Mozart: Mass in C minor (CD review)

Also, Masonic Funeral Music, K. 477.  Natalie Dessay, soprano; Veronique Gens, soprano; Topi Lehtipuu, tenor; Luca Pisaroni, bass; Louis Langree, Le Concert d'Astree. Virgin Classics 00946 359309 2 4.

The Mass in C minor is another liturgical work that Mozart didn't finish. You can understand his not finishing the Requiem; he died. But it is unclear why in the Mass in C, written some eight years before his death, he only completed the "Kyrie," the "Gloria," and parts of the "Credo," "Sanctus," and "Benedictus."

In any case, conductor Louis Langree says that of the many editions of the Mass completed by other people, he was satisfied with none, so he did his own completion, which we have here. I'm sure it is as good as any. Langree's orchestra is relatively small, around forty players, probably about the size that would have performed in Mozart's day, and his soloists and choir are top notch.

Mozart's Mass in C minor is more operatic than we might expect from a church piece, and it lends itself nicely to repeat listening, grand and imposing on the one hand, intimate and touching on the other. However, Langree does take many segments of the work at a rather fast pace, diminishing somewhat the overall drama of the music and substituting for it a more fleeting kind of excitement. His interpretation certainly has its thrilling moments, but with alternative readings by Gardiner (Philips), Herrewighe (Harmonia Mundi), and others, I'm not sure I would want it as my only account.

The 2006 Virgin recording, made in Paris, is warm and smooth but with little or no sense of presence. A quick comparison to Philippe Herrewighe's 1992 French recording reveals the Herrewighe rendering sounding more detailed, more dimensional, more natural, and more realistic, although a touch edgier at the high end. While I doubt that anyone would object to the Virgin sonics on the Langree recording, I prefer a better sense of occasion.

JJP

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa