Mozart Missa Brevis in D major

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COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart Missa Brevis in D major
WORKS: Missa Brevis in D major; Regina Coeli in B flat; Allegro & Andante in F minor; Missa Brevis in B flat
PERFORMER: Elizabth Cragg (soprano), Deborah Miles-Johnson (contralto), Daniel Auchincloss (tenor), Lawrence White (bass), Tom Winpenny (organ); St Albans Cathedral Choir; Sinfonia Verdi/Andrew Lucas
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573092


Mozart’s settings of the Mass for ecclesiastical usage are among the most interesting of his early works. He was aware of the Austrian requirement to keep them short, since the whole service was not supposed to last more than 45 minutes. Mozart had to write music that rattles through the text at speed, with a couple of chances to expand.

In the Mass in D he saves the best till last, the Agnus Dei, and in the Mass in B flat that is also the most leisurely setting. Both are performed with energy, clarity and poise by the St Albans Cathedral Choir and the Sinfonia Verdi, with good though not, so far as one can tell, outstanding soloists.

But the earliest piece here, the Regina Coeli, is more impressive than either of the Masses because Mozart has far less text to set and can therefore indulge himself in flowery solos, especially for soprano, of the kind that he adored. The penultimate section is exquisitely lovely, and finely sung by Elizabeth Cragg. However the Fantasia in F minor, written for mechanical organ but played here on a manually operated one, puts everything else in the shade.

Mozart seems to have viewed the commission with such contempt that he pulled all the stops out, as it were, and produced one of his most profound instrumental pieces, of immense austere nobility, and drawn from the world of The Magic Flute.


Michael Tanner