Members of the Bavarian State Opera Chorus perform works by Donizetti & Mayr

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COMPOSERS: Donizetti,Mayr
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Donizetti & Mayr
WORKS: Messa di Gloria; Credo in D
PERFORMER: Siri Karoline Thornhill, Marie-Sophie Pollak (soprano), Marie-Sande Papenmeyer (alto), Mark Adler (tenor), Martin Berner (bass); Simon Mayr Choir; Members of the Bavarian State Opera Chorus; Concerto de Bassus/Franz Hauk
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573605

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Giovanni Simone Mayr was the first of Donizetti’s teachers, and they remained lifelong friends. As well as opera, Mayr specialised in church music, while much of Donizetti’s sacred output dates either from his years of study or the beginning of his career before he really got going on the operatic circuit. There’s only one complete authentic Mass setting by Donizetti – in C minor (1837) – and even this was assembled by him from earlier pieces.

What Franz Hauk and his period-instrument forces present here is thus not an authentic Mass but one put together (as Donizetti had the C minor work) using earlier works by the composer (a Kyrie and a Gloria), eked out with a Credo performed in a version adapted by Mayr (Donizetti’s original seems to be lost); in addition, the disc is completed by some smaller religious pieces by both composers.

The performances are capable, with solid singing and playing revealing the qualities of church music very much conceived in the Italian style of the day – that is, broadly operatic. Soprano Siri Karoline Thornhill is fluent in the ‘Laudamus te’ and Martin Berner’s sturdy bass makes something jocular out of the ‘Domine Jesu’, while Theona Gubba-Chkheidze makes a fine job of the extensive violin obbligato to the ‘Qui sedes’ – actually written by a third participant, Pietro Rovelli, one of the leading virtuosos of the time and a teacher at Mayr’s school in Bergamo. The ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’, on the other hand, represents the more sombre side of Donizetti’s creativity.

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George Hall