There isn't any such thing as "religious" music. Music on religious texts certainly but through the ages, the style of this music have been the styles of their composers and of the periods they lived in.
Yesterday afternoon at the Washington Cathedral. Paul Callaway led the Cathedral Choral Society, 225 strong, and a small orchestra in the music of Mozart, the early B Flat Litany, K. 125, and the splendid but unfinished C Minor Mass. K 417a.
The setting and the texts bespoke of the glories and the fervor of religion, but the music was pure Mozart, the Mozart of the "Marriage of Figaro" and of the string quintets.
There were the gracefully mannered phrase endings, the glorious vocal coloratura and the dramatic harmonic sequences. In short, a powerful vocabulary capable of expressing all sorts of thoughts, or, as Mozart himself said, "of none but musical ideas."
The solo quartet - soprano Regina McConnell, mezzo-soprano Nancy Williams, tenor Charles Bressler and baritone Robert Trehy - was well-matched and well-equipped for its assignments, although McConnell was not in very good voice. Williams, with an unusually clear and warm sound, was particularly impressive.
The chorus, obviously well-prepared (one could see them attack with precision) and obviously working hard and enjoying themselves, was sabatoged by the Cathedral accousties that ate up all its marvelous counterpoint and consonants, but that did manage to leave unscathed the Gloria's "et in terra pax" and "Qui Tollis" which were supremely beautiful.