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Mozart: Masonic works - Willens

Mozart: Masonic works - Willens

BIS  BIS-2294

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Mozart: Laut verkünde unsre Freude, K623 - Cantata for soloists, male chorus and orchestra, Die ihr des unermesslichen Weltalls Schöpfer ehrt, K619 - Cantata for tenor and fortepiano, Der Maurerfreude, K 471 - Cantata for tenor, male chorus and orchestra, Lied zur Gesellenreise, K 468, Lobegesang auf die feierliche Johannisloge, K 148, Thamos, König in Ägypten, K345, Dir, Seele des Weltalls, K 429 (468a), Ihr unsre neuen Leiter, K 484, Zerfliesset heut’, geliebte Brüder, K 483, Meistermusik (Maurerische Trauermusik, K 477)

John Heuzenroeder (tenor)
Mario Borgioni (bass)
Alexander Puliaev (piano)
Willi Kronenberg (organ)
Die Kölner Akademie Choir and Orchestra
Michael Alexander Willens (conductor)


Following their 11-disc cycle of Mozart’s piano concertos recorded with Ronald Brautigam, Die Kölner Akademie and Michael Alexander Willens in 2017 released a disc with two of Mozart’s best-loved serenades: the Posthorn Serenade and Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The result was warmly received, for instance in the French magazine Classica where it was described as ‘a truly attractive disc to chase away the gloom’ and on MusicWeb-International.com: ‘Die Kölner Akademie… demonstrate once again that they are amongst the best groups in the world of period performance’.

Joined by the tenor John Heuzenroeder and the male voices of the Kölner Akademie Choir, the team has now recorded the music that Mozart wrote for performance at Masonic gatherings. Mozart was himself a Mason during the last seven years of his life, and composed a number of songs and cantatas for various occasions. Best-known is probably the Masonic Funeral Music, K 477, heard here in a version – ‘Meistermusik’ – devised by the Mozart scholar Philippe Autexier in an attempt to reconstruct the original performance of the piece. Also included are the four orchestral interludes to the play Thamos, Königin Ägypten, fine examples of Mozart’s music in the ‘Sturm und Drang’ tradition. Thamos was written by the poet and Mason Tobias von Gebler, and parallels have frequently been drawn between it and the more overtly Masonic Magic Flute.

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - March 22, 2018

This is this year’s second release of Mozart’s masonic compositions. Those keen on this kind of music will find here much to enjoy. It is in several ways a real improvement over the previous survey: Mozart: Last Masonic Works - Maag, Walter. In the first place, because it gives a more complete picture of Mozart’s masonic music, and secondly, perhaps even more important, because BIS, Willens and his period band (no matter who’s playing each time), continue to surprise with yet another high quality performance and ditto recording, produced by Thore Brinkmann (Take5) in the facilities (Kammermusiksaal) of the German broadcaster ‘Deutschlandfunk’.

Freemasonry and Catholicism don’t always ‘fait bon ménage’. According to scholars Mozart was a devout catholic. Question then is: How ideologically motivated was Mozart’s membership of the Vienna masonic lodges? Was it more a matter of ‘enlightenment’ than belief in the mystical part of it? This also raises the question as to which of his compositions may be considered ‘masonic’. Inclusion of sacred compositions like his Requiem K 626 (which is part of Praga Digital’s survey) is, apart from its dubiously copied origin and execrable sound, open to debate. It is, in any case, not on the list of ‘certified’ masonic works.

Be that as it may, this disc does cover Mozart’s catalogued masonic output from beginning ‘Lobgesang auf die Feierliche Johannisloge’ K 148 (with masonic associations) till his final ‘Maurerische Trauermusik’ K477. Details are in the liner notes, to which I for brevity may refer. Suffice it to say that it is a mixed harvest, not all with orchestra, some ‘Lieder’ are for soloist, choir and forte piano or organ.

As said above, Willens and his musicians give once again proof of being an ensemble that can provide refined, well balanced and articulate support to, this time, two soloists (John Heuzenroeder, tenor and Borgioni, bass) and The Köllner Akademie’s 9 piece male ‘house’ choir. It immediately becomes apparent that Willens is a seasoned conductor when it comes to Soli, Choir and orchestra. Although the Hi-Res catalogue doesn’t carry any of Willens’ vocal discs, music lovers who look further afield will surely know his extensive vocal recording, mostly in cooperation with Deutschlandfunk, for the CPO and Carus labels.

I don’t know where Willens gets his singers from. He seems to be able to muster a large array of very competent ones as the cast usually varies largely from one recording to another. Of course, Germany has a vast reservoir and as I’m an advocate of having soloists singing in their own language I very much enjoyed voice and recite of the tenor John Heuzenroeder. However, as it turned out much to my surprise reading his bio in the liner notes, Mr. Heuzenroeder’s cradle stood in Australia and he also studied in Scotland! Obviously he now lives in Germany, but isn't it all the same amazing to be able to hide any link to an Aussie accent (or Scots, for that matter)?

There are no details of The Köllner Akademie Choir in the booklet. Is it an ad-hoc formation of “professional singers who perform in various formations with Die Kölner Akademie” (according to K.A. web info). For Mauro (and not Mario as mentioned on the cover and elsewhere in the booklet) Borgioni, details can be found here: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Borgioni-Mauro.htm. For the equally undocumented Alexander Puliaev (forte piano) and Willi Kronenberg (organ) I was able to find their bio’s on the internet at these addresses: http://www.puliaev.de/ and https://www.caecilienverein-1864.de/unser-chorleiter/ (sorry, German only).

Apart from these silly quibbles, we have here a disc of considerable interest, which I’m sure will find its way to all those who are interested in the by-ways of Mozart’s oeuvre. And there is more to look forward to. After the Serenades, this is the second of “four projected discs with further Mozart scores” by the same forces. Wonder what will come next…

Apart from these silly quibbles, we have here a disc of considerable interest, which I’m sure will find its way to all those who are interested in the by-ways of Mozart’s oeuvre. And there is more to look forward to. After the Serenades, this is the second of “four projected discs with further Mozart scores” by the same forces. Wonder what will come next…

Blangy-le-Château,
Normandy, France

Copyright © 2018 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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