MOZART: Sacred Works for Salzburg and Vienna (2005)

by | Jan 21, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: Sacred Works for Salzburg and Vienna (2005) 

Program: Missa solemnis in C Minor, K. 139 “Waisenhaus Mass;” Alma Dei creatoris, K. 277; Sancta Maria, mater Dei, K. 273; Inter natos mulierum, K. 72; Sub tuum praesdidium, K. 198; Ave verum corpus, K. 618
Performers: Vienna Boys’ Choir/ Vienna Hofmusikkapelle/ Herrenchor der Wiener Staatsoper/ Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/ Herbert Tachezi, organ/ Ernst Jankowitsch, bass/ Uwe Christian Herrer, conductor
Studio: Philips DVD B0005904-09
Video: 4:3 full screen color
Audio: PCM stereo 
Length: 72 minutes

Rating: ****

Filmed for European TV by director Franz Kabellka in 1988 and 1990 in the Hofburg Chapel in Vienna (Waisenhaus Mass) and at the parish church of St. Stephan in Baden bei Wien, this film captures several lovely sacred compositions from the pen of the 12-15-year-old Mozart (c. 1768-1777) , each astonishing for the maturity he brought at such a tender age to religious subjects.  The exception, of course, is the Ave verum corpus of 1791, a deceptively simple setting whose serenity of tone places it apart from this world.  Exemplary color photography lights every corner of the two chapels, with the camera settling on a horn or violin only occasionally, with most of the shots panning the conductor as he faces the Boys’ Choir, then pulling back for long shots of the full ensemble in performance in the chapel. Watching the tender faces of the young boy sopranos as they intone with the adult Ernst Jankowitsch is a study in musical and personal contrasts.

The so-called Waisenhaus Mass in C Minor was composed for the occasion of the consecration of the newly rebuilt church of the orphanage on the Rennweg in Vienna 7 December 1768; the Empress Maria Theresa was in attendance. Young Mozart chose a Neapolitan cantata type Mass form, with a conventional French overture in C Minor and a Crucifixus in F Minor. The affecting Qui Tollis is in C Minor.  The end of the Credo proffers a double fugue, certainly a testament to the mastery of musical procedure by the precocious genius. Some punishing high tessitura in the coloratura soprano arias in the Quoniam attest to the strong operatic instincts of the boy composer.

We witness rare performances of two offertories by young Mozart, the Inter natos mulierum (1771) and the doubtful Alma Dei creatoris in F, whose utter simplicity of style bespeaks the homophonic tradition of Marian worship in 18th Century Salzburg. The Sub tuum praesidium (1773-74) is of doubtful authenticity, although its simple affect could be an imitation of Michael Haydn. Sancta Maria, mater Dei (1777) is a gradual in F only seventy-three bars long. Finally, Ave verum corpus, likely written for Corpus Christi, enjoys an expressiveness and repose strictly otherworldly.

Each of the performances is lovingly molded by conductor Uwe Christian Harrer, who often  mouths the vocal parts as he leads his forces within the elegantly ornamental confines of the his chapel venues. The video has a pictorial feature, studies and portraits of Mozart at varying points in his life and career. The entire production exudes class and musical character of the highest order, certainly a fitting acquisition in this 250th Anniversary year for the world’s most felicitous musical talent.

–Gary Lemco 

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