Exultate Choir / Thomas D. Rossin

Mozart: Grand Mass in C minor

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The choral recordings of the Exultate Festival Choir and Orchestra in Minnesota might give a foreign listener an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of regional amateur and semi-professional performing organizations in the U.S. This recording of Mozart's Mass in C minor, K. 427, the "Great," or, as it is styled here, the "Grand" mass, is a good example. Though incomplete, the mass is one of Mozart's most technically ambitious works; the soprano part was apparently written for his wife, Constanze, a singer with gifts well above average, and the scale of the existing parts is unprecedentedly large. The good news is that the Exultate group and conductor Thomas D. Rossin deliver a performance that shows not only appreciation of the music, but real engagement with it. The opening bars of the Kyrie reveal a deliberate approach that pervades the entire work, with expressively shaped lines and a sweetly reverential feel that's a pleasure to hear. The soprano solos in the Gloria mostly have the requisite agility, and the choir never falls into the lurching rhythms that mark so many large groups at this level. The vocal ensembles are not uniformly successful, and the orchestral backing is less than perfectly accurate. But any North American amateur performing organization might look to this vigorous performance as an example of what is possible. Even if a German regional choir would produce a smoother performance, it might well not convey as much of a sense of real enjoyment and reward on the part of the singers.

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