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Joseph MAYSEDER (1789-1863)
Mass in E Flat Major, p.64 (1848) [30.48]
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No.2 in E minor, Op.26 (1809) [29.28]
Thomas Christian (violin)
Wiener Sängerknaben
Herrenchor der Wiener Hofmusikkapelle
Mitglieder des Ensembles der Wiener Hofmusikkapelle/Thomas Christian
rec. 2019, Hofburgkapelle, Hofburg, Vienna
GRAMOLA 99200 [60.24]

These are world premiere recordings of fascinating repertoire.

For those who love Mass settings, there is much to enjoy here, despite a few reservations about the recording, and it is a useful reminder of the underexplored riches to be found in 19th Century Austrian church music. Few, for instance, explore or are even familiar with, any of the 45 masses by the Brixen-based Ignaz Mitterer, works which, while not lacking theatrical elements and some consummate musicianship, never forget their liturgical purpose.

Mayseder was Vienna-based, violin soloist of the Vienna Court Opera, and from 1830, leader of the Hofmusikkapelle. Most of his compositions were, unsurprisingly, for violin, but there are also many chamber music works. Gramola have given sterling service in promoting his cause, not least in half-a-dozen releases of chamber music and others covering virtuoso violin works and the violin concertos. The E flat major mass seems to be his only exercise in the form. A relatively late work, it has a slightly unusual orchestration, of strings, bassoons, clarinets, horns, trumpets, trombones and timpani. The result is a score which is slightly brass-heavy without the lightening of higher woodwinds. There is a mixed chorus, but no solo writing. The mass was once very popular: from its first performance at the Hofburgkapelle, in the Imperial Palace, in 1848, it would be performed at 49 New Year masses, up to 1935, and 131 times in all, not counting many performances elsewhere. Yet, since 1940, it has dropped out of fashion.

The new recording has the authenticity of both performers and place of performance. It has a solemnity and sincerity of utterance, while pushing few musical boundaries. Especially lovely is the 5-minute Kyrie, which emerges quietly and contemplatively, with soft brass and gently throbbing strings. The Gloria is jubilant where appropriate, and relatively brief – memories of the style of Michael Haydn are not far away, either here or in the ensuing Credo. Neither is showy, but quieter moments are wonderfully poised. Performances lack little in fervour or purpose. Phrasing of the orchestra could be a little sharper in places, and at times, the sound favours the orchestra over the admirable choruses. But these issues are not so intrusive as to take away any pleasure.

In the Violin Concerto, Thomas Christian brings out both the virtuosity and the changes of mood, very notably in the Andante second movement. The work itself, while conventional in structure, touches a variety of emotions – some quite bleak – and moves beyond mere display of technique to genuine depth. At times I would have preferred a richer violin tone, but Christian’s artistry cannot be doubted.

This is a worthy release, and an encouragement to explore more deeply into the world of Mayseder.

Michael Wilkinson

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