Bernhard Paumgartner

The Music of Mozart

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These recordings are proclaimed by Austrian historical reissue house Preiser Records to have been part of the "legendary" Mozart Jubilee Edition, issued by Philips in 1956 to mark the 200th anniversary of Mozart's birth. They apparently come from a pair of the original LPs, one devoted to Mozart's Masonic choral music and one to what were designated as concert arias for bass; many of them are insertion arias or other pieces of operatic miscellany. To judge from the considerable surface noise, the CD was produced from LP copies rather than from master tapes; the sound is not up to what Philips was capable of in the 1950s, and no technical data are provided. The performances, though, are intriguing historical documents. Conductor Bernhard Paumgartner, here at the helm of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, had an outrageous tendency to make Mozart sound like Wagner. Playing Mozart like this is almost a lost art, and the expansive Masonic cantatas from the end of Mozart's life, sacred pieces freed from Catholic conventions, are ideal for the display of this style that is so foreign to contemporary ears. The soloist in the bass arias is German Jewish singer Hermann Schey, who fled to the Netherlands during World War II and then had to hide there. His voice has considerable warmth and power, and fans of the history of German singing may well want this release purely for his presence. But for the general listener it's the hyper-Romantic Mozart of the Masonic pieces, featuring a hardly chamber-sized Wiener Kammerchor, that's the main draw.

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