Recordings > Choral and Song

MOZART: Coronation Mass; Ave Verum Corpus; Exsultate Jubilate

spacer Gritton, Bourne; Furness, Humphreys; St. John's Sinfonia and Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, Nethsingha. Latin texts with translations. Chandos, Chan 0786

Recordings Mozart Choral Cover 712

The vibrant colors of St. John's Sinfonia, a London-based period-instrument ensemble, punctuate lively singing from the men and boys of the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, under the baton of Andrew Nethsingha in sacred works of Mozart. Nethsingha simulates the effect of hearing the Coronation Mass KV 317 in a liturgical context by inserting short Church Sonatas for strings between the Mass movements, so that the ear is periodically drawn away for a fresh return to the tonality, textures and instrumentation (especially the brilliant brass) of Mozart's 1779 Mass. 

Chorus and soloists bring clarity and lightness to the composer's earlier Missa Brevis, KV 192, from 1774, and the small string component sounds nimble, especially in the thorny phrases of the Agnus Dei. Nethsingha highlights the harmonic shifts of the Sanctus, and each choral section brings special energy to the falling phrases of the Hosanna sections.

Though she serves as glamorous headliner for the CD, soprano Susan Gritton sounds indifferent, and her notoriously bad diction (it's impossible even to make out "alleluia") sounds comical when answered by the clear sounds of the other soloists. Her superficial rendition of Exsultate, Jubilate suffers from monochromatic tone and lack of engagement.

Rounding out the disc, Mozart's ever popular Ave Verum Corpus receives a stately, sonorous reading. Sonically, however, the entire CD suffers from too distant miking of the chorus, with the solo vocal quartet too close. spacer

JUDITH MALAFRONTE

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Current Issue: September 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 3