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It is perfectly possible to hear the music of a composer and simply to take it on the musical merits it presents.
One need not know the background to the work, the circumstance in which it was written, nor, indeed, in some extreme cases such as Wagner’s, the potentially unsavoury views of its composer. Mozart’s Solemn Vespers from 1780 sound simply divine, on a sheer musical level.
Six movements of wonderful, religious music, culminating in, surely, one of Mozart’s finest tunes in the Laudate Dominum (imagine how delighted the soprano must have been to see she had been given such a corker).
Mozart himself, however, felt restricted in these works. They were written for performance in Salzburg where his employer, the Archbishop Colleredo, insisted on a very conservative style in comparison with, say, the Italian manner of the day. No matter for Mozart, though: soon enough, he was to be booted out of the Salzburg court, enabling him to seek his fortune in Vienna.
These Vespers are one of a pair. They come alongside the Solemn Vespers for Sunday and were written a year apart.
Winchester Cathedral Choir; Academy of Ancient Music; Christopher Hogwood (conductor). Warner: 2564601912.
Illustration: Mark Millington