If Mozart had turned up at the gates of Heaven with nothing to show for his life but his setting of "Laudate Dominum" (Psalm 117) from his "Vesperae solennes de confessore,K339 to his credit:then that alone would have been enough to make him qualify for automatic entry with no further questions asked.It is THAT good. I first encountered this glorious piece in those halcyon days of my first exploring Classical music.I was joyfully collecting,one by one,the Haydn Masses that George Guest and his wonderful Choir of St.John's College,Cambridge had recorded for Decca back in the late 1960's.And on the particular disc that contained the brilliant "Paukenmesse";K339 came as the filler item,and what a filler it turned out to be ! The Vespers are divided into six movements with "Laudate Dominum" been the penultimate piece.There is actually no warning in a musical sense to prepare you for it's sudden magical materialisation.You will be suitably impressed by the opening sonorities of the "Dixit Dominus" and by the time you get to the rather severe,fugal "Laudate pueri" you might think that you have got the measure of Mozart's intentions in this work.Therefore,the "trap" he springs here is all the more unexpected and jaw-dropingly surprising.We get a lovely performance here as well,with the Wren Orchestra weaving a magic carpet of sound that the excellent soprano Felicity Palmer and our peerless choir climb aboard and transport us to listener's paradise.That moment when Ms Palmer rises ethereally out of the concluding choral Amen is just amazing,and is one of the most amazing things in all Mozart's output. Aside from that musical miracle,there is much else to be enjoyed on this generous "twofer" from Decca.I especially enjoyed the celebratory "Magnificat" that concludes K339,and from the "sister" "Vesperae solennes de Dominica,K321" I would pick out it's "Dixit Dominus" as a particular treat for your ears. To conclude disc 1 we get the "Spaur-Messe" which rather belies the set's subtitle of "Vespers and Litanies",because this is neither.It's actually a missa brevis dating from 1775 when Mozart was 19 years old (that's fairly mature for him !).As the title suggests the text of the Mass is delivered in a fairly abbreviated and condensed fashion.It lasts not much more than a quarter of an hour,and although I wouldn't go so far as to say your life is incomplete without hearing it,it is not without interest,and indeed it's amazing how much stylistic diversity he manages to cram into it's modest dimensions. On CD 2 we get Mozart's settings of the Litany i.e "Litaniae Lauretanea,K195" and Litaniae de venerabili altaris sacramento,K243".Out of the earlier work I rather like the long (8'42'')devotional "Sancta Maria" and the very satisfying concluding "Agnus Dei".The latter Litany is stretched out to 10 individual movements,and is full of interest throughout.Highlights for me include the "Panis vivus" and the soprano (Margaret Marshall brilliant as always) aria "Dulcissimum convivium". The sound quality throughout is absolutely typical of the golden days when men such as Kenneth Wilkinson and John Dunkerly were the recording engineers in charge,and achieved a lovely warm and spacious sound-stage that I wish more modern recordings (especially choral) would try and emulate.
What Mozart might have done as the Kapellmeister of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna is one of the great-ifs of history. Imagine if the stupendous Mass in C Minor, K 427, was regarded as an early work? All one can do is weep.
Some insight is provided by the disc in question. Contained herein is a quartet of masterpieces. K 339 & K 321 need little explanation. The Litaniae de Venerabili altaris sacramento, K 243, is a solar system unto itself; consisting of nine movements, it galvanised Mozart into showcasing his unfathomable talent. Be it the altar or the stage, his genius as a dramatist is sui generis. Just listen to how the work commences with the Kyrie - where else is one to find such `finish'? As sung by the heavenly Margaret Marshall, `Dulcissimum Convivium' is just as much of a miracle as the `Laudate Dominum' from K 339. The Viaticum is unique in his output. K 195, an earlier work, is just as inspired. Mozart later cannibalised the Agnus Dei from the Coronation Mass & the Missa Solemnis (K 337) for his operatic endeavours; one wonders why he refrained from raiding K 195 in a similar fashion: it is arguably the most lucent of them all - and O how it fades away into the resonant silence.
Albert Einstein once said that unless one knows the Vespers above, one does not know Mozart; perhaps he should have widened his criteria to include the two litanies as well.
The offering also offers the Spaur Mass, K 258. It is not one of his important settings of the liturgy and it has been done better elsewhere Missa Brevis / Missa Ionga.
All works are well recorded. The singing is memorable - how could it be otherwise with such an array? Predictably, Cotrubas steals the show with her rendition of the Agnus Dei in K 195. To die in radiance!
I have recently joined a community choir and have had the opportunity of performing Mozart's Laudate Dominium, through very numerous rehearsals I got to love the piece and like all complex pieces of music got to appreciate the various nuances and richness of Mozart's wonderful creation, discovering something new at every performance. Eventually I just had to have a CD of this music performed by some professional choir so that I could enjoy it as often as I wished to at home. I wasn't disappointed. My wife is similarly enchanted by it also.
Bought this after reading such excellent reviews. In no way am I disappointed. The whole thing is sublime. Laudate Dominum is just heavenly with the soprano rising ethereally and you are transported to higher realms. So pleased I saw the reviews and got it.
Written when he was around 23years old this is one of the finest pieces ever written for these two instruments. ( Apparantly Mozart didn't like the harp ) The second movement is one of the most glorious pieces of music ever written it flows with such majesty it calms the very depth of the body and soul. The work of a genius.