Mozart Missa Solemnis

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart Missa Solemnis
WORKS: Missa solemnis; Vesperae de Domenica; Regina caeli
PERFORMER: Lynda Russell (soprano), Lina Markeby (mezzo-soprano), James Oxley (tenor), David Wilson-Johnson (baritone); Simon Johnson (organ); St Paul’s Cathedral Choir; St Paul’s Mozart Orchestra/Andrew Carwood


Mozart wrote a considerable amount of sacred music, though his two most ambitious Christian works, the Mass in C minor and the Requiem, are torsos. Perhaps the greatest depth of feeling is to be found in the Masonic works, apart from the exquisite tiny Ave verum corpus, 47 bars of pure inspiration. The completed religious works are mostly quite early, and don’t have the seriousness and grandeur one might expect. It’s easy to understand why Stravinsky lovingly called them ‘sweets of sin’.

The so-called Missa solemnis which opens the disc begins with a gravity which it doesn’t attempt to retain, and most of the rest of this relatively brief work is more Handelian than Bachian in feeling; rather noisy too. In fact most of the music here is performed by the good soloists and enthusiastic chorus with gusto, so the chief impression is of lusty praise, though there are some delightful fairly florid solo passages where Mozart’s adoration of the female voice is more evident than his devotion to God. Though Mozart was certainly capable of writing music of religious awe and depth, it tends to be more in certain secular works, in his mature operas and even some instrumental works.

The St Paul’s team seems to be enjoying itself, though the vibrato-free string playing is something of a hair shirt, and consorts oddly with the pleasure evident in what it is introducing or accompanying.


Michael Tanner