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Reviews: Mozart: Salzburg Sacred Music - Neumann

Reviews: 1

Review by synthy March 8, 2006 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
First off, a stipulation: My star rating for the peformance is very much a guess. While I have heard the Missa Solemnis performed live by a mediocre ensemble, I have not heard the Vesperae solnnes de confessore before. I am, however, very familiar with the Requiem and C minor mass, a few other vocal works and of course the operas. My gut feeling is to give this a 5 star performance rating, but this is not based on comparison.

Now then. This is truly a wonderful disc of these two Salzburg Masses. While certainly not unknown or overtly neglected, these are works we don't hear too often and it's nice to have them in such a fine performance in this Mozart year. The performances are on original instruments or period copies. From what I can tell, period performances seem to be getting better and better, regaining some of the lost emotion and musicality that was sacrificed in the early recordings. The tempos are fresh and move along nicely, but they are certainly not rushed. The slow movements have a very nice spacious feel to them, very reverential (like in the famous Laudate Dominum) and upbeat stuff like the Dona Nobis Pacem are given appropriate bounce and nimbleness without being the slightest bit rushed or frantic.

The choir (the highly regarded Kölner Kammerchor) also sings excellently. Their numbers, just under 30 I believe, give nice weight to the big chorus moments, but are tight enough to move with precision and clarity. At least a few words should be said about the soloists as well. Superb. Their sense of blend in the combined sections is perfect, and particularly soprano Cornelia Samuelis sings with a purity and subdued emotion that is very convincing and touching.

Overall, this is a very "churchy" performance. I don't mean that negatively at all. The performances have a definite religious sense to them, (as I suppose they should; they are masses afterall) and are sung in such a way as to not attract too much undue attention to the performers. The soloists never let fly in an operatic way, and always seem to have the text in mind. The sense of restraint never sounds like the performers are bored, and I was kept keenly interested throughout.

Lastly, the sound is absolutely wonderful. MDG uses an unusual 2+2+2 recording technique that uses the center channel and .1 channel as height channels, but I only listened in regular 5.1 and stereo. The 2+2+2 doesn't seem to add any imaging problems in multi-channel mode, but be aware that full-frequency information might be sent to your sub if you don't have it filtered. The acoustics are glorious, recorded in the Trinitatiskirche in Köln. The sense of reverberant space is tactile and lush, yet the acoustic never masks the clarity and focus of the instruments and voices. As an oddity, the soloists all sing from a platform on the right of center (because of tight confines in the church), and they are represented there on the recording. It didn't bother me, though.

Highly recommended.

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