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Mozart: Coronation Mass; Haydn: Missa in Tempore Belli / Levine

Release Date: 07/01/1992 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 76255   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartFranz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Sylvia McNairDelores ZieglerHans-Peter BlochwitzAndreas Schmidt
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic OrchestraBerlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Levine communicates thrilling urgency in these vigorous, Beethovenian accounts of masses by Mozart and Haydn.

Haydn and Mozart here sound a little more like Beethoven than they usually do, or than they do on the records used for comparison. The forces involved and the particularly resonant acoustic of this new recording have no doubt contributed to the likelihood of this being so, as perhaps does the fact of its being taken from a live performance. But most of all it reflects the character of the conductor and the sense of occasion which his presence brings.

The Haydn Mass inevitably calls Beethoven to mind in the Agnus Dei: the drums and trumpets of this prayer for peace in time of war have a job very
Read more similar to that of their counterparts at the same point in the Missa solemnis. In this performance the parallel is enforced with the greatest possible power and effect. Here, the first ratatatat of the drum (this is of course the Paukenmesse or "Kettledrum Mass" as it is sometimes called), though not loud, strikes a chill, and its crescendo to the "Dona nobis pacem" has a menace, both of them well beyond the relative mildness of their employment on the St John's/Guest mid-price recording on Decca. Similarly, the trumpets make their presence felt more strongly, and the choir sing their cries of "miserere" with dramatic intensity.

An intense concentration, one of the sure signs that a 'star' conductor is in control, is felt right from the start of the Mass. The fine earnestness of the opening with the voices singing in quiet unison over the steady soft tread of the orchestra makes an impression, sure enough, in the St John's performance, but its nature and purpose are clarified in Levine's; the crescendo and the subsequent contrasts of loud and soft are heightened. In the Gloria, the accelerando to "Cum Sancto Spiritu", a slight, scarcely noticeable quickening under Guest, becomes an exciting lead towards the finale, again Beethoven-like. All of this, to my mind, works well, though some may see it as underlining too heavily.

In the Mozart, the story is much the same, except that the contrast with Peter Neumann's EMI recording ((0 CDC7 54185-2) makes the conductor there seem almost the invisible man— which, of course, is perhaps what he should be. Here it is the opening of the Gloria which suggests Beethoven: in Levine, but never in Neumann. Here, too, the Agnus Dei is taken slowly (6'30" to Neumann's 5'38", just as in the Haydn, Levine takes 6'57" to Guest's 5'45"), the effect being in both instances to increase its status in the position of finale to the Mass-as-symphony.

The Berlin Philharmonic plays superbly, and the choir (with just a few frayed edges) is a vast improvement on the Viennese one in Levine's recording of the Mozart C minor Mass (DG, 11/91). Soloists do well, Schmidt singing beautifully in the Haydn Credo, McNair perhapsa trifle too prettily in the Kyrie.

-- Gramophone [9/1992]


James Levine gives a vigorous account of the Coronation Mass, all the more dramatic for being a live performance, where any rough edges are more than compensated for by the thrilling urgency he is able to communicate. In the great Credo, for example, he masses the RIAS-Kammerchor and the Berlin Philharmonic to jubilant effect. In the lyrical sections, he is aided by an accomplished set of soloists, particularly Sylvia McNair, who is appropriately sweet-voiced and rueful in the Agnus Dei which so closely anticipates the Countess's 'Dove sono' from Figaro,

The Mass is well coupled with Haydn's masterly Missa in tempore belli (In Time of War). Written during Napoleon's Italian campaign, this setting is symphonic and full of stark contrasts where Mozart is primarily operatic and affirmative. Here, Levine is perhaps less persuasive in live performance, although he does manage to convey some of Haydn's darker moments: the insistent timpani and trumpet fanfares in the Agnus Dei are menacingly martial.

-- William Humphreys-Jones, BBC Music Magazine
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Works on This Recording

Mass in C major, K 317 "Coronation" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Sylvia McNair (Soprano), Delores Ziegler (Alto), Hans-Peter Blochwitz (Tenor),
Andreas Schmidt (Baritone)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1779; Salzburg, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/1991 
Venue:  Live  Kammermusiksaal, Berlin 
Length: 25 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
Missa in tempore belli, H 22 no 9 "Paukenmesse" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Andreas Schmidt (Baritone), Delores Ziegler (Alto), Hans-Peter Blochwitz (Tenor),
Sylvia McNair (Soprano)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1796; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/1991 
Venue:  Live  Kammermusiksaal, Berlin 
Length: 43 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Language: Latin 

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