Franz Raml

W. A. Mozart: "Così fan Tutte" Messe

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The art of musical parody, defined in the sense of setting new texts to preexisting music, reached a peak in Bach's day and had declined by the late eighteenth century. This resulted more from a general decline in religious music, historically (from Heinrich Isaac all the way down to Christian hip-hop) the main stimulus for this kind of adaptation, than from any stylistic incompatibility. The Classical-era mass was steeped in operatic language, with Mozart's incomplete Mass in C minor, K. 427, being an excellent example. So the revival of this rare item at the hands of a group of German Mozart veterans is a welcome find. The piece dubbed the "Così fan tutte" Mass in C major was known to Mozart cataloger Ludwig Köchel, who included it in the appendix, or Anhang, to his registry of Mozart's works as number 235e. It was the creation of an unknown arranger and was copied out several times by people who presumably wanted to perform it, including in a version with complete instrumental parts by a monk-composer in a monastery today known as Rot a.d. Rot; that copy is performed here. The opera entitled Women All Do That might seem an unlikely candidate for such treatment, but it has a festive tone that actually works pretty well; the booklet makes passing reference to similar arrangements based on Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute, which would certainly be even harder to deal with (and would be worth digging up and recording). Best of all is that the anonymous arranger went about the job intelligently. The arias picked seem so well suited to their texts that they could for all the world have been intended for sacred use. Sample the Benedictus, track 7 (by the way, the track list on the cover is correct, the one in the booklet misnumbered), with its naturally flowing treatment of "Secondate, aurette amiche." The arranger went beyond simple transcription, adding contrapuntal lines and string passages, and in the Gloria building the movement out of a potpourri of tunes from the opera, a concept as pleasing now as it must have been for Austrian churchgoers in 1800. He also writes entirely new music in the Credo and the beginning of the Gloria, fusing these effectively with the existing music. Conductor Franz Raml and his German Mozart Orchestra present smooth performances on historical instruments, and the soloists have the right dimensions for the music and adapt the arias nicely in the direction of church smoothness and away from operatic attitude. Especially effective is Norwegian soprano Siri Thornhill, who is heard in an interpolated Offertory (track 5) brought in from a similar arrangement of an aria from La clemenza di Tito in an entirely logical move on Raml's part. The rounding-out of the disc with the Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, might also seem out of balance with the Così music, but it fits well in Raml's pleasantly sunny reading, and the recording, partly done in the monastery where the manuscript was found, is sonically superb.

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