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CD: Forgotten Records

Franz Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Salve Regina in G minor, Hob.XXIIIb/2a (1771) [21:36]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Mass No. 16 in C, K317, Coronationb (1779) [24:25]
April Cantelo (soprano); Marjorie Thomas (contralto); David Gulliver (tenor); aThomas Hemsley, bJohn Cameron (baritones); choirs; The London Mozart Players/Harry Blech
rec. 2 June 1954 and 1 November 1953

Experience Classicsonline

This is a tremendous coupling. The very name “London Mozart Players” will, I am sure, conjure up fond memories for many users of this site. These performances are taken from LP sources: HMV CLP1031 and Club National du Disque CND310. Note that both pieces were originally issued on the plum-label CLP disc, so one can only guess that the Club National disc comes in because of cleaner surfaces?. The present disc gives CLP031 as the HMV number, but then it also gets the catalogue number of the Mozart wrong, too, giving K314.

The intense musicality of the London Mozart Players, an enduring trait throughout their recordings, is immediately in evidence in the performance of the Salve Regina. The solo quartet is beautifully chosen, intoning the text as one. When the solo lines unfurl and individuals get to shine, it is - perhaps unsurprisingly - April Cantelo who shines, her pure voice a consistent source of joy. Blech finds drama, too, when the score demands, and just listen to the unaccompanied violin line around the eight minute mark in the Salve Regina to hear real lamentoso playing.

The choir, too, is expert - try the purity of exposed soprano lines in the central “Eja ergo advocata nostra”. From the orchestra, one should highlight the sweet oboe contributions.

The recording of the “choruses” - nothing more specific is given - tends to intensify any blurring. Remember, this is before any scaled-down “period” performances. Comparison with the two major recordings of this work in the catalogue - Bruno Weil and Nikolaus Harnoncourt - tends towards the useless as they hail from different eras and therefore different musicological vantage points.

The, to our ears, heavy chorus suits the Mozart better, perhaps, as the composer plays off chorus against soli in the Kyrie/Christe. Once again Cantelo is magnificent. As mentioned above, the sources are LPs, and the occasional muffled click is audible (track 5). Blech finds rhythmic spring, too, to contrast with the heaviness of his Crucifixus, and inspires his chorus to real vigour in the Et resurrexit. There is some shrillness to the upper ranges of the violins that can distract in louder passages, but one forgives all when confronted with the sweetness of the violins’ opening of the Benedictus. And just listen to the discipline of the upwardly rising violin scales at the end of that same movement to hear how well disciplined and rehearsed the players were. Heavenly beauty is reserved for the opening of the Agnus Dei. Once again it is Cantelo who hypnotises. There are preferable modern versions, perhaps prime amongst them Schreier (on Philips), yet Blech and his considerable forces hold their own undeniable charms.

I like the way the back cover of the disc gives URLs to not only the record company’s website, but also a 1999 obit of Harry Blech. There’s a link to a German Wikipedia article on Blech that seemed not to work at the time of writing. Also on the debit side, there are no printed booklet notes whatsoever.

Colin Clarke





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