This is one of several releases the Naxos label has devoted to the music of Czech composers in late 18th century Vienna, and specifically to that of Leopold Koželuch, who succeeded Mozart as court composer and Kapellmeister. Listeners interested in starting with one of these releases might do well to choose this one, which consists mostly of music from the 1770s: here, Koželuch did not have to contend with Mozart's shadow and achieved some original structural ideas even if his treatments of harmony and rhythm are often bland. Joseph der Menschheit Segen was written, like several of Mozart's late works, for a Masonic audience; it's a little choral-vocal cantata with the novelty of spoken, melodrama-like interludes. There are several strong arias and a solo vocal funeral cantata on the death of empress Maria Theresa, accompanied only by a harpsichord. Given that the work dated from 1781 and that Koželuch was a promoter of the new fortepiano, that instrument might have been a better choice, but even as it is, with the rather delicate voice of soprano Simona Eisinger, it has a slightly haunting quality. Perhaps the strongest work is the undated Mass in C major, a missa brevis that works some elegant contrasts between the adult and boys' choirs into its compact structure. The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice and its associated singers, under conductor Marek Štilec, have a distinctive low-key sound and approach that may not be to all tastes, but it's a good guess that Koželuch's music sounded this way when it was first performed.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Joseph der Menschheit Segen (Joseph, Mankind's Blessing), PosK XIX: 3|
|Missa in C, PosK XXV: 1|
|Klage auf den Todt Marien Theresien, PosK XIX: 1|