WORKS: Mass in C minor, K427 (Great); Ave, verum corpus, K618
PERFORMER: Kiri Te Kanawa (soprano) Anne Sofie von Otter (contralto) Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor) Robert Lloyd (bass)Academy and Chorus of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
CATALOGUE NO: 438 999-2 DDD
It’s customary for commentators on Mozart’s sacred works to emphasise the composer’s strong indebtedness to the music of the Baroque era. However, Marriner’s rather spacious conception of the ‘Great’ C minor Mass seems to point inexorably towards the 19th century. In the opening Kyrie, for example, he favours a broad tempo so as to highlight Mozart’s intensely chromatic harmony, and the heavy-handed dotted rhythms of the ‘Qui tollis’ seem to suggest Beethoven rather than Handel. This may all be perfectly valid, but I find the performance only occasionally springs to life, as in the marvellous closing section of the Gloria. Elsewhere, Kiri Te Kanawa offers a typically sensuous account of the ‘Et incarnatus est’, but it’s a pity that her pitching is not absolutely accurate in a couple of places.
Trevor Pinnock doesn’t have the benefit of such a star-studded line-up of soloists, but I prefer his performances, which have greater freshness and rhythmic dynamism. Of course, the clearer textures of period instruments, as well as the employment of a smaller choir, are an obvious advantage, and the more generous programme, which includes a stunning account of the much-loved Exsultate, jubilate from Barbara Bonney, makes this an irresistible release by any standards. Erik Levi