MOZART: Mass in C Minor, 'Great Mass' / Kyrie in D Minor
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Wolfgang AmadeusMozart (1756-1791)
Mass in C minor, K 427'Great Mass'; Kyrie in D minor, K 341
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of theviolinist and composer Leopold Mozart, a musician employed by the rulingArchbishop. It was his father who superintended his education and his earlycareer as a child prodigy, made much of in the major cities of Europe.
Adolescence brought employment in Salzburg, latterly under an unsympatheticpatron, but attempts to find a suitable position elsewhere, whether in Mannheimor in Paris, came to nothing. In 1781, after success at the court in Munichwith his newly commissioned opera Idomeneo, Mozart was summoned by theArchbishop to join his entourage in Vienna and it was there that he secured hisdismissal. The last ten years of his life were spent largely in Vienna, withouta patron or the necessary guidance of his careful father, but now with a wifewho had brought him no dowry. Initial success was followed by a period ofsevere financial difficulty, although by 1791 it seemed that matters might takea turn for the better. Anything of this kind was brought to an abrupt end byhis sudden death in December of that year.
In a letter of 4th January 1783 to his father in Salzburg, Mozart refersto a reproach from his father in a letter now lost, referring to moralobligation, presumably to his father, to whom he had neglected to send New Yeargreetings, as would have been expected. He had married Constanze Weber withouthis father's approval a year earlier and it was only during the summer of 1783that he planned to take his wife to Salzburg to introduce her to his father andsister. In the same letter he refers to the coming fulfillment of a promise andto the score of half a Mass waiting to be finished, and it seems that this mustbe the Mass in C minor, K 427. The nature of the promise is not clear,but it may be presumed that the new composition was, in part at least, inthanksgiving for Constanze's recovery from illness, his marriage or the birth oftheir first child.
In the event Mozart and his wife spent from 29th July to 27th October inSalzburg, so that there is a break in the informative and sometimes misleadingcorrespondence with his father. It seems from his sister Nannerl's diary,however, that a Mass by her brother was performed at the Benedictine AbbeyChurch of St Peter in Salzburg on 26th October, when her sister-in?¡-law was thesoprano soloist, after a rehearsal on the previous Thursday. It is mostprobable that the work in question was the present incomplete Mass,supplemented, it may be supposed, by movements from other Masses or plainchant.
The date chosen for the performance was the Feast of St Amand, Bishop ofMaastricht, and one of the monastery's patron saints, when the Credo wasgenerally omitted, although on a Sunday it would have been required.
Nevertheless Mozart never completed his setting of the Creda, and theparts of the movement that he had written were not performed. The Mass alsolacks a setting of the Agnus Dei. In 1785 he made use of material fromthe Mass in C minor for his cantata Davidde penitente, K469. In later years attempts were made by others to complete the work, as withother compositions that Mozart left unfinished.
The Mass in C minor reflects Mozart's currentpreoccupation with the music of Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach, explored withthe encouragement of Baron van Swieten, an important patron. The work is scoredfor pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani, with threetrombones, strings and organ continuo. After a brief orchestral introduction,the four vocal sections enter in contrapuntal imitation and the movementcontinues in the monumental and generally conservative style that the Salzburg Archbishopwould certainly have discouraged. The soprano soloist introduces the floridItalianate Christe eleison and the contrapuntal choral texture isresumed with the return of the Kyrie.
The Gloria opens in affirmative C major, leading almost at onceto energetic fugal writing, relaxing momentarily at the words pax hominibusbonae voluntatis (peace to men of good will). Laudamus te is in Fmajor, marked Allegro aperto. It is scored for solo soprano, oboes,horns and strings and is in operatic style. Trombones and bassoons return forthe A minor Adagio of Gratias agimus tibi, now with a five-partchoir. To this the D minor Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, scored forstrings and two soprano soloists, offers an immediate contrast. In Salzburg thesecond soprano would presumably have been sung by one of the castrati employedby the court musical establishment. There is a return to a more traditionalBaroque style in the solid dotted rhythms of the G minor Qui tollis peccatamundi, for two four-part choirs with the full orchestra. The two sopranosoloists are joined by a solo tenor for the E minor setting of Quoniam tusolus Dominus, scored without trombones or horns. The solo voices enter inenergetic contrapuntal imitation, over which the spirit of Handel seems toloom, seen through a Mozartian prism. There is a brief C major choral Adagiofor the words Jesu Christe, before the splendid formal Baroque fugalsetting of Cum Sancto Spiritu, in the same key.
The unfinished Credo starts with a movement for five-part choir,scored without trombones. The setting continues up to the words descendit decaelis, although the scoring seems generally incomplete.
It continues, with a change of key from C to F major, in asetting of the heart of the creed, Et incarnatus est, scored now forsolo flute, oboe and bassoon, with strings, organ continuo and solo soprano.
Again the instrumental parts are incomplete, although their nature may beinferred from the given bass-line and indicated harmonies. It moves forward toa cadenza for the soprano and solo instruments.
The completed C major Sanctus, scored for double choir and fullorchestra, follows its opening Largo with a fugal Allegro comodo settingof the Hosanna for four-part choir. The Hosanna returns after theA minor Benedictus in which the three solo singers are now joined by abass, entering in formal imitation one of the other.
The Kyrie in D minor, K 341, at one time supposed, in the absenceof the autograph copy, to have been written in Munich in late 1780 or early1781, has now been dated to Mozart's final years in Vienna, between 1787 and1791. For the first and last time in his church music, the work is scored alsofor clarinets, although two basset horns are included in the scoring of theunfinished Requiem of 1791. It has been suggested that the singlemovement may have been completed or at the least edited by Maximilian Stadleror by the composer and publisher Johann Anton Andre and it is largely on thelatter's edition of about 1825 that subsequent editors have relied.
The Kyrie appears to have been intended as the first movement ofa major church composition, in its grandeur of conception prefiguring the Requiem.