The pan-continental Chamber Choir of Europe recorded a number of Mozart works for the Dutch budget label Brilliant as part of a large Mozart edition, and these performances have been reissued several times, singly and in groups. The choir always has an attractively clear sound that comes from the youth of its members, and this is one of the group's most distinctive if not necessarily one that will appeal to every listener. Conductor Nicol Matt generally falls close to the middle of the road, but here he runs counter to type among recordings of Mozart's "Great" Mass in C minor, K. 427. The modest dimensions he gives the work, aided by close-up microphone placement that brings out individual voices in the group, are fresh and cogently thought out. They put the focus on the solos, especially the soprano part written for Mozart's new bride, Constanze. Annotator David Doughty's suggestion that the mass might have remained incomplete because Mozart's relationship to Constanze "had already taken a downward turn" is not supported by any evidence, and indeed there are much better explanations of why Mozart might have left the mass unfinished (it is missing the second half of the Credo, part of the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei, but an unidentified orchestration of the Credo and Sanctus is used here). Matt's extremely slow tempos are another matter. It's not that he is trying for an exceptionally grandiose conception of the work; quite the opposite, in fact, and the effect may be a bit like hearing the music in slow motion. First soprano Valentina Farcas is a gifted Mozartian, but she doesn't get the chance to grow into Constanze's sweeping, operatic arias. Instead, the whole mass takes on a meditative cast that is rare in any recording of Mozart. Try it, you might like it, or not, but in any event the disc won't break the bank.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Mass No. 17 for soloists, chorus & orchestra in C minor (fragment, "Great Mass"), K. 427 (K. 417a)|