MOZART: Missa brevis in C Major, K. 220; Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 “Prague”; HAYDN: Nine German Dances – Giuliana Raimondi, sop./ Miti Truccato Pace, mezzo/ Petre Munteanu, tenor/ James Loomis, bass/ Orchestra Sinfonia e Coro “Alessandro Scarlatti” della RAI/ Orch. Sinfonica di Torino della RAI (Haydn)/ Lovro von Matacic – Archipel ARPCD 0483, 53:33 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Mozart performances led by Lovro von Matacic (1899-1985) extend his repute for explosive musical prowess, here at RAI concerts in Naples and Turin, 1960-1961. Indeed, the rendition of Mozart’s Prague Symphony (5 January 1960) exhibits such virtuoso gifts it makes us recognize the splendor of the occasion in early 1787, when the work premiered expressly as a token of the composer’s affection for a musically receptive city and for the Bohemian temperament generally.
Even more than Bruno Walter, Matacic urges his Naples ensemble forward, exploiting Mozart’s brilliant counterpoint and the blend of strings, winds, and tympani. The sheer brio of invention has infused Mozart’s edgily buoyant spirit, and Matacic keeps us in a state of perpetual tension as the minor key Adagio of the first movement moves through harmonically circuitous routes to the tonic of the febrile Allegro. The bassoon features prominently in the progress of the lovely G Major Andante, which no less offers Matacic’s dramatic urgency in polyphonic episodes. But the Finale, a 2/4 Presto of spectacular acrobatics, steals the show. The seamless bustling led by the flute gains exuberant, boisterous momentum as Matacic leads the orchestra into the heights and depths of rhythmic dexterity, ever colorful and rhythmically vibrant, a performance with which to reckon—an honest “Desert Island“ treasure!
The 1775 Missa brevis in C, several of whose tropes appear in the fateful Requiem in D Minor, K. 626, has a nickname, “The Sparrow,” bestowed for its violin figures in the Hosanna, Sanctus, and Benedictus, which resemble birds’ warblings. As concentrated as this Mass appears (with Sanctus omitted) in this resonant performance (10 October 1961), its reverential and jubilant character shines in soli and chorus. Matacic, of course, remained a past master of opera and choral forces: witness his elegant inscriptions of Lehar’s The Merry Widow with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and an epic Der Freischuetz with Rudolf Schock. Giuliana Raimondi’s sweet soprano reigns in the Gloria, whose figures recall Vivaldi‘s transparent textures in the repeated “Amens.” A forceful Credo engages a lovely duet between tenor Petre Munteanu and Raimondi and chorus; then, it breaks off into a fervent scena for the lower voices, cast in the form of a motet. Another accompanied motet constitutes the Benedictus, employing much high tessitura and coloratura filigree. Mozart, had he lived beyond 1791, planned to devote much more time to religious music for his beloved Vienna, and this Agnus Dei, which moves through a poignant chromatic Miserere, achieves a timeless quality of solemn introspection and deep valedictory resolution in the concluding martial Dona nobis pacem.
The sequence of Nine German Dances by Haydn under Matacic (24 January 1961) illustrate the composer’s vast resources of peasant energy, his delight in instrumental combinations, particularly in the woodwinds, and his ceaseless rhythmic invention. These dances may well have provided fodder for the more famous Haydn minuets and scherzi of the symphonies. The dances alternate in mood and character from rustic romps to fairly galant gestures from the noble courts of Europe. Eminently light-hearted and athletic, the music moves in fecund transparency, bestowing a moment of noblesse oblige wherever the figures fall.
The historic restorations show a renewed vitality.