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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Der heitere Mozart (The Lighter Side of Mozart)
See below for track-listing
Erika Köth (soprano)
Peter Schreier (tenor)
Hermann Prey (bass)
Walter Berry (bass-baritone)
Convivium Musicum München/Erich Keller
Wiener Akademie Kammerchor/Xaver Meyer
Mitglieder des Sinnhoffer Kammerorchesters München
rec. June 1966, July 1973, Bürgerbräu, Munich
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 628920 [66:33]

No doubt something enormously witty is going on in this CD, but if there is then it beats me. It’s a good idea to assemble a collection of Mozart’s “lighter” material, but to make it accessible you need a way into that late 18th century way of thinking, and the almost complete lack of notes in this issue makes that impossible. With neither texts nor translations, and only a very brief essay, the vast majority of material on this disc will be inaccessible to listeners, beyond it being a pleasant enough collection of tunes.

That lack of documentation tends to be the case with most issues in this “Cologne Collection” set of Warner reissues, but I don’t really think there is any excuse for this, especially in today’s age of digitally accessible PDFs. Wit and humour are difficult enough things to translate between language and cultures, and to do so is almost impossible without any knowledge of the actual words being sung.

Most of the vocal numbers are less than three minutes long and range from 0:26 to 5:06 in length. The singing itself is pleasant enough, particularly from the distinguished roster of men. The various choral numbers sound very pleasant, too, though sometimes the recording is a little too brittle and needs more bloom. Erika Köth is a little shrill in places, though, and her (no doubt hilarious) impression of a cat on track 15 is downright bizarre.

The one instrumental work on the disc, A Musical Joke, isn’t played particularly well, either. That might sound like an odd thing to say about a piece of music that relies for much of its impact on “wrong” notes, but Mozart knew what he was doing when he wrote it, and he expected the notes he committed to the page to be played accurately. Instead, the — seemingly conductorless — players of the Munich Chamber Orchestra seem almost to apologise for what they’re doing and, worse, rely for effect on very sudden, and, I’m sure, unwritten, increases in dynamics or tempo that rob the music of what should be its proper impact.

This just won’t do, and the mid-range price doesn’t justify it. This disc remains, sadly, a baffling and inaccessible curiosity.

Simon Thompson

Track-Listing
1 Freundin! Ich komm' mit der Zither (Terzett) - Peter Schreier
2 Caro mio Druck und Schluck, K.571a (Quartett) - Erika Köth
3 Stille, stille! Leise, still! (Terzett) - Peter Schreier
4 Difficile lectu mihi Mars, K.559 (Kanon) - Wiener Akademie Kammerchor
5 Das gestörte Ständchen, K.441c (Terzett) - Peter Schreier
6 Verewigt glüht hier Herz und Sinn (Terzett) - Peter Schreier
7 Auf das Wohl aller Freunde, K.508 (Kanon) - Wiener Akademie Kammerchor
8 Heiterkeit und leichtes Blut, K.507 (Kanon) - Wiener Akademie Kammerchor
9 Die Singstunde, K.441c (Terzett) - Peter Schreier
10 Lieber Freistädtler, K.232 (Kanon) - Wiener Akademie Kammerchor
11 Die Nacht ist finster, K.441b (Terzett) - Peter Schreier
12 Bandelterzett, K.441 (Terzett) - Erika Köth
13 O du eselhafter Martin, K.560 (Kanon) - Wiener Akademie Kammerchor
14 Brüder, laßt uns lustig sein, K.344 (Arie) - Peter Schreier
15 Nun liebes Weibchen, K.592 (Duett) - Erika Köth
16 Gehn ma'n Prada, K.558 (Kanon) - Wiener Akademie Kammerchor
17 Wer hungrig bei der Tafel sitzt, K.344 (Arie) - Walter Berry
18 Essen und Trinken, K.234 (Kanon) - Wiener Akademie Kammerchor
19 Warnung, K.433a (Arie) - Walter Berry
20 Bona nox, bist a rechta Ox, K.561 (Kanon) - Wiener Akademie Kammerchor
21-24 Ein musikalischer Spaß in F Major, K.522 - Mitglieder des Sinnhoffer Kammerorchesters München