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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sacred Choral Works (complete)
Contents List at end of review
Pamela Heuvelmans, Annemarie Kremer, Valentina Farcas, Anja Tilch, Marietta Fischesser, Petra Labitzke (soprano)
Barbara Werner, Gabriele Wunderer (alto)
Robert Morvaj, Daniel Sans, Benoit Haller, Gerhard Nennemann (tenor)
Thomas Pfeiffer, Christof Fischesser, Manfred Bittner (bass)
Chamber Choir of Europe
Suddeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim
Kurpfälisches Kammerorchestrer Mannheim
Teatro Armonico Stuttgart
Camerata Würzburg
Nicol Matt (conductor)
rec. Fautenbach, Mannheim, Wertheim, 2001-2
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94264 [11 CDs: 805:17 + CD-ROM]

Experience Classicsonline


Mozart was born into musical service at the Salzburg court. His employer was the Prince-Archbishop and so it was inevitable that when he started composing music associated with that location, sacred music should play an important part. In the earlier half of his creative life, before 1781 when he broke service from Salzburg in order to try his luck as a freelance musician in Vienna, he wrote sacred music year on year.
 
A collection such as this from Brilliant Classics, gathering together the composer’s whole output in this field, will inevitably contain a large proportion of music that is little known and which will remain so, come what may. That said, if a composer is a genius of Mozart’s calibre, everything will be of interest, whether it be skilfully contrived pieces from his formative years or masterworks which have become central to the repertory of choral societies the world over.
 
As a conductor of choral music Nicol Matt has an impressive pedigree, and these performances going back over a period of a decade or so show in every way that his taste and judgement are consistently secure. This collection is absolutely thorough; more so for example than Matt’s excellent Mendelssohn survey on the same label, which left out the great oratorios. Nothing is missing here, and at a bargain price amounting to less than £3 a disc, that is an immediate attraction.
 
For many collectors a multi-CD set will raise the issue of the wisdom of acquiring duplicate performances. For example, it is unlikely that anyone interested enough in Mozart to contemplate the purchase of his complete sacred music will not already possess a carefully chosen recording of the Requiem. No matter - the recipe that is the score of a work of great music will always deliver differing rewards from performance to performance. So it proves here, since Matt gives us rewarding interpretations of the famous works, with musicians capable of doing them justice.
 
To begin, then, with the Requiem. The recording dates from 2001 and sounds well. Its success has led to its issue in various different guises, both singly and collectively. It is the reliable completion of Franz Xaver Süssmayr that is used. While the performers are hardly household names they acquit themselves most capably. The quartet of soloists works well as a team, and the tenor Robert Morvaj and the alto Barbara Werner are particularly fine. Tempi are well chosen and balances are appropriately shaded; only in the intensity of delivery do questions arise. Listen, for example, to the darker sounds of the orchestra and chorus, where the basset horns and trombones lack the ultimate in richness, as do the voices of the chorus.
 
The circumstances of Mozart’s life during the 1780s gave him few opportunities to create masterworks of sacred music. One exception is undoubtedly the C minor Mass of 1783. Unlike the fourteen previous settings, this is a large-scale cantata mass, with the treatment of the text determined by musical rather than liturgical priorities. It’s in the tradition of Haydn's St Cecilia Mass and Bach's Mass in B minor. According to a letter from the composer to his father Leopold, it was intended for performance in Salzburg in the summer of 1783, when he returned there with his new wife, Constanze. Perhaps it was the difficulties experienced at this time that led him to abandon his Mass in an incomplete form, leaving aside the concluding Agnus Dei. However, he recognised that the music was of high quality, and reworked most of the material in 1785 for an oratorio, the Davidde penitente, K469, which he created in support of a pension fund for Viennese musicians.
 
The music of the Mass in C minor is regarded by many as Mozart's masterpiece in the field of religious composition. It has a scale and grandeur which recall the great baroque masterpieces of Bach and Handel, works which Mozart was coming to know through his friendship with his fellow freemason Baron Gottfried van Swieten. Swieten had served in Berlin for many years as Austrian ambassador at the Prussia court, and there he had developed an enthusiasm for baroque music which he brought back to Vienna and shared with the members of his circle, including both Mozart and Haydn. Nicol Matt, as an experienced choral conductor in all this repertoire, brings out the musical subtleties these links imply. Perhaps his soloists miss a degree of virtuosity in movements such as the quasi operatic duet of the two sopranos in the Domine Deus, but they are never inadequate to the task. Taken in overall context this work is, in any event, one that is likely to be available in numerous more celebrated recordings.
 
The best known of the earlier Masses is probably the one known as the Coronation Mass, in C major K317. Mozart’s 1778 visit to Paris deepened his musical awareness. The music he composed around this time represents the first full flowering of his creative maturity. Of this there is no finer example than this Mass, which is the most sophisticated among all the Salzburg Masses. The memorable title came later, however, when Antonio Salieri directed a performance at Prague in 1791, on the occasion of the coronation of the Austrian Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia. It was originally written, it seems, for a special festive service at Salzburg, and the key of C major was the classical key of formal and majestic music. The orchestration is splendidly captured in this performance, and confirms this musical style, with trombones reinforcing the lower voices of the chorus, and some fine opportunities for the trumpets with their attendant drums. The soprano Pamela Heuvelmans, who features in other recordings besides this one, gives a particularly fine display here, as the score demands.
 
The less famous Missa Solemnis K337, also in C major, is a notable discovery, since this is nothing like as well known as it might be. Again Matt proves a dedicated conductor, revealing that by his early twenties Mozart was incapable of delivering anything less than first rate music. However, such a description would be insufficient for the best piece among the sacred works of the period immediately before the move to Vienna. This is a torso, the Kyrie in D minor, whose provenance is by no means clear-cut. The music was composed in Munich alongside the opera Idomeneo, and is fully worthy of mention in such exalted context. Some scholars have suggested Mozart composed it in order to recommend himself to the Elector of Bavaria as a master of church music as well as of opera. At any rate the full Mass setting it may have been intended to introduce never materialised, and a magnificent torso it has remained. Again Matt delivers a dedicated and powerful interpretation, though without achieving the special intensity found in the great performance of Sir Colin Davis (Philips - 4128732). Even so this remains a notable inclusion in the set as a whole.
 
Given the undeniable fact that Mozart’s talents transformed to genius as he grew older, it is all too tempting to take the teenage settings gathered here for granted, and to pay them little attention. However, one of the glories of this collection is the opportunity to listen and marvel at the inspiration, the freshness and the drama with which Mozart responded to each sacred text. Again and again this is true of the Mass settings, and again and again and again Matt and his performers deliver the goods. As evidence two particular striking examples come to mind: The Trinitas Mass K167 and perhaps the most notable of all among his youthful compositions, the Weisenhausmesse K139, the latter a really substantial piece that is an amazing achievement for a sixteen year old.
 
The documentation in this 11-CD set is slender, as you might expect, though everything is nicely printed and designed. There are no programme notes but rather a CD-ROM that contains the sung texts, very clearly presented but without translations alas. There are occasional mistakes too: for example, the text for the Litaniae de venerabili K243 are missing from the listing for CD 1, which otherwise contains the Requiem. If these things bring a certain disappointment it is only relative, for taken as a whole this is a set which brings musical rewards galore and in the longer term will remain a valuable resource for anyone who owns it.
 
Terry Barfoot 

Contents List 

CD 1
Requiem in D minor, K626 [48:27]
Litanae de venerabli in E flat, K243 [32:26]
CD 2
Litanae de venerabli in B flat, K125 [29:45]
Litanae Lauretanae in D, K195 [29:38]
Litanae Laurentanae in B flat, K243 [11:02]
CD 3
Vesperae solennes de Domenica in C, K321 [32:35]
Vesperae Solennes de Confessore in C, K339 [27:21]
Regina Coeli in `B flat, K127 [14:46]
Sancta Maria, K273 [3:22]
Regina Coeli in C, K276 [6:45]
CD 4
Scande coeli in C, K34 [4:48]
Inter natos mulierium in G, K72 [5:47]
Benedictus in C, K117 [7:37]
Sub tuum praesideum in F, K198 [4:18]
Misericrdias Domini in D minor, K222 [7:35]
Venite populi in D, K260 [4:58]
Alma Dei Creatoris in F, K277 [5:18]
Liturgical Chant, K20 [0:58]
Miserere in A minor, K85 [10:16]
Quaerte orimum, K86 [1:28]
Deutsche Kirchenlieder, K343 [10:53]
Regina Coeli in C, K108 [17:43]
CD 5
Mass in C minor, K427 [54:11]
Veni sancte Spiritus in C, K47 [4:38] 
Te Deum in C, K141 [6:57]
Ergo interest in G, K143 [5:57]
Kommet her in B flat, K146 [4:02]
CD 6
Kyrie in D minor, K341 [7:18]
Missa Solemnis in C, K337 [26:41]
Dixit Dominus-Magnificat in C, K193 [10:20]
CD 7
Orgelsolo Messe in C, 259 [11:19]
Spaurmesse in C, K258 [17:41]
Credo-Messe in C, K257 [27:44]
Missa brevis in B flat, K275 [19:08]
CD 8
Spatzenmesse in C, K20 [16:23]
Missa brevis in D, 194 [17:01]
Missa brevis in F, K192 [20:51]
CD 9
Trinitatis-Messe in C, K167 [17:09]
Missa brevis in G, K140 [16:20]
Missa longa in C, K262 [28:00]
CD 10
Waisenhausmesse in C minor, K139]
Missa Brevis in D minor, K65 [12:55]
Exsultate, jubilate in F, K165 [16:26]
CD 11
Dominicusmesse in C, K66 [47:19]
Missa Brevis in G, K49 [17:42]
Kyrie in F, K33 [2:16]
Tantum ergo in D, K197 [3:27]
Ave verum corpus in D, K618 [3:04] 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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