WORKS: Mass in C (Coronation); Epistle Sonata in C K278; Vesperae solennes de confessore K339
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby, Catherine Robbin, John Mark Ainsley, Michael George; Winchester Cathedral Choir, Winchester College Quiristers, Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood
CATALOGUE NO: 436 585-2 DDD
With so many versions of Mozart’s Coronation Mass currently available (why doesn’t somebody do some Haydn masses for a change?) a new recording has to be very good to make its mark. Well, Christopher Hogwood’s performance has a lot going for it, not least some exquisite singing from Emma Kirkby in her big solo, the Agnus Dei. The combined Winchester singers do well, though the recording (made in St Jude’s Church, Hampstead) might have given the men a little more help. I can’t help feeling sorry for any choir that has to finish a number emphatically by singing ‘Amun’ (when ‘Amen’ sounds so much more final), but if that’s what they did in 18th-century Salzburg then so be it. The Solemn Vespers of 1780 make a suitable if less-than-generous coupling, and again it’s Emma Kirkby who brings the performance to life, with a beautiful account of the ‘Laudate Dominum’.
Throughout the disc Hogwood produces orchestral playing which is well-disciplined rather than especially interesting, and there are occasional ensemble problems between choir and orchestra. But there is plenty to enjoy nevertheless, and the recording is clear and generally well-balanced. Stephen Maddock