Mozart

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Erato
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Coronation Mass; Vesperae solennes de confessore
PERFORMER: Sandrine Piau (soprano), Renata Pokupi´c (alto), Benjamin Bruns (tenor), Andreas Wolf (bass); Accentus; Insula Orchestra / Laurence Equilbey
CATALOGUE NO: 9029587253

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Both these works feature a famous aria for solo soprano: the ‘Agnus Dei’ in the Coronation Mass, its melody – a precursor of the Countess’s ‘Dove sono’ from The Marriage of Figaro  –  delicately accompanied by muted violins and pizzicato basses; and in the Vespers, K339, the gently lilting ‘Laudate Dominum’. Both were probably composed for Maria Magdalena Lipp, a court singer in Salzburg who was the wife of Haydn’s younger brother, Michael. The arias are attractively sung on this new recording by Sandrine Piau.

Mozart once complained that although his employer, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, liked to keep his Masses on the short side, they still had to be composed for full orchestra, including ‘war-like’ trumpets and drums. Alas, the music’s dramatic quality is lacking in these performances. That may partly be due to the chorus being rather distantly balanced, but Laurence Equilbey hardly seems to respond to the essential character of these pieces. When Mozart begins his Vespers by having the chorus come in on the very first beat with the words ‘Dixit Dominus’, we expect something much more imposing than the feeble sound we’re offered here. Even less satisfactory is the same work’s ‘Laudate pueri’ – an austere fugue in the solemn key of D minor which looks forward to the ‘Kyrie’ from Mozart’s Requiem. You’d never guess from this performance that the marking is forte, and that the chorus is supported by a trio of trombones.

Misha Donat

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