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Regina caeli, K108
May 1771
author of text
Antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Paschal Time

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Movement 1: Regina caeli laetare
Movement 2: Quia quem meruisti
Movement 3: Ora pro nobis
Movement 4: Alleluia

Regina caeli, K108
Mozart’s two settings of Regina caeli 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 caeli was composed for ‘die Haydnin’.

Regina caeli, 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.

from notes by Robert King © 2006

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