Mayseder: A Viennese Bridge Between Classical And Romantic

Review by: Jens F. Laurson


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 6

The late classical/early romantic Viennese composer Joseph Mayseder is a wonderful discovery whose music is being methodically made available by the Gramola label. He was the concertmaster of the predecessor of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and of the Wiener Hofmusikkapelle–an ensemble that still exists (albeit as a loose ensemble of singers and instrumentalists from the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, and the State Opera Chorus) and that performs the musical duties on this disc that couples his musical legacy, a Mass in E-flat major, with an early violin concerto.

The Mass for orchestra and chorus is a beautiful work of timeless conservative romanticism, moving, conventional, and nicely balancing power (the finale of the Gloria, for example) with tenderness (Agnus Dei). The playing is of qualitative routine: Fine enough not to call attention to itself in unwanted ways while giving us a good idea of this music and its attractiveness. For better or worse, there is no sense of an interpretation, only a conducting through the notes. The dragging Benedictus is a little trying, but it passes quickly enough. The singing by the local boys’ choir features good-sounding voices with decent technical proficiency but suggests no excessive rehearsing.

The Violin Concerto is, in parts, very attractive and often charming, if a little less interesting than the Mass (more Viennese Franz Berwald than Paganini, thankfully). The orchestral contribution to it picks up a notch, which helps the soloist/conductor, whose fiddling is–just–up to the challenges, soar in the Andante. Still, an added element of ease and lightness might help here as well as in the Mass.

The digital clicks on my copy (in the first movement of the concerto) slightly distract from the music’s otherwise favorable impression, but are few enough in number to ignore. If this all sounds less than enthusiastic, the truth is that better performances are not likely going to be around in our lifetime, and Mayseder is well worth a listen if you want to explore fine music that bridges the classical and the romantic.

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Recording Details:

  • Thomas Christian (violin)
  • Wiener Hofmusikkapelle, Vienna Boys’ Choir, Thomas Christian

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