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Both these works are quasi-operatic, which is not surprising for a composer who wrote around 70 operas. Born in 1763 near Ingolstadt, Johann Simon Mayr began his opera career in Venice in 1794. Appointed maestro di cappella at the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo in 1802, he remained there for the rest of his life. The C minor Mass is something of a hybrid, where the composer borrows from his prizewinning Kyrie di Novara and uses quotes from Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C minor; he returns to Beethoven again for the Gloria, where he refers to a motive from the Fourth Symphony, taking for his Credo large sections of one composed by his student Donizetti. Believe it or not, there is some newly composed music here too, and in some strange way the whole thing works – it’s a vivid, rhythmic work bursting with life. The composer could not have asked for better than these supreme performers directed by the admirable Florian Helgath, who holds the entire proceedings together. The Stabat Mater is Mayr all the way through. The text is divided into eight sections: three for chorus, leaving a section for each soloist and a duet for soprano and tenor. The soloists’ sections are operatic in concept and ornamented. Mayr ends the work with an extended Amen for the chorus. It is imaginatively orchestrated, and the early music instrumentalists of Concerto Köln are superb. This is an enjoyable and fresh slant on the text.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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