Mozart: Mass in C minor, K427 (Great); Ave, verum corpus, K618

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Philips
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
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