Johann Simon Mayr: Messa di Gloria. © 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

Exceptionally Convincing

Masses by Johann Simon Mayr, heard by GERALD FENECH

'... Franz Hauk is completely committed to the cause, drawing some truly memorable singing from soloists and chorus alike.'


Born in the Bavarian town of Bendorf in 1763, Simon Mayr was the son of a schoolmaster, and showed some early promise as a musician. After studying theology at the University, he continued to show great musical prowess, but his real training as a musician only began in 1787, when a patron took him to Italy. From 1789 he continued to enhance his knowledge with Carlo Lenzi, maestro di cappella of the Bergamo Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Another generous patron gave him the chance to also study in Venice.

His turning to opera owed much to the encouragement he received from Piccinni and Peter von Winter. Other operas followed for Venice, then La Scala and other Italian theatres, with an increasingly large number of performances abroad. In 1802 he followed Lenzi as maestro di cappella at the Bergamo Basilica, establishing a free music school three years later. Mayr held these positions until his death in 1845. As a teacher he was much respected by his pupil Donizetti, and he strived hard to promote the works of the great composers of that era such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in Italy. His own style does resemble the sound world of the Viennese Classical tradition, but the Italian influence always held sway.

Mayr was an immensely prolific composer, and his huge output includes some seventy operas and over six hundred sacred works, all composed before 1824. He died in Bergamo, Italy, aged eighty-two. Throughout his career, the composer wrote no less than eighteen masses and seven requiems, and such was his fame that these works were in great demand across Europe.

The two compositions on this disc, as all the others in the genre, are rooted in the Italian tradition of the messa concertata, which demands division into separate vocal numbers. The E minor Mass has long been recognized as an outstanding example of Mayr's late style.

Listen — Mayr: Gloria in Excelsis (Messa di Gloria in E minor)
(track 2, 1:32-2:22) ℗ 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Nearly an hour long and written circa 1820-34, it displays a polyphonic mastery and dialogue between singers and concertante solo instruments in an exceptionally convincing manner.

Listen — Mayr: Cum sancto spiritu (Messa di Gloria in E minor)
(track 7, 0:00-0:58) ℗ 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The F minor Mass (circa 1820) alternates between passages of joy and deep melancholy, but its notable gift for melodic beauty gives it a splendour that is particularly arresting.

Listen — Mayr: Kyrie (Messa di Gloria in F minor)
(track 8, 0:00-0:55) ℗ 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

As in previous Mayr issues, Franz Hauk is completely committed to the cause, drawing some truly memorable singing from soloists and chorus alike. Likewise, the Concerto de Bassus deliver near perfect interpretations of their orchestral parts.

Listen — Mayr: Quoniam (Messa di Gloria in F minor)
(track 13, 2:43-3:42) ℗ 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

An absolutely riveting addition to Hauk's unflinching advocacy of Mayr's mostly neglected sacred oeuvre. Excellent booklet notes and a very generous playing time are added bonuses.

Copyright © 9 December 2021 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta







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