As the mysterious opening bars of the Kyrie gradually emerge into the light, we know that this recording of Mozart’s glorious Great Mass in C minor is a special one: the tempi perfect, the unfolding drama of the choral writing so carefully judged, and, above it all, the crystalline beauty of soloist Carolyn Sampson’s soprano, floating like a ministering angel. Masaaki Suzuki’s meticulous attention to detail, so rewarding in his remarkable Bach recordings, shines throughout this disc, the playing alert, the choir responsive, the soloists thrilling. And there is the bonus of an exhilarating Exsultate, Jubilate with Sampson on top form.
As is well known, the Third Reich drove many of its gifted composers into exile, to early deaths or to the concentration camps. But a significant responsibility devolved on another group, who became ‘internal exiles’, remaining in Germany, but refusing to become cultural ornaments of the Nazi regime. Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905–1963), in Bavaria, consistently kept the spirit of modernism and human commitment alive in his own work.
When Richard Maunder's editions get together with Christopher Hogwood and co, you know instantly that the result will be spot on. The sound of the boy treble line (singing alto as well) is earthy yet in tune, and well complemented by the strong lower parts. The orchestra is supportive yet unobtrusive. The dynamics and phrasing are all well chosen and executed. The choice of soloists is inspired, especially Arleen Auger - such a beautiful voice. It is just a pity that there is not more on the disc - some have argued in the 'Dona ut Kyrie' tradition that an Agnus Dei could be tacked on at the end using the music of the Kyrie. An excellent recording.
The reissue of keyboardist Claude Bolling's recordings of the 1960s may prompt a positive reevaluation of his contributions. Bolling has been known, at least outside France, mostly for the flute-and-piano works he composed for Jean-Pierre Rampal; his recordings with Rampal hit a certain popular groove and stuck with the formula. They were undeniably appealing in a simple way, but they became fatally overexposed. Bolling's earlier recordings reveal more imagination in his treatment of the relationship between jazz and classical music. Take for example this 1965 album, recorded in Paris. It's one of the few successful jazz treatments of Mozart, who is notoriously resistant to jazz treatment. The difficulty comes as a result of Mozart's reliance on harmonic rhythm, or the speed of the rate of change of the harmonies in the music. This feature seems impossible to capture in jazz, which heavily relies on regular chord changes, but Bolling's solutions here, making use of a classic jazz sextet, are brilliantly imaginative.