Leopold Kozeluch Masonic music well-crafted

Leopold Kozeluch’s career somewhat paralleled Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s – as did his music. Both were pianists. Like Mozart, Kozeluch wrote many symphonies (30) and piano concertos (22). He succeeded Mozart as the Hofmusik Compositor of the Viennese court.

And Kozeluch, like Mozart, was a Freemason and wrote music for the Order. Kozeluch’s contribution was a melodrama, Joseph der Menschheit Segen (Joseph, Mankind’s Blessing). Melodrama simply meant a blend of music and spoken word.

As in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” the work is laden with Masonic symbolism. It’s in everything from the keys, to the meter, to the shape of the melodies.

And yet it works as music even for those not steeped in the Craft. Take away the melodrama (spoken text), and you have a very good secular cantata, with interesting choral set pieces and some lovely soprano arias.

Also included is a Missa in C major. It’s a relatively simple yet beautifully written mass. The transparency of the score reminded me of Mozart.

Two solo arias for soprano round out the release. Simona Eisinger sang with a clear, pure soprano. Her voice had a natural warmth to it that remained even in the upper register. I enjoyed her performances very much.

I can’t say the same for the Czech Boys Choir Boni Pueri. I auditioned this release through headphones, and the choir seemed a little too spread out in the mix — but that could be a recording issue. In any event, the choir’s individual voices didn’t seem to blend very well.

And there were also some serious intonation issues. I also heard some imprecise entrances, which further detracted from my enjoyment of the music.

Because of that, I have to give a qualified recommendation. On the plus side are the music itself and Eisinger’s singing. On the minus side, everyone else’s singing.

Leopold Kozeluch: Joseph der Menschheit Segen (Masonic Cantata)
Simona Eisinger, soprano; Siegfried Gohritz, speaker
Filip Dvorak, harpsichord; Czech Boys Choir Boni Pueri
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Marek Štilec, conductor
Naxos 8.673929

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