This new release highlights some of Mozart’s lesser-known works, all for string trio: the Divertimento in E flat major, KV 563 and two of the Fugues with slow Preludes from the set of six, KV 404a (after Bach). The Divertimento, KV 563 is not only Mozart’s sole large-scale composition for string trio, it is also one of the first works ever written for the combination of violin, viola, and cello. It was composed in 1788, the same year as three of Mozart’s greatest and best-known works, the symphonies in E flat, G minor, and C (the ‘Jupiter’). Mozart was at the absolute height of his powers as a composer, and at the premiere of the divertimento in Dresden in 1789, he himself played the viola part.
Authentic and authoritative, these 1985 recordings of Mozart and Beethoven's quintets for piano and winds have almost everything going for them. Performing on a pianoforte modeled on a 1790 Viennese instrument, Jos van Immerseel is an adroit player, while the quartet drawn from the period instrument wind band Octophoros – Paul Dombrecht on oboe, Elmar Schmid on clarinet, Piet Dombrecht on horn, and Danny Bond on bassoon – are likewise all skillful instrumentalists. But while their playing is beyond contention – listen to their keen balances, their smooth ensemble, their unified rhythms – their interpretations miss the one thing that defines these works: their sense of fun..
First things first: if you're seeing a picture of this disc on the site of an online retailer, be aware that it contains the Mass in C minor, K. 427, not the "Mass in C," promised by the cover, which would more likely be the "Coronation" Mass in C major, K. 337. It is always a shame when designers are given power of diktat over content editors. The so-called "Great" Mass in C minor is one of Mozart's most ambitious and most problematical works. There was no known immediate stimulus for its composition. Did Mozart begin writing it out of one of his rare religious impulses, on the occasion of his marriage to his bride Constanze? Out of his growing devotion to Freemasonry? Was it his first major exercise in applying the lessons in Bach-style counterpoint he had been receiving at the intellectual salons of the Baron van Swieten in Vienna? Or was it meant as a showpiece for singer Constanze with its killer soprano arias? It was all of these things and none of them, for Mozart never finished the mass.
Beethoven called Mozart's Requiem "wild and terrible", and that's what we get in Harnoncourt's new recording. Ominous dread hangs from every note of the dark opening measures, the Rex tremendae and Confutatis are driven with terrifying strength, and the supplications of the Lacrimosa, with their weeping stabbings of the orchestra, are freighted with emotional power. The Tuba mirum duet of bass soloist and trombone has a beauty almost never achieved in other readings. Nor does Harnoncourt overstep the stylistic boundaries of this classical-era work; rather, the intensity is heightened for being in the idiom of its time.
A “touching and magnificent reunion” (Der Standard). The public and press enthusiastically celebrated the long-awaited return of Claudio Abbado to the Salzburg Festival in 2012. The conductor brought with him Mozart’s youthful Mass K. 139, the so-called Waisenhausmesse, and Schubert’s late Mass in E flat major. In a fascinating way, Abbado succeeded in merging the singers and instrumentalists into a total collaborative effort: “Seldom has one heard such a perfect balance between choir, orchestra, and vocal soloists; one has also seldom heard such a beautifully coordinated and perfectly balanced vocal ensemble” (Salzburger Nachrichten).
"Ascanio in Alba" K. 111 came about through the good offices of Count Firmian, who had shared the Milan audience's enthusiasm for "Mitridate" and exerted his influence on the Empress in Vienna. He suggested entrusting the young Mozart with the composition of a festa teatrale for the wedding of the Empress's son, Archduke Ferdinand, and Maria Beatrice d'Este of Modena. Mozart began working on the score in late August 1771…