dated the work as late as the 1820s – but it certainly sounds good enough to have been written for such a grand occasion, and it provides a good reason to grace the front cover with an impressive portrait of Napoleon in his coronation robes.

It’s a jaunty work, at times reminiscent of secular opera rather than church music – listen to track 22, Te ergo quæsumus, where you might almost be listening to an ensemble passage from Figaro. The concluding section, In te Domine speravi (tr.23) dances us to a hope that we shall, indeed, never be confounded.

Naxos have been doing Simon Mayr proud in recent years and several of their releases have been made under the direction of Franz Hauk, as here – a busy man who acts as scholarly editor, chorus-master, conductor and keyboard player on the harpsichord or, this time, the organ. His version of Tobiæ Matrimonium, the Marriage of Tobias, was hailed by Glyn Pursglove as an outstanding bargain (8.570752/53 - see review) and by Robert Hugill as a delight, charmingly performed (see review).

An earlier recording, David in spelunca Engaddi, David in the cave of Engedi, earned equally high praise from Göran Forsling (8.570366/67 - see review). Hauk has also recorded Mayr’s dramatic cantata L’Armonia and the Cantata for the Death of Beethoven on 8.557958. I must catch up with those earlier releases – they are all available from the Naxos Music Library.

The performances here are generally good; though one or two of the soloists are a little over-exposed – Merit Ostermann in Gratias agimus (tr.3), for example, though she sounds fine in ensemble. I was never really disturbed, and the generally high standard easily outweighs the minor disadvantages. I have to say that I find the Germano/Austrian pronunciation of the hard g in Agnus annoying, though I accept that that is what Mozart (or whoever) and Mayr would have expected. The performers compromise by pronouncing the soft Italian c in cœli rather than the usual Germanic ts sound which, oddly enough, I don’t mind.

The orchestral support is good. The Ingolstadt Georgian Orchestra moved from Tblisi to the nearest large town to Mayr’s birthplace in 1990, so the ‘Georgian’ element of their name refers to their origin, not to their existence as a period-instrument ensemble. Nevertheless, I have little but praise for their part in the success of this recording.

Above all, however, it’s Franz Hauk who must take the major part of the credit, having co-edited the ‘Mozart’ and edited the Mayr, trained the Simon Mayr Choir, which he founded in 2003, and conducted the orchestra from the organ. Above all, he keeps up the momentum in both works. I trust that he and Naxos will go on to make us even more aware of the quality of Mayr’s music.

The recording is good throughout – Naxos seem to have become at home in the church which was used for this and their earlier Mayr recordings, in Mayr’s own home town of Ingolstadt.

The notes are brief – just one page each in English and German, but Keith Anderson’s authorship guarantees their value. I just wish that he had plumped for or against Mozartian authorship of the Mass. The complete texts and English translations of the Mass and Te Deum are given, mostly using the familiar Book of Common Prayer texts – no need to search for them online for once. I’m not sure why it was thought necessary to replace ‘I acknowledge one baptism’ with ‘I confess’, an over-literal rendering of Confiteor.

I am grateful to all concerned for the opportunity to hear the ‘Mozart’ Mass and the Mayr Te Deum. That’s twice in recent weeks that Naxos have pulled off the trick for me with music of this period: the first time was with their recording of the Haydn ‘Nelson’ Mass and Nikolaimesse (8.572123). I made that earlier recording Bargain of the Month and the delightful new CD is not far behind.

Brian Wilson

Whether the Mass is by Mozart or not – and which Mozart? – this recording deserves a strong recommendation.