Florian Helgath conducts Mayr’s Mass in C and Stabat Mater

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COMPOSERS: Mayr
LABELS: Carus
ALBUM TITLE: Mayr
WORKS: Mass in C; Stabat Mater
PERFORMER: Katja Stuber (soprano), Marion Eckstein (alto), Fernando Guimarães (tenor), Tareq Nazmi (bass); Orpheus Vokalensemble; Concerto Köln/Florian Helgath
CATALOGUE NO: 83.480

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Simon Mayr is mostly remembered as Donizetti’s teacher, but as recent recordings of his sacred music reveal, there is more to him than that; more, even, than the 70 operas he produced over his long career in his adopted Italy. According to expert Franz Hauk’s liner notes, Mayr produced in all some 600 sacred compositions; many of these are individual mass movements but they also included 18 complete masses. 

The one heard on this disc dates from 1825, the year after the German-born, long-term Bergamo resident staged his final opera; in fact it’s a composite piece, Mayr for some reason using in the Credo sections written the year before by his former star pupil. Even at this advanced point in his career Mayr adheres to the values of the Classical Austro-German tradition he had grown up with: he was born in Bavaria just eight years after Mozart. His writing is skilful and often imaginative: attractively mixing German and Italian elements, the result is worthwhile.

The Stabat Mater is earlier, perhaps dating from around 1803, or not long afterwards – soon after Mayr had become Bergamo’s maestro di cappella. The affecting interweaving of lines in the grief-stricken opening chorus is one notable feature, the obbligato violin solo in the Eja mater another. 

Recorded in an appropriate ecclesiastical acoustic, both pieces receive secure performances, with a well-balanced and stylistically confident quartet of soloists. The choral singing combines vitality with fluidity while Florian Helgath’s spirited conducting keeps both pieces nicely on the move.

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George Hall