This album is not a collection of performances from the Naxos catalog, but a freshly recorded survey of the music Mozart wrote for the Masonic organizations of which he was part in Vienna, much of it of fascinating personal significance. The musicians seem to be mostly associated with performing organizations in the German city of Kassel; Korean-born tenor Young-Hoon Heo is a company member of the Kassel Stadttheater. Still, pulling together the collection of vocals, orchestral musicians, and wind chamber players heard here is a noteworthy accomplishment. And, although all of these pieces have been recorded elsewhere, several are quite rare, and it's extremely instructive to hear them all together. Mozart inherited his interest in Freemasonry from his father and stuck with it through periods in which it was banned; during the last part of his life the sect benefited from the positive attitude of Emperor Joseph II, the dedicatee of a couple of the little choral pieces here. It would be interesting to know the background of the main performers and of annotator Heinz Sichrovsky, for there is at least one unusual addition to Mozart's Masonic canon here: the Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K. 546, played by an orchestra, is ruled in because its seemingly ordinary main theme "is based on an anapestic Masonic signal." Most of the music, however, was clearly written for specific uses in Masonic ceremony; one the Lied zur Gesellenreise, K. 468, was intended for Mozart's own promotion to the rank of Entered Apprentice in 1785. The music consists of choruses, small wind pieces, pieces for a small orchestra, among them the famed Mauerische Trauermusik, K. 477 (Masonic Funeral Music), and little dramatic works, notably Eine kleine Freimaurer-Kantate: Laut verkünde unsre Freude, K. 623 (A Little Masonic Cantata: Loudly We Proclaim Our Joy), conducted by Mozart himself at his lodge three weeks before his death. Its text is by Mozart's friend Emanuel Schikaneder, author of the libretto to The Magic Flute, and one thing the listener is apt to take away from this recording is a new appreciation for just how Masonic that opera is. The male choruses, otherwise not much found in Mozart's output, are beautifully wrought and seem to look forward to Schubert's pieces of this type. An essential item for the Perfect Mozartian, never less than adequately performed; Heo's voice is of just the right dimensions for this music. Notes are in English only, texts in German only, with English translations available on a Naxos webpage.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Dir, Seele des Weltalls, cantata for tenor, male chorus & orchestra (fragment), K. 429 (K. 468a)|
|Adagio and Fugue for string quartet (or string orchestra) in C minor, K. 546|
Lobgesang auf die feierliche Johannisloge ("O heiliges Band"), song for voice & piano, K. 148 (K. 125h)
|Laut verkünde unsre Freude, cantata for male chorus & orchestra ("Masonic cantata"), K. 623|