The King’s Consort – Mozart in Salzburg

Mozart
Regina Coeli, K127
Sancta Maria, K273
Epistle Sonata in C, K278
Exsultate Jubilate, K165 [Salzburg Version]
Symphony No.34 in C, K338
Regina Coeli, K108

Carolyn Sampson (soprano)

Choir of The King’s Consort

The King’s Consort
Robert King


Reviewed by: Ying Chang

Reviewed: 28 October, 2005
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

Whereas many leading ‘modern’ orchestras remain content with ‘traditional’ programmes of often-unconnected pieces, period ensembles shape their concerts to illustrate a musical or historical context. It is a matter of both rendering a ‘niche’ product more accessible and multiplying the levels of engagement.

What more appropriate than to start a jubilee season with a retrospective of Mozart’s achievement in Salzburg? Impossible to conceive that such an enormous wealth of invention sprang from a composer who had written hardly any of the works by which he is now best remembered. The programme was all the more thought-provoking for including the little-known alternative version of the only really familiar item, the “Exsultate Jubilate”, scored here for flutes rather than oboes, and with a text appropriate to Trinity Sunday. Mozart was evidently a composer constrained by the many demands of his cathedral post, frequently re-using music already written for a specific occasion while still marrying formal requirements and emotional expressiveness. Cadogan Hall’s previous life as a church also added to an illusion that the whole concert might be taking place within the florid confines of a cathedral setting.

The King’s Consort, beginning its 25th Season, and a Cadogan Hall debut, is now well established of course as one of the foremost groups of its type; Carolyn Sampson is equally eminent. As well as choosing a distinctive programme, these were performances of the utmost appeal. Orchestral playing was brisk, characterful, neither exaggerated nor timid, and Sampson’s creamy tones, reminiscent of Edith Mathis’s approach to Mozart, were an acknowledgement of how operatic Mozart’s sacred music always was. In the instrumental music, the symphony’s first movement’s resemblance to an ‘overture’ and the Epistle Sonata’s seamless continuation of the mood of sacred celebration emphasised Mozart’s ability to integrate different genres.

An exemplary concert, then? Almost – I was more often impressed than transported. Not because of the inevitable minor mishaps of period instruments, nor because there was a tendency towards a metallic tone within Sampson’s coloratura. More because the sense of projection that characterised these performances occasionally strayed into the hurried or urgent. What I cherished were the moments of space and relaxation. Sampson was especially impressive in the middle section of “Exsultate Jubilate”, the slow arias of the closing setting of “Regina Coeli” (K108) and in the soaring melody of the encore, the ‘Laudate Dominum’ from the Vespers (K339), most notably in its heart-stopping cadenza. An expertly planned and performed start to this celebratory season, a programme, save the symphony, that was being recorded by Hyperion over the following few days in the same venue.

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