Mozart Mass in C minor, K427; Masonic Funeral Music, K477
Mozart’s C minor Mass (misleadingly billed as “Mass in C” on Virgin’s front cover), like the Requiem, these days comes in assorted guises. Most radical is the completion of Mozart’s torso by Robert Levin, recorded with fair success by Rilling (Hänssler, 1/06). Louis Langrée confines himself to the sections Mozart actually composed, and provides his own, effective, realisation of the missing instrumental parts in the Credo (here festively adorned with trumpets, trombones and timpani) and the “Et incarnatus est”. The upshot is not dissimilar to Richard Maunder’s edition, used by Hogwood (L’Oiseau Lyre, 7/90) and McCreesh (Archiv, 1/06), though Langrée’s scoring in the pastoral “Et incarnatus est” is sparer, eschewing the horns suggested by Mozart’s blank staves.
Like McCreesh, whose recording this often resembles, Langrée chooses keen, brisk tempi (arguably too brisk in the Credo, here more Allegro frenetico than Mozart’s prescribed Allegro maestoso) without short-changing the neo-Baroque monumentality of the Kyrie and the “Qui tollis”, both powerfully built. Orchestral detail is precisely etched, with prominent trombones adding a dark, louring intensity to the “Qui tollis”; and the chorus, well balanced with the orchestra, sings with fresh, youthful tone and evident involvement.
Langrée’s trump cards are his two sopranos, Natalie Dessay and Véronique Gens. Gens sounds truly joyous in the athletic coloratura of “Laudamus te”, while Dessay carols celestially in the “Et incarnatus est”, taken at an easy, lilting tempo. Tenor Topi Lehtipuu adds his mellifluous tones to the “Quoniam” trio, and the lyrical bass of Luca Pisaroni completes the quartet in a notably airy, graceful account of the Benedictus. If McCreesh remains a top recommendation, Langrée’s C minor Mass deserves to be heard. Fans of Dessay and Gens, in any case, will need no prompting.