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Mozart: Mass In C Minor / Christophers, Handel & Haydn Society

Mozart / Handel & Haydn Society / Christophers
Release Date: 09/14/2010 
Label:  Coro   Catalog #: 16084   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Gillian KeithTove DahlbergThomas CooleyNathan Berg
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Handel and Haydn Society
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOZART Mass in c Harry Christophers, cond; Gillian Keith (sop); Tove Dahlberg (alt); Thomas Cooley (ten); Nathan Berg (bs); Handel and Haydn Society (period instruments) CORO COR16084 (54:10 Text and Translation)

The hushed opening bars of this recording suggested that this would be a very special performance, an impression that only grew more convincing as the music unfolded. Gillian Keith’s first solo almost made me forget Maria Stader’s, her meltingly beautiful voice as Read more restrained as the chorus had been. The Mass proceeded inexorably to the end (as far as Mozart composed, and as far as this great work needs to go). The Handel and Haydn Society is no vocal ensemble, nor has Harry Christophers limited himself to working with 16 singers in other situations, but the chorus produces the lightness and agility that he clearly desires while furnishing the power that climactic passages need, proof that we are hearing a chorus of 38 singers (matching the number of players), not a vocal ensemble.

Christophers is the third British conductor in this post since Thomas Dunn retired in 1986. Christopher Hogwood and Grant Llewellyn shaped the sound that was already historically informed, so we have long ago learned not to expect the sound of a 19th-century aggregation from a group that is nevertheless preparing to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2015. There is certainly no musical organization in this country with such a history.

While Keith deserves to be singled out, the other featured singers acquit themselves admirably. The other soloist, Tove Dahlberg (the men are heard only in a trio and the closing quartet), is more mezzo than soprano, which is just what this assignment needs. (At least half of the previous recordings identify the singer as soprano II, though a couple of others use alto.) She still contrasts nicely with Keith in the duet. Cooley is flexible in his duet and Berg is a solid underpinning in the quartet, but Mozart gave all the best solos to the ladies.

Andrew Parrott previously recorded the work at the Boston Early Music Festival in 1991 with this chorus taking part ( Fanfare 16:1). He used Richard Maunder’s edition of the score and filled in the missing movements with chant (Credo III and Agnus Dei IX), an expedient that is more useful in liturgy than in concert. A live performance like this new one, its execution is no match for this one. An early version under Rudolf Moralt filled in with sections of K 262, a discordant contrast in style, and Colin Davis used H. R. Robbins Landon’s edition, but the great majority of recordings present it as we hear it here, just as Mozart left it. Just as well, for this is a winning rendition that will not disappoint its hearers.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber
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Works on This Recording

Mass in C minor, K 427 (417a) "Great" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Gillian Keith (Soprano), Tove Dahlberg (Mezzo Soprano), Thomas Cooley (Tenor),
Nathan Berg (Baritone)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Handel and Haydn Society
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782-1783; Vienna, Austria 

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