Laurence Equilbey / Accentus / Insula Orchestra

Mozart: Coronation Mass; Vesperae solennes de confessore

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Many of the earlier recordings of the French choir Accentus and its director, Laurence Equilbey, focused on late Romantic or 20th century repertory, including, one time, texted symphonic music by Mahler. Equilbey has turned her attention to the Classical period, however, first to Haydn, and then, with Accentus' fine 2014 recording of the Requiem in D minor, K. 626, to Mozart. That album was on Naxos, but now Accentus and Equilbey's period-instrument Insula Orchestra move to Parlophone/Warner Classics, with a bit of a bump up in sound quality: the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer is kind to Accentus' uniquely lush sound. You wouldn't necessarily think that sound would fit Mozart, but Equilbey proves herself a skilled Mozartian, forging clean contrasts between the rich choir and the vibrato-free Insula strings. The result here is a superb reading of the Mozart warhorse Mass in C major, K. 317 ("Coronation"), with its closely associated Vesperae solennes de confessore, K. 339. The mass features musical material so simple that you can't see how it could possibly be as beautiful as it is, but that's the nature of Mozart's mastery of musical time. What pushes this recording into the top rank of available "Coronation" recordings is the presence of fine soloists, most of all the divine Sandrine Piau on the soprano line. Sample the end of the "Gloria," where she adds an angelic, dancing "Amen" of the kind few other recordings have boasted. Throughout, Equilbey manages the relationships among orchestra, choir, and soloists well, and although the choir is coolly consistent, she gets the exuberance of the repeated "Credo in unum Deum" at the end of the "Credo," an unusual and telling feature of the mass. Strongly recommended Mozart.

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