WORKS: Mass in C Minor
PERFORMER: Gillian Keith (soprano), Tove Dahlberg (mezzo-soprano), Thomas Cooley (tenor), Nathan Berg (bass-baritone); Handel and Haydn Society/ Harry Christophers
CATALOGUE NO: COR16084
Mozart’s C minor Mass is both a great work and a torso. Begun in 1782, it was at least partially performed in Salzburg, where Mozart and his newly acquired wife had made a placatory visit to his father Leopold, in October of that year, following the birth of their first child.
Apart from a thanks-offering, Mozart also used the piece to develop his contrapuntal skills, excited as he was by his discovery of the masterpieces of Bach and Handel. At any rate it’s a substantial piece that works well, even in the incomplete form Mozart left it.
In this live performance recorded in Boston in January 2010, Harry Christophers conducts the movements Mozart himself finished, and does not add any of the remainder of the setting (though there are various completions available by other hands).
The Handel and Haydn Society, of which Christophers became artistic director in 2009, fields an impressive period-instrument orchestra, and a game and regularly strong choir, though the sopranos are a touch tentative and occasionally wide of the note when higher up their range. Some of the faster passages – notably in the ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ – are fuzzy, something not helped by a recording that could also do with more clarity.
Of the soloists, the finest is soprano Gillian Keith, consistently graceful and utterly winning in the ‘Et incarnatus est’. Her mezzo-soprano colleague Tove Dahlberg’s fleshy, light tone will sound rather vibrato-prone for some tastes.
With less to do, the two male soloists are fine. But the overall result is not as clean or as purposeful as John Eliot Gardiner’s recording on Philips. George Hall