On this album, the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge performs alongside four soloists and the period instrument ensemble St John’s Sinfonia. The tenor Sam Furness and bass George Humphreys both started their careers as Choral Scholars with this very choir. The mezzo-soprano Frances Bourne is in great demand on the concert platform and has sung with many of Europe’s leading conductors; the soprano Susan Gritton has amassed a vast discography that has earned her two Grammy nominations and includes, for Chandos, recordings of works by Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Vaughan Williams.
Mozart wrote the ‘Coronation’ Mass just two weeks into his appointment as Court Organist for the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. As it was first performed as part of the Easter liturgy of Salzburg Cathedral, perhaps ‘Paschal’ Mass would have been a more suitable title. However, the work achieved great renown after its performance at the Imperial Coronation in Prague, which took place nine months after Mozart’s death, and the name stuck. The opulence of the Gloria, in particular, is unmistakable, and the alternations between soloists and choir add drama to the text, which Mozart scored with operatic clarity. Here the choir forcefully praises and glorifies, while the soloists more intimately bless and worship.
Also on this disc is Susan Gritton’s first-ever recorded performance of Mozart’s dramatic solo cantata Exsultate jubilate, and a motet for the Feast of Corpus Christi, Ave verum corpus. Mozart’s Church Sonatas, which number seventeen in all,span a period of ten years; because of their beauty and simplicity they achieved a much wider use, beyond the church and into the concert hall.
The Missa brevis, KV 192 highlights Mozart’s ability to write music for the church that was not significantly different in style to the music of the court or the opera house. This mass is known as the ‘Little Credo Mass’ because of the repeated interjections of the short ‘Credo’ theme throughout – a five-note motif which Mozart many years later would use as the main theme of the last movement of his final symphony.