MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sacred Works
Rec. 1952-1998
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC HC20048 [6 CDs: 412:35]

This 6-CD set from Hänssler has a slightly random feel to it, and is presented in what could be politely described as a ‘no-frills’ format. That is to say no notes on music or performers, and no texts. Details of recordings are pared to the minimum, and in several cases entirely absent. And how odd to begin a boxed set of Mozart’s sacred works with a complete work by Handel – Messiah no less - occupying the whole of the first two CDs! I failed to find the name ‘Handel’ anywhere at all, either in the booklet, on the case, or on the CDs themselves. Mozart’s only the arranger, for heaven’s sake!

Never mind, there are plenty of good things here, and when you come down to it, the music is the thing. And it is provided by groups from a variety of German cities – Stuttgart, Munich, Köln (Cologne if you prefer) and Dresden, with six different conductors in charge, some with famous names, some more obscure. The dates of the recordings also vary widely, from an early Günter Wand ‘Coronation’ Mass of 1952 to a Colin Davis Kyrie in 1998. A word of caution here though; adding to the generally slapdash presentation, some of the recordings - those conducted by Klaus Knubben in Köln - have no details at all, though I believe they were released in 2004 or thereabouts.

The first two CDs, then, are devoted to Mozart’s 1789 version of Handel’s ‘Messiah’. It is of course surprising to hear everything sung in German instead of the original English. But not half so surprising as some of Mozart’s scoring. The confusion over the bass aria The trumpet shall sound is an hilarious case in point. Probably owing to the dearth of good trumpeters in Vienna at that time, Mozart scored the famous obbligato for horn instead of trumpet. However, the German translation of the opening phrase is ‘Sie schallt, die Posaun’ - ‘The trombone resounds’! And so it appears that the conductor here, Helmuth Rilling has decided to use a trombone instead of Mozart’s horn (or Handel’s trumpet). Make of it what you will…..

To be fair, there are some undoubtedly attractive bits of scoring, such as the chattering woodwind parts in All we like sheep. But other numbers sound hopelessly over-scored, such as the Overture and the Pastoral Symphony, replete with clarinets and trombones. The choral forces – the Gächinger Kantorei of Stuttgart – are in fine voice, but can’t muster much in the way of subtlety. There is a fine solo quintet, however (Mozart uses two soprano soloists), with the English bass Alastair Miles sounding particularly splendid.

With CD3 we at last move onto Mozartian ‘terra firma’, with two of his Masses. The first is the so-called ‘Credo Mass’, K247 of 1776. This is a fine work from Mozart’s Salzburg years, and I am surprised it isn’t better known than it is, with its powerful and dramatic opening Kyrie, and close collaboration between choir and soloists throughout. In fact, I find it far more interesting musically than the better-known ‘Coronation’ Mass of a few years later (and which appears on CD5).

The soloists make an excellent quartet, and are distinguished by the presence of the great Thomas Quasthoff, making it all the more strange that Hänssler don’t give us recording details of this and the other Köln performances directed by Klaus Knubben. The choral singing by the choristers of Limburg Cathedral is excellent, with fresh young voices and lots of contrast in dynamics and phrasing. The Sanctus is set to the same four-note motif on which Mozart based the finale of his final symphony, the ‘Jupiter’.

The other mass is of course one of Mozart’s greatest works, albeit an incomplete one. This is the C minor Mass, K427 of 1783, written - though Mozart was by then living in Vienna - for a performance in his home town of Salzburg. Nobody knows why it wasn’t finished, but it does seem to have been premiered in the incomplete form we have today. What we do know is that Mozart took his new wife Constanze with him to meet the family, and that she sang the soprano solo in the exquisite Et incarnates section – which her husband had no doubt designed for her with great care.

Rilling’s tempo at the start of the Kyrie is very pedestrian, and I feared the worst, for this opening movement really does hang fire. But things quickly improve, and the chorus really do make a seriously ‘big choir’ sound – they are formidable in great passages such as the huge fugue that concludes the Gloria. And in the beautiful Et incarnatus, Christiane Oelze’s phrasing and seemingly effortless negotiation of the wide vocal leaps are lovely to listen to, with sensitive contributions from the woodwind soloists. So, while this is far from a top recommendation for this masterpiece, it is well worth hearing, and good to have.

Moving on to CD4, Karl Richter is a conductor whose recordings will be affectionately recalled, and still proudly possessed, by many listeners of a certain age, even if they represent an approach to 18th century music that has fallen out of vogue. But there is an honesty about Richter that is wholly convincing. Even if he can be challenged on the letter of a score such as the Requiem K626, he captures magnificently the essential spirit of the piece. Richter was most famous as a Bach interpreter, and that stands him in good stead for the Requiem, this being, perhaps, the work in which Mozart’s close study of Bach comes to the fullest fruition. Richter brings tremendous clarity to the counterpoint in the big fugal passages, such as the Kyrie eleison, or Quam olim Abrahae. He has a fine solo quartet, with Karl Christian Kohn, who was a notable Sarastro in his day, resonant in the Tuba Mirum, and all four singers working together well in the ensemble passages. In the 60s, this was out there as one of the most popular and highly-rated versions on record, and listening now, it is easy to understand why – this is a thrilling performance.

Two short works complete CD4; the first a rather mysterious Kyrie in D minor, with the catalogue number K341. However, it is probably a later work than that suggests, almost certainly from the late 1780s. It was presumably intended as the opening section of a complete Mass – but there are no further sections. It’s nonetheless a powerful short movement, and a good opportunity to enjoy the work of Colin Davis and his excellent Dresden forces.

For the final item on CD4, we return to the Köln forces under Klaus Knubben for the bright Regina coeli setting, K 276, probably from 1779. Cheerful it may be, but it has brilliant writing for the chorus, and some passing shadows which add welcome contrast and depth to the work.

Turning to CD5, we have a performance of the ‘Coronation Mass’ K317 under that fine conductor Günter Wand. He was around 40 when this recording was made back in 1952; although he was such a gifted musician, it took him many years before his reputation spread internationally. I personally recall some very fine concerts in Manchester in the 1970s and 80s, by when he had established himself as a great Bruckner interpreter. The sound quality of this Mass recording is no more than OK for its time, and it has an enthusiastic choir, and a worthy group of soloists. The remainder of the CD is devoted to some of Mozart’s least lovable music, other than the late Ave verum corpus. The Vesperae de Dominica K321 actually had me wondering if it was by Mozart at all, so little is there that has his stamp on it, apart possibly from the brilliant aria for Laudate Pueri. The Te Deum K141 is a lively work, written when he was fifteen. That in itself is remarkable, but in fairness it should be said that the piece bears a spookily close likeness to Haydn’s Te Deum in C of a couple of years before. Another faux pas by Hänssler – they give a complete list of soloists even though the piece is for just chorus with orchestra.

CD6 is much more interesting; the Mass in C, K337 was one of the last works Mozart wrote before moving to Vienna, and as such has some wonderful things in it. The opening Kyrie is unusually restrained and thoughtful, ushered in by quite a long orchestral introduction, and the orchestration is interesting throughout. Even the trumpets get some nice moments, while the Agnus Dei is a ravishing soprano solo, with unmistakably Mozartian writing for woodwind. The melody line here begins exactly as does the great aria ‘Porgi amor’, reminding us that at this point in his career, Figaro wasn’t that far off in the future. I’d go as far as to say that this final section – Agnus Dei’ and ‘dona nobis pacem’- is on a completely different level from the rest of the Mass.

One great strength of this set is that there are so many fine solo singers to be heard. In the Litaniae de venerabili altaris sacramento K243 we are treated not only to the voice of the Scottish soprano Margaret Marshall, but to that of the great bass Karl Ridderbusch, best known as a Wagnerian, but well able to deliver stylish Mozart. On the minus side, the tenor Adolf Dallapozza is less pleasing, with a rapid vibrato that is tiring to listen to, while alto Cornelia Wulkopf is just underpowered. The seventh movement has the unusual title of Viaticum, apparently referring to the last rites. If that sounds morbid, it isn’t! This is a most original little movement, a sort of chorale prelude, with pizzicato strings and soft trombones accompanying a single choral line. Margaret Marshall is simply superb in the florid aria for Dulcissimum convivium, and even more so later in the delicious Agnus Dei, a fine movement, involving the whole ensemble, that brings this captivating work to a serene close.

Hänssler have given us a true ‘lollipop’ to round the disc off – the famous and delectable Laudate Dominum from Vesperae solennes de confessore, K 339. The outstanding German soprano Barbara Schlick delivers the goods.

All in all this is a thoroughly enjoyable set of recordings, with opportunities to hear excellent German choirs and orchestras under distinguished leadership. This just about enables me to forgive Hänssler Classics for their sloppy presentation – but only just!

Gwyn Parry-Jones

Messiah (G.F.Handel, transcribed Mozart)
Part 1 [56:20]
Messiah Part 2 [76:15]
Donna Brown (soprano I), Cornelia Kallisch (soprano II), Roberto Saccà (tenor), Alastair Miles (bass), Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling
Messiah recorded 1991 in Stuttgart
Mass in C major KV 257, ‘Credo-Messe’ [27:21]
Barbara Schlick (soprano), Erika Schmidt-Valentin (alto), Clemens Bieber (tenor), Thomas Quasthoff (bass) Limburger Domsingknaben, Gürzenich Chamber Orchestra/Klaus Knubben
(no recording details for KV 257)
Mass in C minor KV 427 (417a), reconstructed and completed by Helmut Eder [52:32]
Christiane Oelze (soprano I)), Ibolya Verebics (soprano II), Scot Weir (tenor), Oliver Widmer (bass), Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling
Rec. Stuttgart 1991
Requiem, KV626 [51:16]
Maria Stader (soprano), Hertha Toepper (alto), John van Kesteren (tenor), Karl Christian Kohn (bass), Munich Bach Choir, Munich Bach Orchestra/Karl Richter
Rec. 1961 in Munich
Kyrie in D minor, KV 341 [8:10]
Neil Stuart (tenor), Hans-Dieter Schöne (organ), Dresden State Opera Chorus, Dresden Symphony Chorus, Dresden Singakademie, Dresden Staatskapelle/Sir Colin Davis
Rec. 1998 in Dresden
Regina coeli, KV276 [6:50]
Barbara Schlick (soprano), Erika Schmidt-Valentin (alto), Clemens Bieber (tenor), Thomas Quasthoff (bass) Limburger Domsingknaben, Gürzenich Chamber Orchestra/Klaus Knubben
No recording details for KV 276
Mass in C major, KV317, ‘Coronation Mass’ [27:05]
Margot Guilleaume (soprano), Margit Kobeck (alto), Johannes Feyerabend (tenor), Ewald Kaldeweier (bass),Cologne Radio Choir, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra/Günter Wand
Rec. in Cologne in 1952
Vesperae de Dominica KV 321 [28:29]
Brigitte Dürrler (soprano), Julla Hamari (alto), Werner Krenn (tenor), Kunizaku Ohashu (bass),Cologne Radio Choir, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra/Günter Wand
Rec. 1968 in Cologne
Ave verum corpus, KV 618 [3:16]
Te Deum laudamus, KV 141 [7:17]
Barbara Schlick (soprano), Erika Schmidt-Valentin (alto), Clemens Bieber (tenor), Thomas Quasthoff (bass) Limburger Domsingknaben, Gürzenich Chamber Orchestra/Klaus Knubben
No recording details for KV 618 and KV 141

Missa Solemnis in C KV 337 [23:03]
Christiane Oelze (soprano), Barbara Hölzl (alto), Andreas Schulist (tenor), Joachim Gebhardt (bass), Munich Motet Choir, Residenz Orchester Munich/Hans Rudolf Zöbeley
Rec. 1988 in Munich
Litaniae de venerabili altaris sacramento, KV 243 [34:17]
Margaret Marshall (soprano), Cornelia Wulkopf (alto), Adolf Dallapolza (tenor), Karl Ridderbusch (bass), Choir and Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio/Günter Wand
Rec. 1982 in Munich
Alma Dei creatoris, KV 277 [5:33]
Laudate Dominum, KV 339 [4:11]
No recording details for KV 277 and KV 339

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing