MOZART Mass in D, K 194. Loretomesse, K 275. Church Sonata, K 274 • Andreas Pixner, cond; St. Augustin Ch & O; Cornelia Horak (sop); Martina Steffl (alt); Alexander Kaimbacher (ten); Klemens Sander (bs) • PREISER 91195 (43:39 Text and Translation)
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Summer before last, I was in Vienna for a meeting, so I looked for a chance to hear a Sunday Mass at St. Augustine’s Church, reputedly the only church in Vienna where the choir and its orchestra sing a Classical High Mass every Sunday except in the summer. I was in luck because the Sunday happened to be the feast of St. Augustine, the patron saint of the church as well as the religious order that staffs it, so the feast day superseded the liturgical observance of Sunday. Haydn’s Mass in Time of War was sung. In the vestibule was a large selection of recordings of their Mass repertoire, many on their own private label. I have reviewed a few of their CDs on more familiar labels, but I was unaware of this larger selection. Here we have one that was issued for the composer’s anniversary year of 2006.
Haydn inscribed on his manuscripts of Masses the abbreviation A.M.D.G., “for the greater glory of God.” Hearing this recording reminded me of a meeting a few years ago at which a roomful of musicologists heard a paper asking the motivation for the composition of polyphony by members of the Sistine Choir. Was it simple inspiration, or to impress their colleagues and fellow composers, or to please the pope and cardinals? After some discussion on the floor, one member came forward and with the utmost simplicity averred that it was for none of these reasons. The Masses were composed to be sung at worship only for the glory of God. At the Hofburgkapelle, the Vienna Choir Boys sing Sunday Mass at which tickets are sold, not it is said as a charge for attending Mass but for attending the concert. I like to think that the Augustinians regard the Viennese school of orchestral Masses as the appropriate way to worship God in their church, and no admission is charged. (It is odd that Preiser’s notes refer to it as the Jesuit church, when in fact it is staffed by Augustinian canons, as the church’s website shows.)
The Mass, K 194, is one of the more familiar of Mozart’s earlier Masses, written for Salzburg in 1774. This performance compares very well with leading professional ensembles that have recorded the work; the notes make it clear that this is a church choir, not a concert choir, but the repertoire that they have made their own year after year is well served. The work makes only modest demands on the soloists, but they acquit themselves well. The Benedictus engages all four, demonstrating the quality of their voices and their grasp of the style. The ensemble is light and flexible, responsive to the direction of Pixner, who has been in charge since 2004.
The other Mass, also written for Salzburg two years later, is recorded less often. I have not seen the title “Loreto Mass” before, referring certainly to the holy house venerated in Italy as the original home of the Blessed Virgin in Nazareth. A Missa brevis very similar to K 194, this work has an extended Agnus Dei that stretches the closing “Dona nobis pacem” to considerable length. The church sonata (no. 13 of the 17 such pieces) seems to belong to this Mass, although it is placed between the two main works rather than after the Gloria. While short on total timing, this disc is a fine demonstration of the high level that this Vienna church has reached in its weekly celebrations. Well worth hearing.
Missa brevis in D major, K 194 (186h)by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Performer:
Klemens Sander (),
Alexander Kaimbacher (),
Cornelia Horak ()
Period: Classical Written: 1774; Salzburg, Austria Length: 18 Minutes 59 Secs.