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Patrick Rucker
Fanfare, September 2008

Davide penitente [is] accorded a vivid and polished performance here under the direction of Morten Schuldt-Jensen. Trine Wilsberg Lund, Kristina Wahlin, and Lothar Odinius handle Mozart's florid arias and ensembles with true distinction. The Immortal Bach Ensemble's sound in the choral movements is rich and well blended. Enunciation, on the other hand, is occasionally less than perfectly clear, possibly a function of the infelicitous superimposition of an Italian text over music conceived for the Latin Ordinary of the Mass. The accompaniments of the Leipziger Kammerorchester are tactful, supportive, and feature some exquisite wind-playing. …The recording, made in the Leipzig Gewandhaus during the spring of 2006, is technically satisfying in all respects. Keith Anderson's notes are characteristically fluent and informative.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2008

Mozart's only oratorio has been rarely recorded and even less performed. I can recall long stretches when the work was totally absent from the catalogues. It's gratifying, therefore, to have this new up-to-date, excellent performance available. To round out the disc, a nice rendition of the lovely regina coeli - a much earlier work - is included.

Dominic McHugh, January 2008

This splendid new CD from Naxos offers excellent performances of two of Mozart's lesser-known works: the cantata (not oratorio, as the CD cover suggests) Davide penitente, K.469, and the Regina coeli, K. 108.

Stanley Sadie once wrote that 'no substantial work of Mozart's maturity has been as consistently neglected by writers on the composer as his cantata Davide penitente', and on the basis of this stylish performance one can only agree that the piece deserves more attention. History has judged the work unfairly on the basis that of its ten movements, only two are completely original. The other eight are based on parts of the unfinished C minor Mass, K.427, specifically the 'Kyrie' and 'Gloria', though Davide only uses about two-thirds of the music from the Mass.

The text of Davide penitente is possibly by Lorenzo da Ponte, but that belief is based largely on conjecture: Mozart and Da Ponte knew each other from 1783 but Davide was written in 1785 and predates the three Da Ponte operas.

Critical opinion of the work varies; whilst it's obvious that the music for the recycled movements is not a direct response to the text of Davide penitente, Mozart did make some small changes to certain of the vocal lines, and (contrary to what the CD liner notes claim) the words were carefully written to fit the existing music as strongly as possible. Mozart wrote two new arias for the cantata, one for the tenor in B flat major ('A te, fra tanti affanni'), the other for the first soprano in C minor ('Tra l'oscure ombre funeste'). The latter was written for Caterina Cavalieri, Mozart's first Constanze, the former for Johann Adamberger, the original Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail; however, comparisons between 'Tra l'oscure ombre funeste' and Constanze's 'Martern aller Arten' are somewhat fatuous, given that the aria from Davide starts in a much darker C minor and only later moves onto a brighter coloratura passage compared to the ten-minute bravura aria in C major from Die Entführung.

The other major change to the C minor Mass material is the addition of a forty-six-bar solo episode in the manner of a cadenza, ten and a half bars before the end of the entire work. The soloists and wind enter into dialogue with the strings, then the soloists are each given eight bars of showcase music before the three come together and the piece finishes in the same way as the 'Jesu Christe' from the Mass, on which it is based.

This superlative performance by the Leipziger Kammerorchester under Morten Schuldt-Jensen is now easily a first choice for anyone wanting to hear this piece on record. Schuldt-Jensen shapes the progress of the work very carefully, with a gentle tempo and thin texture (one can easily hear the harpsichord) for the opening movement 'Alzai le flebili voci al Signor' succeeded by bolder playing in the Allegro vivace second movement, 'Cantiam le glorie e le lodi'. Kristina Wahlin is an excellent second soprano soloist in the fiendishly difficult 'Lungi le cure ingrate', nimble on her feet even when leaping up two octaves from an A below middle C to a high A; her vibrato is particularly well controlled, aiding expression but eschewing the temptation to give the aria an overly Romantic performance. Lothar Odinius is the tenor soloist, excelling himself in the extraordinary aria 'A te, fra tanti affanni', whose imaginative woodwind writing and numerous chromatic inflections point towards Don Giovanni and the Requiem. Trine Wilsberg Lund is perhaps the strongest of the three, attacking the first soprano's challenging 'Tra l'oscure ombre funeste' with both a fiery temperament and a bright quality in her voice.

The choir, Immortal Bach Ensemble, sings with unusual sensitivity towards small details, for instance observing slurs and detached notes in the opening and closing chorus. Conductor Schuldt-Jensen manages to avoid too dense a sound in the concluding fugue thanks to his reduced orchestral and choral forces, and always observes tempo indications with care. The trio 'Tutti le mie speranze' is a particular highlight, with the steady speed allowing the canonic entries of the three soloists to be observed with precision. The mood and atmosphere of this entire performance is a good mixture of interpreting the text in as vivid a way possible within the boundaries of period performance practice.

A twelve-minute bonus comes in the form of the Regina coeli, K. 108. On his Italian tour of 1770-1, Mozart stopped off in Bologna to study counterpoint with Padre Martini. The Regina coeli is one of the products of this visit, an efficient four-movement work dated May 1771 on the autograph. This performance captures its lively, fresh characteristics well and caps a highly enjoyable little disc, available at bargain price as always.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2008

With the deadline fast approaching for his promised work requested by the Vienna Society of Artists, a charitable organisation that he was anxious to join, Mozart succumbed to the duplicity of recycling the Kyrie and Gloria from his incomplete Mass in C minor with the hope that no one had been in Salzburg two years earlier to hear its first performance. The work was to be the oratorio, Davide penitente, the original Latin text in the Mass now replaced by an Italian libretto, the new words at times fitting awkwardly with the music. To give it a proverbial ‘new coat of paint’ he added two new arias and brought the soloists back for a final burst of activity in a brilliant cadenza. His expedient worked, and with three outstanding soloists it received two performances in March 1785 at the National Theatre. At times the music’s weight appropriate to the Mass sits unhappily in its new surroundings, but it is generally a likeable work that became an outcast when the original became known as the ‘Great Mass’ which has since been the subject of several ‘completions’. Its unjust neglect becomes even more telling when it receives this excellent performance, the silvery voiced coloratura of the Norwegian, Trine Wilsberg Lund, and her young Swedish soprano partner, Kristina Wahlin, dealing so well with the acrobatics that I wish the producer had retaken that flat note which launches one section in Lund’s aria, Tra l’oscure ombre funeste. Lothar Odinius is a likeable tenor in his small contribution, and the curiously named Immortal Bach Ensemble is a worthy choir who follows in the tracks of many choirs in finding the final cadenza rather taxing. The disc is completed with the Regina coeli, a short work written in 1771 by the fifteen-year-old composer at the end of a study period. It only has the composer’s name to commend it, but is here performed as if a masterpiece and I love Lund’s tight trills. The Leipziger Kammerorchester is mainly drawn from members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, and under the urgent direction of Morten Schuldt-Jensen plays with real quality. Very good sound, and at this low price will make a most enjoyable inclusion in your Mozart collection.

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