Mozart: Complete Church Sonatas / Chorzempa, German Bach Soloists
MOZART Church Sonatas Nos. 1–17. Andante in F , K 616 • Daniel Chorzempa (org); Helmut Winschermann, cond; German Bach Sol • PENTATONE 5186 150 (2 SACDs: 91:12)
Sonatas: No. 1 in E? , K 67; No. 2 in B? , K 68; No. 3 in D , K 69; No. 4 in D , K 144; No. 5 in F , K 145; No. 6 in B? , K 212; No. 7 in F , K 224; No. 8 in A , K 225; No. 9 in G , K 241; No. 10 in F , K 244; No. 11 in D , K 245; No. 12 in C , K 263; No. 13 in G , K 274; No. 14 in C , K 278; No. 15 in C , K 328; No. 16 in C , K 329; No. 17 in C , K 336
Back in 2003, I wrote up for Fanfare the first eight releases in PentaTone’s RQR (Remastered Quadro Recording) series, which restored the four-channel versions of Philips programs from the 1960s and 1970s that had never seen the light of day as surround-sound LPs. It’s remarkable how many of these untouched-for-decades tapes there are. As of this writing, PentaTone has more than 70 RQR SACDs in its catalog.
Mozart composed the 17 church sonatas over the course of a decade, part of his responsibility to the despised Prince-Archbishop Colloredo. These short works are also known as the “Epistle Sonatas,” as they were performed in the course of a religious service between the Epistle and the Gospel—though there’s nothing especially “sacred” about them. Daniel Chorzempa, Helmut Winschermann, and the German Bach Soloists give performances that are fresh, energetic, stylish, and blissfully unconcerned with historical correctness. Most of the sonatas were written for a chamber group of two violins, double bass, and organ, and even for these, a moderate-sized string orchestra is employed, making the impression of a Mozart divertimento or serenade. Despite the low Köchel numbers of the earlier pieces, there’s no juvenilia here; at 15, Mozart, of course, was already a mature composer. In fact, the very first sonata, K 67 in E?, all of 2:20 in length, is arguably the most profound if not the most advanced, possessing a slightly wistful, singing quality. There’s the ethos of operatic Mozart in the air. Several of the later works are scored with winds and timpani, and the effect is predictably grander.
On the Helios label (the original release 20 years ago was on Hyperion), Richard King, organist Ian Watson, and The King’s Consort offer performances that may be more musicologically proper—one-to-a-part for the early sonatas—but the music-making is less consistently vital. King, too, mixes up the order of presentation, which does avoid having four C-Major works in a row to conclude the program. But by proceeding chronologically, Winschermann and Chorzempa allow us to enjoy the evolution of the organ’s role from continuo instrument to full-fledged soloist (in K 336), as well as Mozart’s development as a composer. For a bonus, Chorzempa’s charming reading of the late Andante in F for mechanical organ closes out disc 2.
Chorzempa plays the “little church organ” of the Stift Wilhering, a mid-18th-century instrument that Bruckner was fond of. The orchestra is recorded closely but the multichannel program gives a nice sense of the church, especially at pauses between phrases and at the end of each sonata. The organ blends seamlessly into the instrumental sonority for the earlier sonatas, as it should, but sounds out proudly in the more celebratory moments of the final pieces.
FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Catalog Number: PTC5186150
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor: Helmut Winschermann
Orchestra/Ensemble: German Bach Soloists
Performer: Daniel Chorzempa