Monday, 12 October 2009

Leopold Mozart (1719-1787) - Missa Solemnis in C (World Premiere Recording)

Only a handful of works by Leopold Mozart are available in reprints. The vast majority are housed in the manuscript collection of South German and Austrian libraries. It is therefore still no easy task to assess his importance.

His son Wolfgang Amadeus had a high regard for him as a composer and even in his later years in Vienna chose to perform several of his works. Moreover, during the last few decades a number of items in the Köchel catalogue have been identified on sound documentary evidence as being by Leopold.

The Mass in C is a case in point. In the old Köchel catalogue it figures as K 115 with a reference to a long-vanished autograph score, but in 1975 the manuscript turned up at an auction and it was in Leopold's own hand. It contains only the vocal parts and a keyboard accompaniment (organ) and breaks off after the first nine bars of the Sanctus. Comparison with the two complete manuscript sources of the work reveals that this autograph is in fact a concentrated sketch for the final score; several of its vocal sections were preserved intact, while others were considerably expanded.

Two sets of parts were produced in the Salzburg area, probably during the 1760s; the more valuable is still preserved in the archives of St. Peter's Abbey in Salzburg. The orchestration is the same in both: two clarino trumpets, two horns, strings and organ, and one of them has a part for solo flute. This suggests that the Mass was not in fact intended for Salzburg Cathedral, since, the latter has no violas. It is possible that the Mass was written for St. Peter's Church. An extract date cannot be postulated.

The Mass in C contains a number of long solo arias, and the the score suggests that Leopold Mozart could reckon with the participation of at least two highly accomplished singers: a soprano and a tenor. The arias culminate in pauses indicating the start of solo cadenzas: in one instance there are no fewer than three.

But despite the presence of such innovations the work clearly belongs to the transitional period between the late baroque and early classicism, and harks back to the stylized emotions and musical symbolism of the baroque era.

Leopold's attitude to Latin prosody was not as strict as his son's. His approach was very much in the spirit of the 18th-century motet, with priority given to the working out of thematic material.

Very characteristic of him are the occasional homely touches: he was not ashamed of sharing the popular taste and indeed considered it as necessary part of music.

The CD was released by Koch-Records International, P 1982/1989, (ADD). 313028 H1.

Soprano: Arleen Augér
Alto: Gabriele Schreckenbach
Tenor: Horst Laubenthal
Baritone: Barry McDaniel

Chor der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale Berlin, Domkapelle Berlin, Conductor: Roland Bader

Track List:
  1. Kyrie (4'29")
  2. Gloria (17'03")
  3. Credo (16'39")
  4. Sanctus (1'54")
  5. Benedictus (5'12")
  6. Agnus Dei (6'35")