Mozart: Vesperae solennes de Confessore

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart,Schubert
LABELS: Carus
WORKS: Mozart: Vesperae solennes de Confessore; Schubert: Mass in E flat, D950
PERFORMER: Genia Kühmeier (soprano), Christa Mayer (mezzo-soprano), Timothy Robinson, Oliver Ringelhahn (tenor), Matthew Rose (bass); Staatopernchor Dresden; Staatskapelle Dresden/
CATALOGUE NO: 83.249

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Carus are issuing an interesting series of discs taken live at the rebuilt Frauenkirche in Dresden, from which comes this amiable and slightly unfocused version of the Schubert Mass in E flat. It seems to fall between two stools – it’s not in the epic mould of Wolfgang Sawallisch, but neither is it especially nuanced, as in the recent Richard Hickox/Collegium 90 recording on Chandos.

Though it’s good to hear the fruits of Charles Mackerras’s thought on this great work, and indeed hear his belated debut with the Dresden Staatskapelle, the performance rarely coheres into a revelatory venture. The Dresden opera chorus seem averse to bringing any commitment to the text, and there is an overall flaccidity to many movements.

Even the rather fast ‘Benedictus’ seems curiously under-energised (Hickox’s fresh-sounding soloists are so much more gratifying in his version of this gloriously lush movement). There is nice ensemble work from the orchestra, particularly in the woodwind section, but the live recording format doesn’t really do them justice – the sound is rather uniformly grey. 

Presumably the companion piece, the Mozart Vespers, opened the live concert, but what on earth happened to the musicians during the interval? They were at a totally different level of music-making before embarking on the Schubert, and I would gladly recommend the disc for this Vespers performance alone.

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Here the inner detail is abundant, the text passionately engaged and energy levels fully caffeinated. Soloists and chorus alike seem much more responsive. The rather laconic ‘Laudate Dominum’ is really captivating. I guess this piece soaked up all the rehearsal time, then. William Whitehead