London Symphony Chorus/LSO/Davis, Barbican, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Neither of the works in this programme was written in the first instance for formal concert hall listening. Mozart's grand "Posthorn" Serenade No 9 in D major, K320 (1779) would probably have been done out of doors at some summer festivity, while Beethoven's Mass in C major, Op 86 (1807) was commissioned for the Esterhazy palace chapel at Eisenstadt.

Nor was it obvious why they had been programmed together, except that Sir Colin Davis manifestly revelled in both. Mozart's serenade is a rambling seven-movement sequence, with opening allegro and closing finale in the brilliant, slightly empty manner of his "Paris" Symphony. There are minuets - the second featuring novelty trios for piccolo and posthorn; a couple of amiable concertante movements full of decorative solos for flute and oboe, and a minor-key Andantino, which promises, but does not quite deliver, more serious matter.

Directing a largish LSO line-up, Sir Colin made much of the score's exuberance and elegance, but could not quite convince us that this lengthy 45 minutes approaches the best of Mozart. Nor has posterity always been convinced that the Mass in C represents the best of Beethoven - starting with its commissioner Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy, who doubtless missed the dash of the masses by his Kapellmeister Haydn.

But that is the point: Beethoven is surely concerned here to convey an alternative approach of reverent awe, already encapsulated in the simple melody and hushed texture of the opening "Kyrie" that returns so touchingly at the very end of the Mass.

Within its comparatively compact dimensions, excitements, such as the opening onrush of the "Credo", and striking imagery, such as the horns that toll out in the "Dona nobis pacem", are certainly to be found. But what most comes through the comparative plainness of the writing is the overwhelming warmth of Beethoven's personality.

Doubtless there is a case for performing the score with a considerably smaller choir than the London Symphony Chorus and at niftier, more sharply articulated tempi than Sir Colin always delivered. But the overall design came over, and each of the four well-matched soloists had their eloquent moments. And, by the end, one was more convinced than ever that this beautiful and still-underrated work ought by now to be core repertoire.

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