Mozart: Coronation Mass in C; Ave verum corpus; Vesperae solennes de Confessore

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Coronation Mass in C; Ave verum corpus; Vesperae solennes de Confessore
PERFORMER: (alto), Christopher Watson (tenor), Christopher Borrett (bass); Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum/Benjamin Nichols; Charivari Agreáble/ Kah-Ming Ng
CATALOGUE NO: DCD 34102

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Mozart’s last completed Mass setting and the second of his two main sets of Vespers are brought together in this disc. It focuses on Tewkesbury Abbey’s regular choir and the Oxford-based period-instrument ensemble under its Malaysian-born director. Results are mixed. The orchestra is alert, but in this recording the strings are often overwhelmed by the wind and timpani, though the overall warm and resonant acoustic is apt enough.

The all-male choir is internally well balanced, though it’s not always precisely on the beat or unanimously in tune. Occasionally more clarity and emphasis are needed. Ng conducts energetically, though the Credo loses impetus after a lively start. The short motet Ave verum corpus, however, is smoothly delivered and nicely shaped.

The solo quartet is perfectly respectable, even if they fall below pitch at ‘Et incarnatus est’ in the Mass. But the treble Laurence Kilsby, winner of the BBC’s 2009 Chorister of the Year award, makes a very strong showing in his important solos. His tone is sweet and his voice is graceful in the Agnus Dei of the Mass, nigh-on perfect in the Laudate Dominum of the Vespers.

But it’s not quite enough to make this a prime recommendation in such widely recorded pieces. Nikolaus Harnoncourt combines the two main works in his period-instrument version with Concentus Musicus Wien, while Christopher Hogwood’s edition with the Academy of Ancient Music also has adult soloists though a treble-led choir.

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George Hall