Michael Haydn & Mozart

Michael Haydn
Requiem pro defuncto Archiepiscopo Sigismundo
Symphony No.31 in D, K297 (Paris)
Mass in C, K317 (Coronation)

Carolyn Sampson (soprano)
Hilary Summers (mezzo-soprano)
James Gilchrist (tenor)
Peter Harvey (bass)

Choir of the King’s Consort

The King’s Consort
Robert King

Reviewed by: Alan Pickering

Reviewed: 7 August, 2006
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Michael Haydn (1737-1806) may not be as well-known as his older brother Joseph – an understatement! – but he was a certainly a most accomplished musician and composer, holding the post of Court Composer and Concertmaster at Salzburg as a lifetime appointment from 1762. Furthermore, during this time Michael Haydn met, became friends with and clearly played a great part in influencing the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Although Michael Haydn composed a “Requiem” in memory of his patron, Archbishop Sigismund, it is more than likely that it also reflected his feelings and emotions following the death earlier that year of his only daughter, a few days shy of her first birthday.

As to this Proms performance by the same team that made a revealing recent recording for Hyperion – one that has played a major part in reawakening interest in the ‘other’ Haydn – there was much to acclaim. The four soloists were in excellent voice with Carolyn Sampson in particular singing with a lovely mellifluous tone, and the choir was magnificent. Only some mildly intrusive violins in the ‘Sanctus’ marred an otherwise excellent performance by The King’s Consort under the energetic and effective command of its founder.

Mozart’s three-movement ‘Paris’ Symphony is both one of his most compact yet grandest creations and revels in the brilliance afforded him by the ‘large’ orchestra that was Parisian custom of that time. Playing with real fluidity, The King’s Consort produced a vital account and brought off the music’s intricate subtleties with real panache. In the Andante (Mozart’s second attempt), if the horns were a little below par, the movement was nevertheless sweetly turned, and the finale was pin-point and exuberant.

The evening concluded with a rousing performance of Mozart’s ‘Coronation’ Mass. Again Carolyn Sampson was outstanding, as was James Gilchrist. Mozart’s generally uplifting and concise setting of the Mass text also has its operatic extensions, something appreciated in this swiftly moving but very expressive rendition, which brought out effectively the ear-catching interplay of Mozart’s writing and the many joyous passages.

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