Mayr, Mozart (Attrib.)

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COMPOSERS: Mayr,Mozart (Attrib.)
WORKS: Mass in C minor
PERFORMER: Marina Ulewicz (soprano), Christa Mayer (alto), Thomas Cooley (tenor), Thomas Gropper (bass); Ingolstadt Vocal Ensemble, Georgian CO Ingolstadt/Franz Hauk
A famous and influential composer of Italian opera, Simon Mayr also wrote prolifically for the church in his later years. And on the evidence of this Mass of 1825-6 there was minimal difference between his sacred and operatic idioms. There are feints at solemnity in the C minor Kyrie, and spasmodic fugal flirtations elsewhere. But the unabashed secularity of, say, the jaunty, Rossinian ‘Quoniam’ or the Agnus Dei, with its cavorting clarinet obbligato, makes Haydn’s late Masses seem models of propriety by comparison. Mayr obviously knew his Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven; and parts of the Credo are cheerfully filched from a Mass by his star pupil Donizetti. Good fun, up to a point, though for all Mayr’s melodic amiability and colourful wind-writing, his invention rarely lingers in the memory. The three fill-ups, optimistically billed as ‘unknown choral works’ by Mozart, turn out not to be by Mozart at all. The Salve regina has long been dismissed as spurious, while the other two pieces are anonymous ‘parodies’ to sacred texts of the Adagio from the great B flat Wind Serenade, K361 (with the wind solos tamely replaced by violin and organ), and of the glorious scena Ch’io mi scordi di te. Soprano Marina Ulewicz sings this with warm tone and shapely phrasing. Elsewhere the performances, if slightly homespun, are more than acceptable, with well-drilled choral singing and some neatly turned solo instrumental contributions. Richard Wigmore