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Eredità Galanti

Alberto Gaspardo organ
56:40
Barcode 8 05571 5 60000 9
SFB Records 002

Available from: accademia.superfluminababylonis@gmail.com

Like so many other musicians in the early 18th century, the Venetian-born Giovanni Battista Pescetti found his way to London in search of a career. The fact that he wrote so extensively for keyboard takes us back to his ancestry, and specifically his father Giaconto Pescetti, who was custodian of the organs in San Marco, and a famous builder of organs. One of the many delights of this CD is that the son’s music is played on an instrument built by the father. As the title of the CD suggests, Pescetti’s music is predominantly in the galant style, and as the excellent programme note points out his cantabile movements are particularly charming. The Pescetti organ in the Chiesa di S. Giacomo Apostolo in Polcenigo offers a pleasing range of stops, of which the organist Alberto Gaspardo makes full use. The decision to complete the programme with works by two composers born in 1991, Roberto Squillaci and Nathan Mondry, may have proved risky, except that the two young composers are clearly well-versed in Pescetti’s music and seem to be commenting on the galant style – while the latter is writing a form of pastiche, the former has a more pungent, angular response to Pescetti’s sound-world. Compared to the organ music of the Baroque and the Romatic eras. galant organ music of the 18th century is often overlooked, and it is a genuine delight to hear a programme like this, imaginatively and musically presented, and including modern works which comment so intelligently and sympathetically on the earlier repertoire.

D. James Ross

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Recording

Resurrexi!

Easter in Vienna with Mozart and the Haydn brothers
Emily Dickens, Rebekah Jones, Philippe Durrant, Graham Kirk SmSTB, Choir of Keble College, Oxford, Instruments of Time and Truth, directed by Paul Brough
56:05
CRD 3539

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In an amusing and rather winning introductory note Paul Brough, the musical director of Keble College, disarmingly explains that the objective of this recording is not an attempt ‘to give a lesson in history, liturgy, theology or musicology’ but rather to bring to the listener ‘the powerful truth of Easter …’ That, then, is the spirit in which I will try to review it.

Despite the disclaimer, the recording will indeed recall to many the kind of liturgical reconstruction that was fashionable in the closing decades of the last century, especially the pioneering work of Andrew Parrott and Paul McCreesh. It is centred round the idea of how an Easter Mass might have been celebrated in Salzburg in the 1770s, though for some inexplicable reason the CD carries the subtitle ‘Easter in Vienna…’. It is planned around Mozart’s Mass in C, KV 258, which dates from the middle of that decade and takes its name from speculation that it is the Mass given at the consecration of Count Ignaz Friedrich von Spauer as Dean of Salzburg Cathedral in late 1776. Scored with trumpets and timpani, it is therefore a hybrid work, a so-called missa brevis et solemnis that although ceremonial in character conforms to the famous (or maybe infamous) dictum of Archbishop Colloredo that the entire Mass – including plainchant and additional liturgical movements – should not last longer than 45 minutes. Each of its movements is therefore extremely brief – the entire Gloria takes only 2½ minutes in the present performance – with little repetition of text and the brief passages for the four soloists mostly integrated into the choral texture, perhaps, as Stanley Sadie pointed out, most interestingly in the unusual antiphonal exchanges between soloist and choir in the Benedictus. It was a form that, as Mozart wrote to famous theorist Padre Martini of Bologna, required ‘a special study’ and not one that is likely to have appealed to him.

Otherwise choral settings include the opening Marian antiphon, Mozart’s C-major Regina coeli, KV 276/321b, composed in 1779 for an unknown occasion, joyously bright but for a brief appropriately prayerful digression at ‘ora pro nobis’. Of earlier provenance is the concluding Te Deum in C by Haydn, composed for an unknown occasion in the early 1760s during his first years of employment with Prince Nicholas Esterházy, possibly for the Prince’s official entry into Eisenstadt in 1762. It’s an unremarkable work in the somewhat stiff, old-fashioned Austrian style, and rather less striking than his brother Michael’s more modern gradual setting of the sequenza Victimae paschali laudes, composed for Palm Sunday in 1784. It was one of a series of such pieces commissioned by Colloredo to replace the string sonatas traditionally inserted between the reading of the Epistle – hence the commonly-used name Epistle Sonatas – and the Gospel. One of Mozart’s, KV 274 in G, is included here in a disappointingly prosaic performance in which the weedy chamber organ is no substitute for one of the four Baroque organs in Salzburg Cathedral.

It would be idle to pretend that the soft-grained sopranos of Keble College project anything like the visceral brilliance of continental boys, but the choir is a fine, well-trained and balanced body, while the four soloists capably meet the relatively modest demands made on them. Baritone Graham Kirk is an unexceptionable cantor, while the choir’s intoning of the plainchant is effectively if a little too deliberately done. Does it all perhaps sound a little too polite and Anglican? Well, maybe, but to go back to my opening paragraph on its own terms, this celebration of Easter in Mozart’s Salzburg amply succeeds in giving both spiritual and musical satisfaction.

Brian Robins

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Recording

Mozart: The Milanese quartet | Lodi Quartet

VenEthos Ensemble
92:00 (2 CDs in a card folder)
Arcana A497

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As with most genres to which he contributed. Mozart came early to the string quartet, itself a relatively new form for which ‘father’ is a more appropriate appendage for Joseph Haydn than that of ‘father of the symphony’. What is perhaps surprising is that Mozart’s initial attempts at the form should have taken place on the two Italian journeys he undertook with his father during his teens. Surprising because they were composed at a time when Mozart was concerned with fulfilling opera commissions, but still more so because we know of no commission(s) for the so-called ‘Lodi’ Quartet, KV 80 or the six quartets KV 155 to 160 of late 1772 and early 1773 known as the ‘Milanese’ quartets, all but one having been composed in that city where Mozart would be involved in the staging of his opera seria, Lucio Silla.

With the exception of the four-movement KV 80, which has a Rondo finale added later, Mozart’s earliest essays in the quartet medium all have three brief movements. That the form was still to some degree experimental is suggested by the reversal of the expected order of movements in KV 80, which opens with an Adagio and KV 159 in B-flat, which starts with an Andante. The B-flat Quartet, the fifth of the set composed in Milan in early 1773, is indeed by a fair margin the most striking of these works, showing the teenage Mozart handling his material with a new-found sense of confidence. The gracious theme of the Andante finds room to hint at feelings below the surface, perhaps in the semi-serious style of some of the arias in his early buffo operas. The following Allegro, bright and rhythmically incisive, admits to an enhanced sense of drama, particularly in the development, while the concluding Allegro grazioso is a rondo with an innocent tick-tock main subject and an episode making surprising use of a chromatic glissando.

Of the remaining quartets, odd moments serve to give clues as to the composer the young Mozart would become in the near-future. The opening Adagio of the G-major Quartet, KV 80, dated Lodi, 15 March 1770, is in the fashionable sentimental style and owns to an unexpected depth and concentration, while the opening Presto of the Quartet in G, KV 156 demonstrates an increasing capability in handling the string quartet texture as does the greater interest given to the viola and a generally darker texture in the succeeding Adagio, a movement that replaced a simpler original (both movements are included on the present set). Greater interest in genuine part-writing can be found in the central Andante of KV 158 in F, which lays out imitative entries before reverting to a more homophonic texture.   

In general terms however these are unremarkable works that with the arguable exception of the B-flat Quartet would probably not attract much attention had they a lesser name attached to them. The performances presented here by the Treviso-based VenEthos Ensemble are capable and pleasing enough but bring no special insights to the music and although technically proficient are not constantly tonally ingratiating. Mozart’s double-bar repeats at the end of sonata form movements are not observed but that is probably a sensible decision given that the music is not strong enough to give them purpose.  Anyone wanting to explore Mozart’s earliest essays in a genre to which he would bring so much distinction will not go far wrong, although I seem to recall the Festetics Quartet on Hungaroton brought a little more to these works.

Brian Robins 

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Recording

Au goût Parisien

Haydn 2032, vol. 11
Kamerorchester Basel, Giovanni Antonini
80:27
Alpha Classics Alpha 688

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One of the greatest pleasures of my current reviewing activities is the arrival of a new CD in Alpha’s Haydn 2032 series. In this cycle, Giovanni Antonini is leading either his own Il Giardino Armonico or the Kammerorchester Basel through an intégrale of the composer’s symphonies scheduled for completion in time for the 300th anniversary of his death in 2032. The performances to date have been notable for the happy alternation of dynamic energy and subtly delicate colouring Antonini brings to the works, qualities enhanced by the conductor’s unusually acute ear for orchestral balance.

Not unexpectedly these features are again to the fore in the latest issue.  Unlike most of the previously issued recordings that also either introduced works by Haydn’s contemporaries or non-symphonic works by the composer, this concerns itself solely with four of his symphonies composed over a period of some twenty years. The title given to the disc requires little explanation as to the inclusion of Symphonies  82 in C, ‘L’Ours’ [the Bear] and 87 in A since they are respectively the first and last of the set Haydn composed in 1785 and 1786 as the result of a commission from the Concert de la Loge Olympique in Paris, at the time one of the oldest and most esteemed concert giving organisations in Europe. The inclusion of Symphonies 2 in C and 24 in D as being in the ‘Parisien taste’ is not so obvious, but explained by the fact that the first was the first Haydn symphony to be printed in Paris, while anecdotal evidence suggests that the D-major was almost certainly the first to be performed at the Concert de la Loge (in 1773).

The orchestra of Concert de la Loge was far larger than any for which Haydn had previously written, boasting some 40 violins and ten double basses. So it is hardly surprising he kicked off the sextet of symphonies for  the organisation with one of his grandest ceremonial C-major symphonies, a work sadly compromised by the inappropriate nickname given it in the 19th century. That may also account for the choice of modern-instrument Kammerorchester Basel for this issue, since although not as well-proportioned as the forces listed above it here boasts a handsomely-sized string section that, as usual, plays for Antonini with minimum vibrato. The opening of the Vivace, replete with thundering timpani and blazing brass, has an electrifying, visceral excitement that barely lets up throughout the movement, while in the finale the heavy drone dance that inspired the work’s nickname is played with such unbuttoned, bucolic fervour as to put the sedate reputation of the Swiss at risk. By contrast, the dance-like rhythms of the subject of the variations that form the Allegretto second movement are given the lightest of textures, while the Menuet has a trio that is one of several passages that allow the outstanding wind players of the Basel orchestra to shine.

The A-Major Symphony is more modestly scored without trumpets and drums, its opening Vivace articulated with a pointed rhythmic verve that brings to mind the opera house, its secondary idea another passage of the finest filigree texture. The following Adagio is one of the rare places where I differ from Antonini’s idea of tempo, being taken excessively slowly, but it is impossible to deny the beauty of the solo oboe’s love song or indeed the translucent concertante writing for the Harmoniemusik. The finale is a superb movement, again bristling with good-humoured vitality but allowing for momentary darker thoughts in the contrapuntal development.

The two symphonies from the early 1760s are much slighter, no. 2 having only three brief movements and being reminiscent of mid-century Italian opera overtures of composers such as Jommelli. The D-Major is primarily notable for its beguiling Adagio, a cantabile movement that is in effect a long-breathed love song for flute, here played with affectionate sensitivity. In sum, this is a splendid addition to a cycle distinguished above all by its vivid, life-enhancing spontaneity. 

Brian Robins

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M. Haydn: Endimione

Aleksandra Zamojska, Ulrike Hofbauer, Lydia Teuscher, Nicholas Spanos, Salvburger Hofmusik, Wolfgang Brunner
113:29 (2 CDs)
cpo 555 288-2

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The serenata Endimione is part of a body of such miniature operas composed at the Court of Salzburg in the second half of the 18th century, which includes the azione teatrale il sogno di Scipione and Il re pastore by Mozart. Work by a number of ensembles, not least Salzburger Hofmusik, has increasingly brought Michael Haydn out from the shadow of his elder brother, Joseph, and this charming serenata highlights his skills with the voice and with orchestral writing. It is probable that the virtuoso soprano part of Endimione would have been taken by Mozart’s friend and collaborator, the celebrated Munich castrato, Tommaso Consoli, and it is sung impressively here by the countertenor Nicholas Spanos. A fine line-up of three excellent sopranos take the parts of Amor, Diana and Nice, producing the necessary vocal fireworks, while they are ably supported by the wonderfully responsive Salzburger Hofmusik under the direction of Wolfgang Brunner. While some ensembles take a much more aggressive approach to the music of this period, the Salzburger Hofmusik are always appropriately courtly, allowing the music to speak for itself. This pays dividends at moments such as Endimione’s accompanied recit Lode al ciel and Diana’s ensuing Cavatina, where Haydn’s delicious orchestration and sublime lyrical skills are allowed to unfold naturally. Indeed, this serenata is rich in such inspired passages, underlining the fact that Michael Haydn’s distinctive compositional voice has until recently been so unfairly overshadowed. Salzburger Hofmusik have already played a key role in highlighting the Court Kapellmeister’s skills as a composer of church music, but this present recording shows his equally remarkable abilities as an “operatic” composer.

D. James Ross

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Haydn: Die Schöpfung

Yeree Suh, Tilman Lichdi, Matthias Winckhler, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Le Concert des Nations, Jordi Savallq
103:18 (2 CDs in a card triptych)
Alia Vox AVSA9945


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Is there a more uplifting work in all music than The Creation? Even in a half-decent performance and for all the perceived naivety (by some) of parts of its text and the mimetic response they drew from Haydn, it juxtaposes glorious, iridescent power with reassuring companionability to a degree that is surely unique. Jordi Savall’s new recording, made shortly before his 80 birthday in May 2021, is, as one would expect, a great deal more than half-decent. The ethos of the performance is established at the very outset. Aided by the generous acoustic of the Romanesque church at Cardona in Catalonia, the portentous opening chord of the introductory ‘Representation of Chaos’ seems to last an eternity before finally dying. Again as one might expect, tempos are in general on the slow side, but only in Part 3 is there any feeling that there might have been more forward movement. In the opening duet with chorus for Adam and Eve that is more than mitigated by the manner in which Savall builds the movement to a magnificently controlled climax in the overwhelming outburst of praise to God, ‘Heil, dir’. Less convincing is the equally slow tempo for the more worldly duet that follows, ‘Holde Gattin!’, a wonderful example of the way in which Haydn throughout constantly alternates the godly with the world He has created.

This combination of the elevated, the spiritual with the everyday, the mundane world of cattle and worms, is to my mind at the heart of the humanity Savall finds in the oratorio. And time and again it is through the superb playing of his orchestra that he achieves that goal. Listen, for example, to the exquisite tenderness of the orchestral opening of the terzetto ‘In holder Anmut’ (In fairest raiment), so touching in its evocation of the beauties of nature and yet another number that will build inexorably, in this case from the pastoral to a glorious climactic point in the chorus ‘Der Herr ist gross’ (The Lord is great).

So where does that leave the soloists? Well, although all three sing well enough, particularly in ensemble work, I have to confess a certain disappointment. There is to my mind in common a shortage of strong personality, a lack of communicative skill that results in an inability to make the text tell in the way it can and must in this work. Most satisfying is the Korean soprano, Yeree Suh. Hers is a truly delightful soprano, fresh, youthful and supple enough to essay passaggi with fluent ease and turn ornaments with elegance. At her best, as in ‘Nun heut die Flur’ (With verdure clad), she is beguiling and charming, but overall she needed to pay more attention to enunciation. Tenor Tilman Lichdi’s Uriel is fine without ever challenging some of the outstanding singers of the role. The timbre is agreeable and he brings a pleasingly youthful lightness of touch to his opening aria, ‘Nun schwanden’ (Now vanish’), but in the magnificent accompagnato celebrating the division of night and day, the sun and the moon, the ear is constantly caught not by the singing but the orchestra’s magnificent evocation of sunrise and the mystery of moonlight. And so it is too with Matthias Winckhler, whose baritone is rather lightweight for Raphael’s music and is at times pushed to maintain a steady tone at Savall’s deliberate tempos.  But I would not wish to over-exaggerate any deficiencies the soloists might have; by any standard their contribution is at the very least thoroughly acceptable.

I’ve not so far mentioned Savall’s splendid hand-picked chorus, here just 20-strong (considerably fewer than Haydn had at his disposal in 1808) but sounding more numerous with the aid of the acoustic. The catalogue is graced by a number of outstanding recordings of The Creation. This one, for the reasons suggested, is rather special, and joins them as the product of the cumulative experience of one of the great musicians of our day.

Brian Robins

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Recording

Mozart: Sonatas for violin & piano

K. 301, 304-306, 454
Peter Hanson violin, Andrew Arthur fortepiano
79:07
resonus RES10281

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It must be something of a disappointment to violin players that so much of the music that Mozart wrote for their instrument is from his youth, and that these early sonatas and concertos sound a little trivial. This is thrown into further relief by the wonderfully idiomatic writing for violin in his larger-scale chamber music and in the superb Sinfonia concertante. The renowned period violinist Peter Hanson teams up here with the equally celebrated fortepianist Andrew Arthur in effervescent performances of three of the six sonatas ‘for harpsichord or fortepiano with accompaniment for a violin’ K 301, K304 and K305. The balance in interest between the two instruments is not quite as clear-cut as the title suggests, but it does mean that the fortepiano takes a relatively active part in proceedings. Composed for and played by Maria Elisabeth Auguste, Kurfürstin of the Palatinate, with Mozart at the keyboard, the violin part places moderate technical demands on the aristocratic protégé, and yet there is a feeling that this relatively superficial music is designed to present Maria in a flattering light and to promote Mozart’s application for a job. With the fourth Sonata performed here, the later Bb major Sonata K454, we are in a different world entirely. Composed for the professional violin virtuoso, Regina Strinasacchi, a product of the rigorous training at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice associated previously with Vivaldi, this music is much more technically and intellectually demanding. It has a particularly exquisite and inventive Andante, but is generally in a different league from the earlier pieces. As I have suggested, the performances by Hanson and Arthur are impeccably musical and charmingly involving, even in the lighter early material, but they truly come into their own in the K454 Sonata, where Mozart provides them with something to get their teeth into.

D. James Ross

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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Nevermind
57:27
Alpha Classics Alpha 759

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I have been impressed by Nevermind’s performances before, and from the perspective purely of critiquing the playing, there is nothing here to fault – these are four outstanding musicians in brilliant form and they engage with Bach’s whimsy and caprice 100%.

When then am I not bedecking them with garlands of yet more appreciation? Well, for a start, if the briefest of brief booklet notes tell us that there is no indication of a stringed bass instrument, and that this is later music when Bach had most probably moved on to a piano-like instrument of some sort, why did Nevermind choose to play the keyboard part on harpsichord? And, if I pick up a CD in a record shop and all the cover says is “Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach”, what am I to imagine might it be? One the first point, it’s as if they are coming at the music as a bunch of baroque musicians for whom the classical period has not yet arrived; some of the added ornamentation (for some of us, Bach’s own is quite enough!) don’t work for this old fuddy-duddy of a reviewer. If the three quartets are not enough to fill the disc, I’d rather hear more authentic music rather than some arrangements. And, yes, damn it, I’d like to hear a period piano!

And for the benefit of future programme note writers, the presence of the viola in such a prominent role is NOT unusual here; Madame Levy (who commissioned the work from Bach) also commissioned viola duets from his brother Wilhelm Friedemann. In the Berlin of Janitsch and Graun, there was no shortage of music for viola…

Brian Clark

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Mozart: Mitridate, Re di Ponto

Michael Spyres Mitridate, Julie Fuchs Aspasia, Sabine Devieihle Ismene, Elsa Dreisig Sifare, Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian Franace, Cyrille Dubois Marzio, Adriana Bignani Lesca Arbate, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Marc Minkowski
151:11 (3 CDs in a card box)
Erato 1 90296 61757 7

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Mitridate represents an important milestone in Mozart’s composing career, his first attempt at composing a full-length serious opera. It owes its existence to a commission received when father Leopold and the 14 year-old Wolfgang stayed in Milan in the early months of 1770 during the course of their first Italian tour. The subject of the libretto the boy was asked to set was a historical figure, King Mithridates , the despotic ruler of Pontus, a Hellenic country on the Black Sea today part of Turkey. Mithridates was a fierce opponent of the Romans, but – like most plots based on history – considerable licence was taken by the libretto of V A Cigna-Santi, who based his book on a play by Racine. It concerns the return of Mitridate to Pontus following defeat by Pompey. Suspicious of the loyalty of his own sons, Farnace and Sifare, not least their intention towards his young bride-to-be Aspasia, Mitridate inspires a rumour he is dead to test them. Sifare has indeed fallen in love with Aspasia, in so doing rejecting the gentle princess Ismene. Farnace on the other hand is revealed as the traitor who has fallen under the spell of Roman influence in the person of the Roman tribune Marzio. The opening is thus nicely poised for a conflict of loyalties and emotional turmoil of the kind on which opera seria thrived, indeed depended.   

The opera was first given by a star-studded cast at the Teatro Regio Ducale in Milan on 26 December 1770, being well received and achieving a run of 22 performances, no mean achievement for a new opera in a major house at the time. Both the lavish staging and Mozart’s music were praised, the latter by the Gazzetta di Milano for his studies of ‘the beauties of [human] nature and representing them ‘adorned with the rarest music graces’. The opera is in the usual three acts, dominated by the customary da capo arias and just a single duet (between Aspasia and Sifare) to end act 2. Less conventional is the number of accompanied recitatives (6) that perhaps better than the arias show the young composer’s astonishing and seemingly innate ability to lay open human emotions, often of a profundity and complexity he should not have been able to understand at such a tender age.

As befits a glamorous cast, many of the aria are virtuoso pieces that, as was customary in the 18th century, were tailor-made by Mozart for the singers, with whom he worked closely to ‘fit the costume to the figure’, as he figuratively put it. Such demands frequently give problems to casting such operas today in particular tenor roles such as Mitridate. In this new Minkowski recording Michael Spyres, justly much admired for his singing of later music, in particular the heroes of Berlioz, proves to be no exception. While he is admirably authoritative and at times sensitive, the tessitura in an aria such as the heroic ‘Vado incontro’ (act 3) tests him to the limit, as can be readily heard in some of the less than pleasant sounds he makes above the stave. There is also too much continuous vibrato in the voice and some of his cadences are vulgarly ornamented. Since the latter (and one might almost say the same of the former) is a common problem throughout the set, one can only assume they were what Marc Minkowski wanted. Otherwise there are some satisfying performances, in particular those of Julie Fuch’s Aspasia and Elsa Dreisig’s Sifare, who are particularly sensitive in the lovers’ exchanges in act 2. Sabine Devieilhe brings a lovely, tender quality to the role of Ismene, a prototype for Ilia in Idomeneo. The generally stylish countertenor Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian is an excellent Farnace, his performance reaching a fitting climax and attaining true nobility in act 3’s ‘Già dagli occhi’, a fine extended aria in which he renounces and repents his treachery. 

Minkowski’s direction is uneven, as so often with conductors today playing allegros too fast and slower tempos too slowly. This is particularly marked in act 1, with its preponderance of quick arias, almost without exception driven by the conductor in a manner that not infrequently sounds aggressive. Thereafter the approach allows for rather more nuance and sensitivity, and there is much to enjoy. Howeve, overall I think this performance too uneven to compete with the fine and certainly more idiomatic performance directed by Ian Page (Signum). Moreover Page’s version is obligatory for all serious Mozartians for its inclusion of a fourth CD devoted to variants of a number of the arias that show how much work Mozart put into satisfying both himself and his cast.

Brian Robins

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Recording

Dussek: messe solemnelle

Stefanie True soprano, Helen Charlston mezzo-soprano, Gwilym Bowen tenor, Morgan Pearse baritone, Academy of Ancient Music, Choir of the AAM, Richard Egarr
60:14
AAM011

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That Jan Ladislav Dussek composed a Mass will doubtless come as a surprise to those that think of him nearly exclusively as a composer of piano music, though he did also provide music for a couple of stage works during the period he was in London in the 1790s. And indeed anyone thinking that can be forgiven, for the present ‘Messe Solemnelle à quatre voix’ lay undisturbed in the Library of the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory in Florence for some two hundred years after its first performance in 1810 or 1811. Bearing a dedication to Prince Nicolas Esterházy, it was composed for the nobleman’s name-day celebrations, thus falling into a distinguished series of works that includes the six great late Masses of Haydn and the C-major Mass of Beethoven. It owes its modern revival to the tenacity of the conductor of the present recording, Richard Egarr, who directed the first – and most likely only – public performance since the work’s premiere at Esterháza in London in 2019. The recording took place a few weeks later.

The work is planned on an extensive scale, although the proportions are unusual. The opening Kyrie, divided into the usual three parts, takes nearly 15 minutes in this performance, longer than the entire Credo, while the Agnus Dei is dominated by its final words, ‘Dona nobis pacem’, at first treated with prayerful invocation that turns to strident demands, rather in the manner of Haydn’s Missa in angustiis, the so-called ‘Nelson Mass’ of 1798. It is of course worth remembering that Europe was still in a ‘time of anxiety and affliction’ in 1810. The Mass is largely dominated by the chorus, with passages for the four soloists generally restricted to ensemble work. These often feature imitation, passages such as Benedictus, complimented by felicitous wind writing that betrays the composer’s Czech heritage. Only ‘Et in Spiritum’ is set as a true solo, an arietta for soprano in the shape of a flowing larghetto with warmly rich lower string textures that are something of a feature of the Mass. The opening Kyrie is melodically distinctive, the work as a whole having an engaging, sunny character far removed from the stern, rather old-fashioned Viennese tradition that continued to dominate the church music of Haydn, Mozart and even to some extent Beethoven.

The performance reflects strongly Richard Egarr’s declared devotion to Dussek in general and the Mass in particular, being imbued with a passionate drive in more dramatic passages, which frequently have a thrilling intensity, and real affection in Dussek’s lyrical, at times quasi-folk-like music. He draws splendid playing and commitment from the chorus and orchestra of the AAM, while his soloists blend well, although some will feel soprano Stefanie True displays too much vibrato for this repertoire.

In keeping with the other AAM issue to have come my way (Eccles’ Semele) the presentation is outstanding, with a lavishly illustrated 100-page booklet that includes no fewer than nine scholarly articles in addition to the usual artist biographies and text of the Mass. If I don’t feel able to go all the way with Egarr in his description of the Mass as great music, it is certainly both imposing and companionable. I am delighted to have made its acquaintance and hope others will too.

Brian Robins