Ian Page: Mozart, Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots, K35
The Obligation of the First Commandment was composed by Mozart when he was just 11. Though it contains stage directions, Ian Page’s notes suggest that any 1767 Salzburg staging would have been rudimentary; think of it, perhaps, as an oratorio as much as sacred opera.
It is certainly sacred. Ignaz Anton von Weiser’s libretto shows a half-hearted Christian tempted by Worldliness, though finally brought back into the fold by the cajoling of Divine Mercy and the threats of Divine Justice. Mozart contributed the first section of the three-part work; the remaining parts, by Michael Haydn and Anton Adlgasser, are lost.
Amid much that is merely accomplished, the piece contains genuinely memorable ideas: the howling of the damned described by Christianity in an accompanied recitative is extraordinary.
The piece is performed to a high standard, with tenors Andrew Kennedy and Allan Clayton making the most of the Spirit of Christianity and the Half-Hearted Christian respectively. Soprano Sophie Bevan suggests all the pleasures of Worldliness, and soprano Sarah
Fox exemplifies a compassionate Divine Mercy.