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Paul L Althouse
American Record Guide, November 2010

It’s an entertaining piece, much more for people love opera than people who appreciate sacred music…the performances are sprightly and enjoyable, with nine good soloists and fine contributions from chorus and orchestra.

To read complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, November 2010

Simon Mayr wrote ‘Mozart’ on his copy of the Missa Solemnis in C which opens this recording. It remains an open question whether he meant Leopold or Wolfgang Amadeus—another copy in Salzburg contains the name Wolfgang Amadeus, crossed out and replaced with his father’s name. Whichever Mozart we attribute it to—or even Brixi, Vogel or Vogler, who have all been candidates at one time or another—it’s a fine work.

Keith Anderson maintains a scholarly aloofness in his notes, merely noting that modern research supports the possible attribution to one or other Mozart. Having been trained in circumspection at the learned institution where Mr Anderson now teaches, I’m merely going to say that the music sounds to me worthy to have been written by Mozart fils—I’m even prepared to rate it higher than some of the short Masses which he composed in Salzburg. Naxos don’t claim it as a first recording, but I don’t recall ever hearing it before.

Mayr’s Te Deum is fully worthy to be heard in the same company. Again, there are some caveats about the theory that it was performed at Napoleon’s coronation as King of Italy—some have dated the work as late as the 1820s—but it certainly sounds good enough to have been written for such a grand occasion, and it provides a good reason to grace the front cover with an impressive portrait of Napoleon in his coronation robes.

It’s a jaunty work, at times reminiscent of secular opera rather than church music—listen to track 22, Te ergo quæsumus, where you might almost be listening to an ensemble passage from Figaro. The concluding section, In te Domine speravi (tr.23) dances us to a hope that we shall, indeed, never be confounded.

Naxos have been doing Simon Mayr proud in recent years and several of their releases have been made under the direction of Franz Hauk, as here—a busy man who acts as scholarly editor, chorus-master, conductor and keyboard player on the harpsichord or, this time, the organ. His version of Tobiæ Matrimonium, the Marriage of Tobias, was hailed by Glyn Pursglove as an outstanding bargain (8.570752/53 - see review) and by Robert Hugill as a delight, charmingly performed (see review).

An earlier recording, David in spelunca Engaddi, David in the cave of Engedi, earned equally high praise from Göran Forsling (8.570366/67 - see review). Hauk has also recorded Mayr’s dramatic cantata L’Armonia and the Cantata for the Death of Beethoven on 8.557958. I must catch up with those earlier releases—they are all available from the Naxos Music Library.

The performances here are generally good; though one or two of the soloists are a little over-exposed—Merit Ostermann in Gratias agimus (tr.3), for example, though she sounds fine in ensemble. I was never really disturbed, and the generally high standard easily outweighs the minor disadvantages. I have to say that I find the Germano/Austrian pronunciation of the hard g in Agnus annoying, though I accept that that is what Mozart (or whoever) and Mayr would have expected. The performers compromise by pronouncing the soft Italian c in cœli rather than the usual Germanic ts sound which, oddly enough, I don’t mind.

The orchestral support is good. The Ingolstadt Georgian Orchestra moved from Tblisi to the nearest large town to Mayr’s birthplace in 1990, so the ‘Georgian’ element of their name refers to their origin, not to their existence as a period-instrument ensemble. Nevertheless, I have little but praise for their part in the success of this recording.

Above all, however, it’s Franz Hauk who must take the major part of the credit, having co-edited the ‘Mozart’ and edited the Mayr, trained the Simon Mayr Choir, which he founded in 2003, and conducted the orchestra from the organ. Above all, he keeps up the momentum in both works. I trust that he and Naxos will go on to make us even more aware of the quality of Mayr’s music.

The recording is good throughout—Naxos seem to have become at home in the church which was used for this and their earlier Mayr recordings, in Mayr’s own home town of Ingolstadt.

The notes are brief—just one page each in English and German, but Keith Anderson’s authorship guarantees their value. I just wish that he had plumped for or against Mozartian authorship of the Mass. The complete texts and English translations of the Mass and Te Deum are given, mostly using the familiar Book of Common Prayer texts—no need to search for them online for once. I’m not sure why it was thought necessary to replace ‘I acknowledge one baptism’ with ‘I confess’, an over-literal rendering of Confiteor.

I am grateful to all concerned for the opportunity to hear the ‘Mozart’ Mass and the Mayr Te Deum. That’s twice in recent weeks that Naxos have pulled off the trick for me with music of this period: the first time was with their recording of the Haydn ‘Nelson’ Mass and Nikolaimesse (8.572123). I made that earlier recording Bargain of the Month and the delightful new CD is not far behind.

George Chien
Fanfare, November 2010

Our headnote reflects what you’ll see on the front of this release. The back shows the program order—the two works are reversed—and also bears a caveat: the dreaded four-letter word (abbreviation, actually) of musicology: “Attr.” “It is uncertain,” says the blurb, “whether the Missa solemnis in C was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or by his father, Leopold. Whatever the case, it was extremely popular during the 18th and 19th centuries.” Popular it may have been, but information about it is not easily found. It is listed under “Doubtful and spurious” in The Mozart Compendium, which also notes that its Benedictus is identical with a Salve Regina, K 92. Of the Salve Regina the Compendium simply says that it is “doubtful; identical with the Benedictus of Mass in C, K C1.20.” Not a lot of help there. In the online Mozart Forum Dennis Pajot sheds a little light, tracing the Mozart connection to an erroneously attributed copy of the score made by Simon Mayr in 1807. There seems to be no definitive information about the Mass’s origin or early performances, and doubts about the Mozart attribution surfaced quickly. Leopold did not list it in his catalog of Wolfgang’s early works. Pajot mentions not only Leopold Mozart, but also Franz Brixi (1732–71) and Cajetan Vogel (c1750–94) as other possiblities.

In a separate article Pajot cites speculation the Salve Regina might have been performed in Salzburg in 1768, but the Mozarts were in Vienna at the time, casting doubt on that hypothesis. He suggests that an unknown copyist may have extracted the Benedictus, the most attractive number in the Mass, as a commercial venture.

What of the Mass itself? Set in 16 separate numbers for four soloists, chorus, organ, and orchestra, it is typical of the prevailing style. It’s a thoroughly competent work and certainly would have been a noteworthy accomplishment for a 12-year-old. It’s understandable that 17th- and 18th-century audiences could have been attracted to it, despite the reservations of the connoisseurs.

Simon Mayr (1763–1845) was yet another once-forgotten composer who toiled in the shadow of the Viennese Classical immortals, whom he admired. Naxos has apparently taken an interest in his music, having previously issued a dramatic cantata, two oratorios, and a one-act opera, which nonetheless barely scratches the surface of an extensive body of work. Born in Bavaria, Mayr studied in Venice, settled in Bergamo, and subsequently became Italy’s most celebrated opera composer before Rossini’s emergence. He composed prolifically, writing mostly church music early and late in his career, but, in the middle, 68 operas that were mounted in Bergamo, Venice, Milan, and throughout Italy. According to Mayr’s biographer the Te Deum was composed for the 1805 coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as King of Italy, but that, too, is subject to debate. Other sources suggest that it may have been written as late as the 1820s. Mayr championed the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and their influence can be felt in his Te Deum.

Mayr himself has a champion in Franz Hauk, who founded the appropriately named Simon Mayr Choir, has conducted at least three other Mayr discs for Naxos, and prepared the editions for this disc. Hauk has assembled an octet of fine, young soloists for this program, and conducts with obvious conviction. It’s an easy call that you are not likely encounter better performances of these two works any time soon, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that you may not find better performances at all.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, July 2010

Simon Mayr is remembered as Mozart’s close friend, credited with completing Wolfgang’s Requiem, K.626 as dictated to Mayr on Mozart’s deathbed. So if there is a similarity of style in Mayr’s beautiful Te Deum, this should come as no surprise. This beautiful and effective work was written for the coronation of Napoleon as king of Italy in 1805 and was very popular at the time, so it’s good to have this excellent recording of it. The Mozart Missa Solemnis is in a style that could well be by either father or son—Koechel did not include it in his catalogue. It could even be a collaboration. Either way, it’s a beautiful work and valuable addition.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2010

By coupling the Missa solemnis, variously attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus or Leopold Mozart, with Simon Mayr’s Te Deum, is the conductor and Mayr expert, Franz Hauk, trying to tell us something? The Missa solemnis has been passed down through a score Mayr is purported to have copied from a Mozart original, though that original has never been seen. Neither was it mentioned in letters that frequently passed between father and son. Other copies that later came to light could well have been derived from the Mayr copy. Certainly if the Mass was not by ‘Mozart’ it was good pastiche. But then listen to the Te Deum, and do you detect Mayr’s fingerprints in the Missa solemnis? He was from Bavaria, his artistic inclinations taking him in his early twenties to Venice and later to Bergamo. As a teacher he also built a catalogue of more than fifteen hundred works, and like Wolfgang Amadeus, Mayr became a major opera composer, and his Te Deum is pure theatre and rather overshadows the Missa solemnis in terms of commercial likability. As we have no details of performances of the Missa solemnis in the lifetime of the Mozarts, and with Mayr’s copy made a few years after Wolgang’s death, it would place it as a late Mozart composition, and that does not ring true. So buy the disc, enjoy well-meaning performances and come to your own decision. I’m not sure why two teams of soloists were employed for the Missa solemnis, but the singing is agreeable, while the largely student Simon Mayr Choir perform with enthusiasm. The strangely named orchestra comes from the ‘importation’ of a chamber group from Georgia who now work in the German town of Ingolstadt. They too are commendable. A church recording without the usual church reverberation.

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