There is so much Mozart on the planet; so much music that one can't be blamed for wondering how Mozart, who died at age 34, found the time to write all of this music out; certainly he did not live long enough to hear every note that he produced played. Philips' 10-disc set Complete Mozart Edition, Vol. 12: Arias, Vocal Ensembles, Canons, Lieder, Notturni brings in one package whole genres within Mozart's output that are seldom heard under any circumstances. The first seven of the discs are devoted to solo arias alone, mostly written as independent entities but in some cases representing insert arias for operas written by others, and some alternative arias intended for use in Mozart's own works for the stage. The talent roster Philips has cooked up to perform these pieces is impressive indeed; Lucia Popp, Edith Mathis, Edita Gruberová, Bryn Terfel, and Walter Berry are among the high-profile singers heard here.
Next follow Mozart's tiny canons, all of which fit onto one disc and are performed by the Damenchor des Concentus Vocalis and Chorus Viennensis, the adult choir belonging to the Wiener Sängerknaben (Vienna Choir Boys). Mozart's canons are among the most adventurous, unpredictable, and revelatory musical works he undertook; far from being ordinary technical exercises, they reveal a great deal about his melodic approach and sense of construction. Sometimes the introductory melody, outlining the basic phrase to be "canonized," doesn't sound like anything, just bits of music with holes in between. When the additional voices come in and the music slowly begins to build, the result is heavenly and unmistakably Mozartian. This disc is excellent and is the highlight of the whole set, and it's a pity that Philips didn't see fit to make it available as a separate item.
The final two discs are taken up with Mozart's comparatively scant production in terms of Lieder and his "Notturni"; not divertimenti as in the case of Franz Josef Haydn, but a hybrid of harmoniemusik and ensemble voices in a treatment similar to what an earlier generation might have called canzonetta. While overall not especially distinguished efforts, these nonetheless bear the unmistakable stamp of Mozart. With so many pieces recorded over such a long a span of time, it is unreasonable to expect invariably consistent results in sound quality, but the baseline established by Philips insures that it is never inferior, just somewhat hissy in spots, particularly in the Chorus Viennensis selections. If you are looking for something different in Mozart, this is about as different as it gets, and although the bottom line might seem a bit high, for the sheer quantity of material offered and quality of the performances, it's a bargain.