MOZART Sacred Choral Works
I don't think I can recall any recording of Mozart's church music that so happily captures its character—the particular mixture of confidence, jubilation and contemplation—as this one. Christopher Hogwood's unfussy direction, his broad phrasing, his lively but generally unhurried tempos and his happy details of timing serve splendidly in the Coronation Mass, the finest of Mozart's completed mass settings; the solemnity of the Kyrie, the fine swing of the Gloria and the energy of the Credo, with due pause for its rapt moment at the ''Et incarnatus'', all these come over with due effect. Arguably the ''Osanna'' is rather quick, but its jubilance is splendid. And the sweetness of the Benedictus is ravishing. Not more so, however, than the Agnus, for there, at a decidedly slow tempo, Hogwood allows Emma Kirkby to make the most of this very sensuous music, which she duly most beautifully does. The soloists are altogether an excellent team, with two refined voices in the middle and Michael George a firm and sturdy bass. The inclusion of the K278 Epistle Sonata is a happy notion, and indeed I think this rather densely written choral Mass benefits from an instrumental interlude (which is how it would originally have been heard); though I am not quite sure why this particular sonata, written two years earli-er, was chosen in preference to one of those closer in time to the Mass and actually intended to be heard with it.
The Vesperae solennes de confessore is a setting of the five vesper psalms and the Magnificat, made in 1780, a year after the Mass, for some church feast in Salzburg. There is some variety of style here, dictated no doubt by local tradition: the ''Laudate pueri'' for example is mostly in a severe contrapuntal manner, while the ''Laudate Dominum'' is of course the famous soprano aria with the voice floating above a soft orchestral (and later choral) texture—and it is done here most exquisitely by Emma Kirkby with an art that conceals art (there are other gems from her in the Vespers: listen to the ''Gloria Patri'' in the ''Beatus vir'', for example). With some admirable singing from the choir, a fresh-voiced group whose boys have a fine bright ring, and a spacious recording with exceptionally good stereo separation that properly conveys the ecclesiastical ambience (it was made, under the late lamented Peter Wadland, at St Jude's in Hampstead Garden Suburb), this is a disc I shall play many times, and I hope readers will too.'