Together with the Requiem, Mozart's C minor mass is one of the brilliant composer's great unfinished sacred works. The work combines monumental power, solemn spirituality and moving solo passages. This recording under the baton of Baroque and Classical expert Raymond Leppard has great expressive depth, and offers a truly legendary vocal ensemble featuring stars like Kiri Te Kanawa and Ileana Cotrubas.
Known for having elevated the symphony and the opera to popular levels in his lamentably short life, Mozart was also substantially involved in sacred music. Among many smaller works for solo chorus and for combined choral/orchestral forces, he composed an enormous seventeen settings of the Latin Mass, of which this is his last. But this C Minor mass, which is said he composed in 1782 and 1783, was never really completed in a way Mozart found satisfactory, and thus it has been up to others to put this work into coherent form. The recording here is based on the reconstruction done by Salzburg composer and musicologist Helmut Eder; he worked on the "Et Incanatus Est" section of the Credo, as well as the concluding Sanctus and Benedictus sections. The work is still Mozart's, and is scored for a fairly substantial orchestra: one flute; pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, and trumpets; three trombones; timpani; organ; and the full string compliment, plus four soloists and chorus.
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.
There can be no doubt - the Missa in C minor KV 427 by W.A.Mozart is a fascinating work. Simply calling it a "mass" is inaccurate; indeed, there is hardly more than a musical torso full of enigmas and problems - and brimming with magnificent music.
First things first: if you're seeing a picture of this disc on the site of an online retailer, be aware that it contains the Mass in C minor, K. 427, not the "Mass in C," promised by the cover, which would more likely be the "Coronation" Mass in C major, K. 337. It is always a shame when designers are given power of diktat over content editors. The so-called "Great" Mass in C minor is one of Mozart's most ambitious and most problematical works. There was no known immediate stimulus for its composition. Did Mozart begin writing it out of one of his rare religious impulses, on the occasion of his marriage to his bride Constanze? Out of his growing devotion to Freemasonry? Was it his first major exercise in applying the lessons in Bach-style counterpoint he had been receiving at the intellectual salons of the Baron van Swieten in Vienna? Or was it meant as a showpiece for singer Constanze with its killer soprano arias? It was all of these things and none of them, for Mozart never finished the mass.
A “touching and magnificent reunion” (Der Standard). The public and press enthusiastically celebrated the long-awaited return of Claudio Abbado to the Salzburg Festival in 2012. The conductor brought with him Mozart’s youthful Mass K. 139, the so-called Waisenhausmesse, and Schubert’s late Mass in E flat major. In a fascinating way, Abbado succeeded in merging the singers and instrumentalists into a total collaborative effort: “Seldom has one heard such a perfect balance between choir, orchestra, and vocal soloists; one has also seldom heard such a beautifully coordinated and perfectly balanced vocal ensemble” (Salzburger Nachrichten).