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Hyperion Records

CDA67560 - Mozart: Exsultate jubilate! & other works
Photograph by Johnny Greig.

Recording details: October 2005
Cadogan Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Jonathan Stokes & Neil Hutchinson
Release date: February 2006
DISCID: 020F6111
Total duration: 65 minutes 10 seconds

DISC OF THE MONTH - BBC Music Magazine
EDITOR'S CHOICE - Gramophone Magazine

'What more could you want in these works than a soloist who places every note with joyous precision, moves from one to another so cleanly, and demonstrates at every turn such intelligent but unfussy musicianship? This is a sunny and unpretentious disc which deserves to be among the successes of the Mozart year' (Gramophone)

'Robert King and his choral and orchestral forces give clean and direct performances in sound that is nicely balanced and benefits from the mellow acoustic of London's Cadogan Hall. The soprano focus of interest is Carolyn Sampson, whose musical sensibility and personality are exceptional … unreservedly recommended' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Sampson confirms her growing reputation in 18th-century music with delectable performances, fresh and limpid of tone, stylish and shapely of phrase. The reams of coloratura in Exsultate jubilate! are truly joyous, not merely accurate … prompt, polished orchestral playing and first-rate choral singing set the seal on a delightful and enterprising birthday offering' (The Daily Telegraph)

'These devotional scores are models of understatement. Sampson floats exquisitely through the Agnus Dei of the Coronation Mass, maintains a serene line in Laudate Dominum from the Vespers, unearths two long settings of Regina caeli and indulgently duets with herself in Sub tuum praesidium' (The Times)

'This is thrilling music, rousingly performed by the orchestra and chorus. Even better are the central arias, which Carolyn Sampson sings with heart-easing grace and brilliant virtuosity. She is equally fluent in the Exsultate jubilate! rising up to a top C at the end that will have you cheering from your seat. And she sings both parts of the duet Sub tuum praesidium so beautifully as to still any disquiet at the fakery. Don't miss this' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Lustrous and engaging performances' (The Scotsman)

'Sampson's ravishing soprano has all the sparkle and purity this music needs, and the King's Consort under Robert King provides a lively foundation' (Financial Times)

'Carolyn Sampson gives a characteristically stunning performance, with great drama, vocal flexibility and a wide range of expressive devices … the orchestra plays with great panache and precise articulation … King's choir sings with clarity and jubilation in their brief appearances, and over-all, this recording plays ideal tribute to the early mature sacred works of Mozart written in his late teens and early twenties' (Early Music)

'Quelle belle surprise! Carolyn Sampson nous livre un CD Mozart qui est non pas un modèle de chaleur, mais un disque de très bon goût, réussi en tout. On admirera aussi la finesse musicale de King, qui ne bouscule jamais le discours et dont les bois enrichissent très bien la palette sonore' (

Exsultate jubilate! & other works

Hyperion’s record of the month for February presents a Mozartian showcase for the extraordinary talents of Carolyn Sampson, and is also something of a rarity, the repertoire all dating the composer’s time in Salzburg. Two Regina caeli settings (for soprano, chorus and big orchestra), written whilst Mozart was still only in his mid-teens, are extremely fine—but not so often heard and even less often recorded. This is superb music: triumphant outer movements and heartfelt, more introspective inner sections which find Mozart at his most ardent.

Exsultate, iubilate has, of course, been performed and recorded widely, but usually in the ‘Milan’ version; here we record the rarely heard ‘Salzburg’ version, which has a different orchestration (delicate flutes instead of oboes giving a very different colour) and different words. It ends, of course, with the wildly famous, virtuosic ‘Alleluia’.

These three works make substantial pillars for the disc. But there is much more! A series of shorter jewels, including three of the greatest movements for solo soprano taken from larger sacred works: the hugely famous ‘Laudate Dominum’ from the Vesperae solennes de Confessore (which could be by Verdi, with its amazing soft chorus entry part of the way through), the utterly ravishing ‘Agnus Dei’ from the ‘Coronation’ Mass, and a cheerful and less often heard ‘Laudate Dominum’ from the Vesperae solennes de Domenica with a cheery organ solo duetting with the voice.

Finally we have a very rarely heard duet, Sub tuum praesidium, where, thanks to the wonders of technology, Carolyn duets with herself—surely no two sopranos have ever duetted more perfectly, and it is a glorious piece of writing.

Reviewing the concert prior to the recording sessions for this disc, Geoffrey Norris wrote in The Daily Telegraph that The King’s Consort and Robert King displayed ‘an unerring understanding of Mozart’s sublime thrills’ and that ‘Carolyn Sampson produced pure streams of coloratura’.

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Mozart in Salzburg
From the thirteenth century Salzburg had been an archiepiscopal establishment ruled by the archbishops of Salzburg, Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. From medieval times music had always played a key part in life in the city and, by the seventeenth century, when Muffat and Biber held the chief musical positions, a total of seventy-nine musicians were at their disposal for music-making at court and at the Catholic cathedral.

The Prince-Archbishop in power when Mozart was born in 1756 was Siegmund Christoph, Count of Schrattenbach. Like many of his predecessors, Schrattenbach was a great patron of the arts, and indeed was the last of the Baroque-minded princes. Archbishop from 1753 to 1771, he was succeeded by Hieronymus, Count of Colloredo (1772–1803), who introduced many Enlightenment-based reforms, including the obligatory inclusion of German hymns at all church services and the shortening of liturgical Mass settings. Being born into the security of the court in Salzburg and the patronage of the Prince-Archbishops was not necessarily the blessing it might seem—by the standards of the great European courts, with their magnificent theatres and opera houses, the forces on hand in Salzburg were decidedly small. Mozart spent a significant part of his childhood away from his (and his father’s patron’s) court and, before his dismissal in 1781, tried, and failed, on many occasions to gain a release from his duties.

Despite the frustrations Mozart’s years in Salzburg were highly productive, and are notable particularly for his many compositions of sacred works. He had excellent models to study, for working at the court during his youth were figures such as the court organist and Kapellmeister Johann Ernst Eberlin, Mozart’s own father Leopold and Michael Haydn, brother of the more famous Joseph. Haydn in particular was a fine model, highly regarded, as E T A Hoffmann recorded: ‘All connoisseurs of music know, and have known for some time, that as a composer of sacred music Michael Haydn ranks amongst the finest of any age or nations … In this field he is fully his brother’s equal; in fact, by the seriousness of his concept he often surpasses him by far.’ Mozart often studied Haydn’s works—manuscripts in Mozart’s young hand believed to have been written by the prodigy were later proven to be by Haydn, copied out as an exercise by Mozart. With such fine models for encouragement and influence, Mozart produced an astonishing array of music for Salzburg Cathedral, ranging from small-scale, single-movement works such as the seventeen Epistle Sonatas through to large masterpieces such as the two settings of the Vespers and the ‘Coronation’ Mass. Mozart was clearly proud of his achievements during these years: in the winter of 1780–81, while in Munich, he wrote to his father requesting the scores of three of his Salzburg Masses (K317, K337 and K275) so that he could impress the local powers not only with his operatic works (Idomeneo had just been given its first performance), but also with his sacred music, stating: ‘I should like people to get to know my work in this style as well.’ A little while later, in 1783, while enjoying the aesthetic atmosphere of Baron von Swieten’s Sunday musical soirées, Mozart requested scores of his Salzburg Masses and also his two Vespers settings so that he could perform them for the Baron.

Mozart’s two settings of Regina coeli are astonishing works, written whilst he was still in his mid-teens. K108 dates from May 1771 and was probably written for a seasonal festival; K127 was written the following year. From a letter from Leopold we know that one of the two—frustratingly we do not know which—was written for Michael Haydn’s wife, Maria Magdalena Lipp, who was attached to the court as a soprano; Leopold writes that Wolfgang’s Regina coeli was composed for ‘die Haydnin’.

Regina coeli, K108 is a grand setting which bears many of the trademarks of Austrian ceremonial, ecclesiastical music, and is proudly scored by its fifteen-year-old composer in C major (the key most commonly used for grand, celebratory music) for pairs of oboes, horns and trumpets as well as the ‘rauschenden Violinen’ (‘burbling violins’) which were such a feature of Salzburg sacred music at the time. The motet’s four-movement structure is influenced by Neapolitan church music, with the two outer movements, in which a primarily homophonic chorus is set against a more ornate orchestral backdrop, enclosing two more gentle movements primarily given to the soloist. An energetic instrumental prelude introduces a grand chorus, largely homophonic in texture. For the gentle second movement, Quia quem meruisti, a classic F major Mozartian aria which is melodious and elegant, flutes replace the oboes, and the chorus alleluias are restrained; the intermittent use of double violas harks back to orchestral textures of a century before and the solo soprano line, containing florid passages and wide leaps, could easily come from one of Mozart’s operas. The two solo episodes are punctuated by more straightforward choral epilogues. The second aria, Ora pro nobis, set for the soloist without chorus, is gloriously lyrical, with the orchestration reduced to strings alone, and the first violins provided with a rich melody. The final movement returns to C major and the full orchestra, exploring contrasts between solo and tutti; the solo moments are once again thoroughly operatic in their coloratura, while the chorus issues strong and forthright alleluias.

The second setting of Regina coeli, K127, dispenses with trumpets and timpani, and returns to another regular wind presence, that of oboes and horns; in the slow movement the oboes are again replaced by gentle flutes. A more complex orchestral texture is evident from the start, the strings given especially busy passagework, and the chorus-writing too is more intricate. Another notable orchestral feature is Mozart’s thrilling use of high horn-writing. The second movement, Quia quem meruisti, is primarily given over to the soloist, once again presenting writing that would not go amiss in the opera house; the chorus twice enters at ‘Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia’. That second choral interpolation runs straight to the movement which is the heart of the piece, the E flat major Ora pro nobis. Here is glorious Mozart, touching yet noble, wonderful in its gently unexpected melodic turns, ornate yet utterly beguiling. The final movement is a swinging Alleluia, the soloist answered at the end of each section by the full chorus.

During 1779 and 1780 Mozart composed two settings of the Vespers for Salzburg Cathedral. The central part of the Vespers service is the singing of the psalms and antiphons appropriate for the particular feast being celebrated. Mozart’s first setting was the Vesperae solennes de Domenica—literally ‘Sunday Vespers’— and the second the Vesperae solennes de Confessore. This latter title was not Mozart’s own, but indicates that the work was intended for a major Church Feast of a Confessor of the Church. The titling ‘solennes’ simply means that the work has an orchestral accompaniment. The two settings of Laudate Dominum could hardly be more different. In the Vesperae solennes de Domenica, K321, God is praised in lyrically operatic style, the soprano soloist lightly accompanied by violins and a solo organ in a style reminiscent of the Epistle Sonatas, and joyfully celebrating the feast in pearls of coloratura. In the Vesperae solennes de Confessore, K339, written the following year, Mozart produces a ravishing, devotional setting, with the soloist’s smooth melody once again set in the composer’s lyrical key of F major. The soft entrance of the chorus at the start of the ‘Gloria’ is magical, a stroke of genius so simple, yet so modern, and certainly so effective that it would could easily have appeared a hundred years later in a Verdi opera.

With no surviving autograph score of this Offertory motet, the duet Sub tuum praesidium, K198 in a variety of manuscript copies has provided scholars over the years with much scope for discussion. The first topic for many years was the identity of the composer: that has now been firmly established as being Mozart himself. The second line of enquiry has been whether the work should be performed by soprano and tenor (which would be an unusual vocal combination in Mozart’s sacred music) or by two sopranos. That line has finally moved towards the soprano duet recorded here. Another question which has concerned scholars has been whether this was originally a work for the opera house, adapted for the church, or whether it was intended from the outset as a sacred work. But all that detective work is in the end secondary, for here is a glorious Mozartian duet in his lyrical key of F major for two equal sopranos and string accompaniment. Mozart especially relishes the pairing of the evenly matched voices—here even more matched than even he could have hoped, with Carolyn Sampson (thanks to a small piece of recording trickery) singing both solo lines.

In August 1777, Mozart, desperate to leave Salzburg, petitioned the Archbishop to allow him and his father to seek their fortunes elsewhere. The Archbishop’s response was sharp. He dismissed both of them from his service, though he later relented and allowed Leopold to keep his post of deputy Kapellmeister. Mozart probably composed Sancta Maria, mater Dei, K273 (dated 9 September 1777) for the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, perhaps as a votive offering to the Virgin prior to his setting out with his mother on their journey to Paris. Disarmingly simple, yet perfectly balanced in its thematic development and variety, the charming chorus lines are provided with an orchestral accompaniment which is highly independent.

Exsultate, jubilate, K165 is easily the most famous of Mozart’s sacred settings for soprano. It was written following the success of Mozart’s opera Lucio Silla, first staged in Milan at Christmas 1772. The title role was taken by the soprano castrato Venanzio Rauzzini and, captivated by the voice of his primo uomo, during the weeks afterwards Mozart wrote a sacred piece that would make full use of his renowned coloratura, range and wide vocal colour palette. Indeed, the friendship that was struck up between the two lasted for many years. Mozart must have enjoyed working with a musician who was not only an extraordinary singer but also an accomplished all-rounder who composed and played the piano (Rauzzini later moved to England where he enjoyed a long career, dying in the city of Bath in 1810). That Mozart wrote a sacred piece which essentially used operatic techniques and forms would have met with little surprise: the two musical worlds, church and opera, often merged in such a manner.

In 1779, slightly more than six years after the Milan premiere, a new version of Exsultate, jubilate was performed in Salzburg by the castrato Francesco Ceccarelli, probably in Holy Trinity Church on 30 May 1779 at Mass. The diary of Nannerl Mozart, Wolfgang’s sister, mentions that her brother and father lunched that day at the presbytery next to the church. This manuscript was discovered only in 1978 at the Stadtpfarrkirche St Jakob in Wasserburg am Inn, Austria, a village near Salzburg, and is partly copied by Mozart’s father Leopold. The first, striking difference with the more widely known version is the inclusion of flutes, rather than oboes; their presence provides a radically new colour to what is nowadays a well-known score. The other variation in the Salzburg version is the libretto which, in the first two movements, provides not one but two different texts to those performed in Milan: one is suitable for Trinity Sunday, the other for the Nativity (though there is no evidence that the Christmas version was ever performed). The Trinity text is performed here.

The opening of the first Allegro is confident, much in the manner of a concerto movement: running strings present one theme, the flutes cheerfully flourish in the other before the soloist enters. They create first and second subject matter. A brief recitative (its different text to that of the Milan version resulting in markedly different rhythms) leads to a lyrical Andante aria in the relatively distant key of A major, Tu virginum corona. Mozart provides an orchestral link back to the F major of the final, showcase Alleluia which jubilantly presents a series of soloistic fireworks.

Shortly after his return from Paris and Mannheim, in both of which cities he had frustratingly failed to win a position at court, Mozart produced one of his most famous Masses. Grumpy he may well have been about having to return to Salzburg, a city that he considered to be hopelessly provincial, but musically he was quickly back on his best form, writing the ‘Coronation’ Mass, K317. Mozart was rather proud of this work, for whilst he was trying to impress future new possible employers he twice later requested that his father send a copy to him. Mozart did not title K317 ‘Coronation’ himself: that label was only attached some ten years later when Salieri performed the work for the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia. Mozart also lent the score and parts to his friend Anton Stoll (for whom he wrote the motet Ave verum corpus) for performance at Baden, near Vienna. The work is largely optimistic in conception, but for the Agnus Dei Mozart produced another of his jewels. Remarkably similar to the Countess’s ‘Dove sono’ in Le nozze di Figaro, the accompaniment is gloriously simple, with one and sometimes two oboes set over pizzicato strings, the solo soprano floating a melody that is surely as near perfection as any he ever wrote.

Robert King © 2006

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