Mozart not only left this Mass incomplete in 1783, with the scoring unfinished and lacking the last half of the Credo and the entire Agnus Dei, but he effectively abandoned it by reworking the Kyrie and Gloria for the cantata Davidde penitente, K 469, two years later. In 1901, Alois Schmitt published the Mass with the missing sections filled in from several earlier Mozart Masses and the Agnus Dei fitted to the music of the Kyrie. It has usually been recorded in its incomplete form, although Bernhard Paumgartner drew on the Mass, K 262, to complete the Credo and followed Schmitt’s example for the Agnus Dei, an edition that Rudolf Moralt recorded (Epic SC 6009). John Eliot Gardiner revised Schmitt’s orchestration of parts of the Credo but omitted the missing movements (12:4). Richard Maunder simply edited what Mozart left in sketchy form for Christopher Hogwood’s version (14:2), as H. C. Robbins Landon had done earlier for Neville Marriner’s recording issued in 1979 and Raymond Leppard (or someone else) had done for his recording issued in 1974.
Rilling has already recorded the Mass in a score “reconstructed and completed” by Helmut Edel, but that “completion” did not go beyond filling out the scoring of the movements sketched by Mozart, as Maunder and Robbins Landon had done. Rilling coupled it with the first recording of Robert D. Levin’s reconstruction of the Requiem (16:2). Now Rilling has tackled the Mass again, and for this version Levin has completed the entire Mass. In a detailed description of his study of Mozart’s sketches of the period, he provides an account of his approach to an admittedly daunting effort. The result is far removed from any previous “reconstruction/completion” that we have heard. It is Levin’s idea of what Mozart might have intended for a complete Mass, and it goes far beyond any previous editor’s modifications. It is a totally new way of understanding Mozart’s intentions, and it requires a good deal of faith in Levin’s admittedly keen grasp of Mozartean style.
The soloists that Rilling has chosen are superb, and the chorus and orchestra that he founded (in 1954 and 1965 respectively) respond with the assurance that we have heard many times before. While Rilling and Levin each furnish a note for the booklet, a Web address is given for further information. The recording was made during a pair of performances in Stuttgart last spring. While Levin will admit that this is a hypothetical realization of what might have been Mozart’s intentions, based on fragments of sketches, it is well worth hearing. Since most other recordings fill in Mozart’s incomplete scoring of the Credo and Sanctus, Levin’s attempt to do this and more is at least as worthy of attention as any of them. Listen for yourself.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber