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At the age of forty Mayr took up the Kapellmeister's post at Bergamo's Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, where he remained for four decades. From then on, now known as 'Giovanni Simone', he was a dominant figure on the Roman and Milanese stage, and was fêted in Paris, Vienna and London too. The C minor Mass on this excellent Guild recording, however, was composed for the Minster at Ingolstadt, probably in 1823 for the first mass of a soon to be prominent Roman Catholic Priest, Pater Gall Morel, and seemingly first sung there in 1826.

It's doubly apt, therefore, that Hauk and his Vokalensemble Ingolstadt should take up the cudgels on Mayr's behalf. Their performance is spirited, alert and uplifting. Each of the soloists has some vocal drawbacks, yet they are at least voices of character who bring the right sense of urgency and pathos to the Mass text. Paired or as a quartet, they are highly appealing. The orchestra offers committed and vital playing, and the chorus too -- Mayr includes a large amount of (in the main) stimulating choral writing -- is clearly on form.

But it's the sense of drama, and the capacity for the unexpected, which lifts this C Minor Mass well above the run of the mill into something which ought, arguably, to be in the regular repertoire. The Kyries, which make much use of the vocal quartet, immediately establish the work in the Haydn genre. Mayr makes stimulating use of solo instrument obbligati : a flute strikingly free of vibrato, solo violin, oboe -- to produce wonderful effects; never more so than towards the end of the mass, in a profoundly involving Agnus Dei led in almost angelically by a clarinet solo that has 'Mozart' and 'Stadler' written all over it.

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Copyright © 19 March 2003 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK


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