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"Mozarts Gedaechtnis Feyer" (Mozart's Memorial Ceremony)

Andrea Lauren Brown, soprano; Ulrike Andersen, contralto; Thomas Michael Allen, tenor; Dominik Wörner, bass
Kammerchor München; Neue Hofkapelle München
Dir: Christoph Hammer

rec: July 26, 2006 (live), Brixen, Kirche des Priesterseminars
ORF - SACD 470 (© 2006) (58'12")

Carl CANNABICH (1771-1806): Mozarts Gedaechtnis Feyer; Johann Michael HAYDN (1737-1806): Alme Deus, offertorio (MH 332); Anton TEYBER (1756-1822): Missa in D

The title of this disc is also the title of one of the compositions recorded here. But it makes sense to use it as the title of the whole disc, as all composers present here are in one way or another connected to Mozart. In fact, Mozart was such a dominant figure during his lifetime that he has overshadowed many of his contemporaries, and still does. Otherwise it is difficult to explain how some composers of excellent music have been completely ignored in present-day music life. Anton Teyber is just one example of a composer who has remained in the shadow far too long, as his impressive Mass in D demonstrates.

It is Teyber who is the least-known composer of the three represented here, and none of his compositions has ever been recorded. That is most remarkable as his career shows he was held in high esteem. After having studied for some years with Padre Martini in Bologna he travelled through Europe, and was appointed organist at the court in Dresden in 1787. He returned to Vienna in 1791, and after a short period as deputy of Joseph Weigl at the National Hoftheater, he was appointed court composer in 1793. In this capacity he was the successor of Mozart, as this position had not been filled after Mozart's death. He also had to teach the keyboard to the emperor's children. Over the years he conducted a number of large-scale works, and his own compositions were also performed with great success.

His Mass in D is a remarkable and captivating piece of music. The Kyrie begins with a slow section full of harmonic tension, followed by a fast section. The Christe is set for solo voices and is also contains striking harmonic progressions. The second Kyrie is set as a fugue - a form to which Teyber returns several times during his Mass. The Gloria begins fast and joyful, but slows down in the 'Gratias agimus' which is again for the solo voices and in the 'miserere nobis' there are some strong dissonances. The 'cum Sancto Spiritu' is set as a fugue again, like the 'ex exspecto' at the end of the Gloria. In the Credo we find the only long solo section, the 'Crucifixus', given to the tenor. Here the agony of Jesus' suffering is vividly illustrated by the orchestra. The staccato chords in the strings could be interpreted as depicting the scourging. At the end of the Credo the word "mortuorum" is singled out by a slowing down of the tempo. This section of the Mass ends with a fugue again. The Benedictus is another striking part of this work, and is remarkably extended, considerably longer than most other settings of the Mass. In the Agnus Dei the second Miserere contains some dissonances, and in the closing 'dona nobis pacem' Teyber returns to the form of the fugue.

Johann Michael Haydn is much better known, but not that often performed. It seems, though, that there is a growing interest in his music, considering the number of recordings over the last years. The offertorio Alme Deus dates from 1783 and is set for bass solo, choir and orchestra. After a short recitative the bass has an aria to sing which is quite virtuoso and requires the whole range of the voice. In particular towards the end there are some large leaps in the vocal part. The offertorio closes with a homophonic chorus. This piece shows a different side of Johann Michael Haydn as it is much more technically demanding than those works which are mostly recorded.

The last work on this disc is what has given this production its title. It was written for the commemoration of Mozart's death in 1797. Carl Cannabich was the son of Christian Cannabich, who directed the famous court orchestra of Mannheim. The Cannabich's were close friends of the Mozart's, and therefore it is no suprise that Carl Cannabich wrote this piece in honour of Mozart. The text begins with the words: "Celebrate in chorus joined this great and august day, on which, to grace the angelic choir, the Creator our dear Mozart called." The last line of the first section, set for choir, is used as a refrain of the solo passages which follow: "so evermore resounds his name within the Muses' hall of fame". The solo sections consists of quotations from famous works by Mozart, in particular his operas, like Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte. A passage from the latter ends the work.

We should be very grateful to all participants in this production as we get acquainted here with three really first-rate compositions. The description of Cannabich's work may suggest it is a bit trivial, but I have to say that the quotations are used in an inventive way. It is also interesting evidence of how much the early death of Mozart had an impact on the musical world of his days. What makes this disc special is the performance of the Mass in D by Anton Teyber, which is a work of great quality and makes one curious to hear more of him. Also the offertorio by Johann Michael Haydn should rebut the widespread prejudice that he only composed leight-weight stuff.

The performance does full justice to the repertoire, and considering this is a live performance the quality is excellent. I only knew the bass, and none of the singers has a voice which I find immediately appealing, but they sing very well and in particular Dominik Wörner gives a very fine account of the solo aria in Haydn's offertorio. Choir and orchestra do a great job here, and these performances as a whole deliver the splendour and the expressive power of a repertoire which is of real quality and is highly expressive. I strongly reconmend this production and I hope more of, in particular, Teyber is going to be recorded.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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