LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Mass in C K257 (Credo); Litaniae de venerabili K243
PERFORMER: Angela Maria Blasi, Elisabeth von Magnus, Deon van der Walt, Alastair Miles; Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 9031 72304-2 DDD
Nikolaus Harnoncourt makes a persuasive advocate for the 20-year-old Mozart’s church music. He sweeps briskly through its moments of conventionality; in such music sentiment can quickly become sententious. The characteristically direct style leaves little space for the histrionic distortions which mar his striking opera performances.
The Mass acquires the name ‘Credo’ from the skilful handling of a four-note motto, but greater delights are the scintillating Gloria and the touching Agnus. If the prevailing high spirits have little to do with devotion, they allow latitude for drama, and in the 1776 Litanies for the Veneration of the Altar of the Sacrament an almost Idomeneo-like continuity from the ripely expressive E flat major opening to its return at the end. Parts of the text inspire Mozart to questing harmonies in sombre colours with trombones, others to counterpoint. The fugue ‘Pignis futurae’ is, however, too ponderously extended for its ingenious devices to make their full effect.
Period instruments add a piquant flavour to performances which are vocally entirely modern, with mixed voices. The excellent Arnold Schoenberg Choir is responsive to every nuance; the soloists make a less marked impression but I admire the tenor’s crisp coloratura in the most elaborately wrought aria. Highly enjoyable. Julian Rushton