St. John's College Choir, Cambridge / Andrew Nethsingha / St. John's Sinfonia

Mozart: "Coronation" Mass; Ave Verum Corpus; Exsultate, Jubilate

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There are many recommendable aspects to this period-instrument, all-male recording of Mozart's Mass in C major, K. 317 ("Coronation"), and Missa Brevis, K. 192. First is the deployment of the mass sections themselves. It is often pointed out that the sections of a Classical-era mass are not like the movements of a symphony; Mozart wrote these pieces for use in Salzburg's ecclesiastical establishment, and they would have been performed with liturgy and other music in between the individual sections. As conductor Andrew Nethsingha points out, the joyous explosions of sound at the beginnings of the sections of the "Coronation" Mass especially lose their proper impact when preceded by movement finales at roughly the same pitch of intensity. Yet simply performing the work as part of a full Catholic mass doesn't quite put it across either (although there are occasional performances and recording that do just that). Nethsingha opts for a compromise that may not be historically authentic, but is musically very effective: he interpolates Mozart's youthful church sonatas (descendants of the Baroque sonata da chiesa) between the Gloria and Credo, and again between the Credo and Sanctus. This keeps the momentum going without losing the impact of these two large movements. And what momentum there is! Soprano Susan Gritton leads a set of top-notch soloists, with a remarkably textured performance of the sacred aria Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165, at the end of the program, and Nethsingha gets absolute clarity out of the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, and the St. John's Sinfonia. The sense of controlled enthusiasm in the later pages of the Credo, culminating in Mozart's non-liturgical but apparently deeply felt repetition of the words "Credo in unum Deum" (I believe in one God), has rarely been matched among the dozens of recordings of this mass on the market. Nethsingha shifts gears effectively for the Missa Brevis, a less splendid but more radical work, and for a lovely example of the motet Ave verum corpus, K. 618. Chandos engineers extract both precision and richness from the choir's home ground, the St. John's College Cathedral. For buyers wanting the "Coronation" mass with boy singers and historical instruments, this is a choice release.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Missa in C major, KV 317 "Coronation"
1 2:51
2 4:34
3 2:28
Missa in C major, KV 317 "Coronation"
4 6:40
5 3:13
Missa in C major, KV 317 "Coronation"
6 1:37
7 3:13
8 6:08
9 3:46 Amazon
Missa brevis in F major, KV 192
10 3:21
11 4:35
12 5:35
13 1:30
14 2:16
15 4:17
Exsultate, jubilate, KV 165
16 4:27
17 0:49
18 6:28
19 2:38
blue highlight denotes track pick