MOZART: 17 Church Sonatas (arr. for organ solo) – Zsigmond Szathmary – Carus

by | Mar 12, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

MOZART: 17 Church Sonatas (arr. for organ solo) – Zsigmond Szathmary, organ – Carus 18.067/99, 70:05 [Distr. by Albany] ***1/2:
Scholars have long disagreed on how exactly to categorize Mozart’s 17 “Church” (or “epistle”) Sonatas. Obviously they were written for church services, to be done after the reading of the epistle, and found their way into other compositions as well, but do they form a progression of sorts, something that reflects musical complexity ultimately leaning towards more serious listening as opposed to the earlier simpler works?
Evidently the answer is no. Handwriting analysis has made it obvious that the pieces occurred over a period of time in no certain order of complexity, and were in no way consistent in occasion or in manner—some are simple trios while others bask in the glory of full orchestration with organ obbligato. All are one-movement works that represent a uniqueness of genre—they never caught on in general and stand alone as his special concept of enhancing the mass of his time. All are also scored for orchestra of some type, about half with organ obbligato and half organ accompaniment with figured bass.
When Mozart left Salzburg the genre left with him, the Archbishop decreeing that the epistle sonata give way to vocal gradualia instead. The works were an important part of Mozart’s duties to the church services while he remained in Salzburg, a very individual effort that was probably very easy for him to maintain (they almost sound improvised) and which faded when his keyboard presence disappeared.
It should be noted that this recording is an arrangement done within the context of the Stuttgart Mozart Edition for solo organ, and there is no indication that they were ever given like this. As such, if one feels that one can live with this and not need another recording with the normal instrumental forces, this is colorful and well-played, though there is a degree of monotony that is assuaged by the use of instruments—Mozart knew what he was doing here. The music is wildly varied in quality, much superb, much obviously meant to fill some space in a service and not given much thought. There is no doubt that Mozart would have objected strenuously to all 17 being given on one disc as is common today, but that’s just the way it is.
Sound is vibrant and warm.
—Steven Ritter

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure