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Conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt seems to be getting more and more active after entering his ninth decade of life. Here, in Ouverture Spirituelle, we hear two of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s choral masterpieces, the Missa longa in C major, and the Litanieae de venerabili altaris sacramento, played in the original site of their 1776 debuts, the magnificent Salzburg Cathedral. Harnoncourt is reunited with the period instrument group that he founded, the Concentus Musicus Wien, and has the vocal forces of the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and a group of international soloists, Spanish soprano Sylvia Schwartz, Austrian mezzo-soprano Elisabeth von Magnus (Harnoncourt’s daughter), English tenor Jeremy Ovenden, and Austrian bass Florian Boesch.
This July 2012 concert recreates an experience that might have been what Mozart would have heard in his own time. Certainly, there can be few settings more appropriate than the one chosen for this production.
Video director Felix Breisach gives us a truly atmospheric shoot of place and performers. Cameras give us plenty of detailed close-ups, occasionally exposing the scruffy appearance of some of the singers and instrumentalists (did they not know that this was being filmed?) Outside of that quibble, this is the way such programs deserve to be caught for posterity.
The church echo is nearly perfectly reflected in the dts HD-MA 5.0 surround sound track. Thanks to the audio engineers, we still get very clear projection of the voices both solo and massed. The two-channel option is not nearly as effective in this respect.
Trailers and a small program booklet.
The Definitive Word
This a Blu-ray premiere for both works and would be very difficult to top. Harnoncourt and his small band have this music in their blood and they, aided by some excellent solo performers, deliver up what Mozart must have intended for both of these sacred pieces. Ouverture Spirituelle ends up as one of those moments where all of the production values aligned and the audience in the cathedral as well as viewers at home were the fortunate beneficiaries. A special find in soprano Schwartz who possesses a silver bell of a voice that is perfect for Mozart.