Mozart: Litanie de venerabili altaris sacramento

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LABELS: EuroArts
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: Litanie de venerabili altaris sacramento
WORKS: Litanie de venerabili altaris sacramento, K243; Missa longa in C major, K262
PERFORMER: Sylvia Schwartz (soprano), Elisabeth von Magnus (mezzo-soprano), Jeremy Ovenden (tenor), Florian Boesch (baritone); Arnold Schoenberg Chor; Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt


These two impressive sacred works were filmed in Salzburg Cathedral at the festival in 2012. The liner notes tell us that this is ‘the very place where they were first heard in 1776’, but this may not be true of the Missa Longa, K262, since grand fugues and extra instruments (it has both) were usually banned from that location. The performances are designed to match ‘as closely as possible to the original sound’. It is odd, then, that the organ continuo clearly specified by Mozart is omitted.

In the Mass the choral fugues are really impressive (‘Cum sancto spiritu’, and ‘Et vitam venturi’), though Mozart’s dynamics in this work are rather choppy and contrasted, and occasionally his little thumps begin to get out of control. The extended orchestral preludes to the Kyrie and ‘Et in spiritum sanctum’, however, are beautifully alert and well managed.

In the Litany setting, K243, the vocal soloists have more opportunity to shine, though with mixed results. Sylvia Schwartz (soprano) knows how to phrase this music, but in ‘Dulcissimum convivium’ she struggles with the speed in the coloratura passages, and in the Agnus offers a very perfunctory cadenza. The tenor Jeremy Ovenden has a pleasing voice, but seems incapable of singing a trill (a fault shared with the mezzo-soprano). Florian Boesch is impressive though somewhat stentorian in ‘Dona nobis pacem’ (which, after all, means ‘give us peace’). The filming is routine though the picture quality is vivid and excellent (especially on the Blu-ray version).


Anthony Pryer