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Johann Simon MAYR (1763-1845)
Messa di Gloria in E minor (1820-1834)
Messa di Gloria in F minor (1820)
Dorota Szczepańska (soprano), Anna Feith (soprano), Freya Apffelstaedt (mezzo-soprano), Maria Grazia Insam (mezzo), Markus Schäfer (tenor), Fang Zhi (tenor), Elia Merguet (baritone), Thomas Stimmel (bass)
Simon Mayr Chorus
Concerto de Bassus/Franz Hauk
rec. 23-27 June 2019, Asamkirche Maria de Victoria, Ingolstadt, Germany
NAXOS 8.574203 [80:09]

I was little aware of Johann Simon Mayr until I joined London’s Donizetti Society. In their magazine, John Allitt gave biographical aspects of Mayr’s oeuvre. Mayr was as substantial a composer as Mozart, capable of equally sophisticated levels of orchestration. And yet he has been sidelined (until Franz Hauk started recording his compositions over a decade ago).

Born in Bavaria, Mayr went to study in Italy under Bertoni. As Donizetti was tutored by Mayr, a link between their compositions is understandable and is why compositions by both of them  are found to be mentally accessible and engaging. Being brought up in Bavaria, Mayr's works show a clear influence of the German school; consequently,  his style, with a mixture of Germany and Italy, carries a noticeable resemblance to Mozart and Rossini. There is much variety in texture and inventiveness in the numbers of these Masses.

Hauk’s Mayr recordings over the last decade have been mostly made at the location of this recording. So, his experience has fine-tuned the recordings to match their surroundings. The crisp first violins are a joy, and the vocalists are excellent. What we hear is first-class.

The E minor Mass is the more lightly scored. There are some delicate moments that are particularly endearing. In one or two of the numbers in this Mass, I felt the singers were perhaps a little strident in delivery, and might have considered a more dolce approach.

The F minor Mass is somewhat brighter. It is more richly orchestrated, uses more voice colour in its sections, and so becomes the more powerful piece. I like the clarity of the tenors in both Masses. Dorota Szczepańska’s exacting coloratura in Qui tollis (track 5) is memorable. My highlight of the F minor Mass is the haunting yer charming Suscipe duet (track 12); the vocals are superbly balanced between Fang Zhi and Anna Feith.

A slight confusion in the notes makes one wonder whether Freya Apffelstaedt or Maria Insam sings on track 3, and typesetting has given Apffelstaedt both an alto and a soprano voice. The notes contain both Latin and English versions of the Kyrie and Gloria, but sadly of no other sections of these Masses. The electronic track titles in the Gracenote database are inexplicably encoded in Japanese, though the CD labeling, inlay and notes are in English.
Raymond J Walker

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