St Michael's and All Angels Church in Summertown was the venue for this all-Mozart programme, and a first-class venue too - light and airy, with a very warm welcome at the door. On offer were three works from different decades of W. A. Mozart's life. Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) premiered in 1791 just two months before his grim death, the poverty-stricken circumstances of which are made the more bitter by the knowledge that almost immediately it drew immense audiences and clocked up hundreds of performances during the 1790s. After the opening three proclamatory, ascending chords, the music settles into a sparkling tune, developed and elaborated in the composer's best style. The 41-strong orchestra, coming off just two rehearsals, began with a little scratchiness of tone from the 1st violin section, which improved thereafter, though never quite eradicated. There were effective interventions from the woodwinds, with Lorraine Jarvis' flute excelling.
The Paris Symphony was composed in 1778 during the 22 year-old Mozart's fruitless job-hunting stay in that city. The first movement opens with a scale of a type known then as a 'Mannheim Rocket', not a Teutonic precursor of Stephenson's locomotive but a rushing succession of arpeggios coming to a crescendo, conductor Paul Cox giving out waves of energy to his players here and indeed all evening. Then, in the andantino, Mr Cox pushed on as the lyrical measures unfolded, never permitting a straying into daintiness, and with the horns providing sonority.
After the interval came the Mass in C minor, the Great Mass. Mozart wrote it in 1782-83 as a wedding gift to his wife Constanze. The 40 members of the East Oxford choir got us under way with the sublime Kyrie, the orchestra playing beneath an aerial, polychrome Crucifixion sculpture, Jesus flanked by the Virgin in blue and St John with his gospel in pink.
The two principal soloists were Hannah Davey, last seen and heard at Dorchester Abbey in September, and Theresa Klose from Cologne. Was it coincidence that they were respectively in blue and pink, or were the figures above them spray-painted overnight to match? Fraulein Klose, just 21, was spotted in Bonn by the choir on one of their exchange visits there. This was her international concert debut and first visit to Britain, and she told me she had begun her preparation in February. Ms Davey delivered her Christe Eleison aria with aplomb and volume to spare, at ease in the sudden transition through the octave range. Then up stepped Fraulein Klose with the Italianesque Laudamus Te, testing since it has a wide compass. If she was not quite so comfortable at the bottom end of the range as she was at the top where her tone was refined and assured, nevertheless her next engagement in Oxford will be something to look out for.
The choir took us on in rousing fashion through the Gloria, with just a little faltering on the Qui tollis....suscipe, and thus to the famous Et incarnatus est aria. Last July Pope Francis told America magazine that the Et incarnatus est "is matchless; it lifts you to God!". The validity of the second part of this judgement must of course depend upon one's point of view. Here it was delivered by Ms Davey, so she told me afterwards, for the first time in public. Constanze sang it at its premiere in Salzburg and it's technically very difficult, not least I think because the tempo is slow and choppy, so the soprano is frequently unable to 'push off' from the onward flow of the music, having instead to generate her own momentum. Ms Davey's voice was strong but precise through the constant swoops up and down the voice range that tested the stability of her tone, then wonderfully flexible in the final coloratura passage.