Mozart: Exultate, jubilate (XRCD review)

Also, Regina Coeli; Laudate Dominum; Ave verum corpus; Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Mariella Devia, soprano; Daniele Callegari, Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana. JVC XRCD24-NT018.

While the Italian operatic soprano Mariella Devia (b. 1948) has perhaps gained greater acclaim in Europe than she has in America during her extensive career, it has done nothing to stop her from being heard on dozens of recordings. This album, from 1997, appears to be among her best, at least sonically, which is why I suppose JVC chose to remaster it in 2015 in their XRCD audiophile series. It's hard to argue they didn't make a worthy choice.

It's an all-Mozart program, with Daniele Callegari and the Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana accompanying Ms. Devia on the first three items and the orchestra itself taking over the purely orchestral reins of the final number. I was not familiar with the Italian orchestra, founded in 1985, nor the conductor, but they seem well up to the task, the somewhat smallish ensemble sounding fluid and transparent.

The first selection is Mozart's Exultate, jubilate ("Exult, rejoice"), KV165, a religious motet Mozart wrote in 1773 for solo voice, orchestra, and organ. Divided into four parts with alternating slow-fast movements, it may remind the listener of the composer's symphonic works but on a smaller scale. Ms. Devia's voice is airy and confident, and her rendering of the Andante is particularly felicitous.

Next is the four-movement Regina Coeli ("Queen of Heaven"), KV108, from 1771. It, too, is a piece of liturgical music, this one a little more ambitious than the preceding work, Mozart writing the Regina for soprano, choir, orchestra, and organ. Mozart based it on one of the Catholic Church's four seasonal "Marian antiphons of the Blessed Virgin Mary," typically sung at night prayer. Here, the orchestra plays a more-prominent and dramatic part, too, with the mid-bass a weightier factor and the choir adding to the gravitas of the affair. Indeed, the soprano's solo contribution to the music doesn't even appear until the second movement, where Ms. Devia remains in lovely voice.

After that are two brief works, Laudate Dominum ("Praise the Lord") for soprano, choir, orchestra, and organ; and Ave verum corpus ("Hail the true body") for choir, orchestra, and organ. Of these, I preferred the second item for its celestial grace and beauty.

Mariella Devia
To close the show, we get what may be Mozart's most-familiar piece of music, the Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major, ("A Little Serenade" or, more commonly, "A Little Night Music"), K. 525, a composition the composer wrote for chamber ensemble in 1787. As there are probably 800 different recordings of it in the catalogue at any given time, the competition is intense. This version under Maestro Callegari is as good as most, although there is nothing much different about it to distinguish it from most of the others. In other words, it moves along at a stately, fluent pace, unhurried, unruffled, and unremarkable.

What is remarkable is that JVC can produce so meticulous a remastering as this one while at the same time making it so hard to get the disc loose from the center spindle. I mean, you want the disc to fit tightly, but not so tight that you practically break the disc in two trying to get it out. The rest of the JVC packaging, though, is immaculate: A glossy, hardcover Digipak-type design; liner notes bound to the inside; the disc fastened (tightly) to the inside back.

Originally recorded and produced by Giulio Cesare Ricci in December 1997 for the Fone label, the JVC (Victor Corporation of Japan) team of Tohru Kotetsu, Kazuo Kiuchi, and Shizuo Nomiyama remastered it in 2015 using XRCD/24 technology.

Of course, the folks at JVC pick only what they feel are the finest recordings to remaster, so I'm sure this one started out sounding pretty nice to begin with. Their remastering has clarified what was undoubtedly already good, clean, solid sound. On my system, however, I thought the voice was a little too bright for my ears, as was the entire upper midrange, although it certainly illuminates the sonics considerably, which never actually become hard or edgy. The rest of the aural spectrum appears equally clear, with especially quick transient response and realistic spatial dimensionality (if favoring the left side of the stage a bit much). Overall, this is very lucid sound and should please many audiophiles, even if the price for it is rather high.

You can find JVC XRCD24 recordings at any number of on-line marketplaces, but you'll find some of the best prices at Elusive Disc:


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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Meet the Staff

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 more than 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.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
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.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

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. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa