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.


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Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

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