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8.550495 - MOZART: Mass No. 16, 'Coronation Mass' / Exsultate, jubilate / Ave Verum Corpus
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Mass in C Major, K. 317 (Coronation Mass)
Mozart's life was all too short. Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a leading court musician, he amazed Europe as an infant prodigy, undertaking protracted tours under the guidance of his father. Adolescence and early manhood proved less satisfying. The Mozarts had security in Salzburg, but the city, under its new Archbishop, seemed to have little to offer, and Mozart was certain that he deserved something better. In 1781, after fulfilling a successful commission in Munich with his opera Idomeneo, he travelled to Vienna to join his patron, the Archbishop. When he was denied the opportunities that seemed within his grasp and particularly the chance of making some impression on the Emperor, he quarrelled with his employer and, not for the first but now for the last time, was dismissed.
Mozart spent the last ten years of his life principally in Vienna, without consistent patronage adequate to his needs and without the constant presence and advice of his father, who remained in Salzburg. An imprudent marriage made increasing demands on his purse, and initial success in the theatre and in public subscription concerts was followed by disappointment and the need to borrow money to meet expenses normal to one of his station. In 1791, however, his fortunes seemed to have changed for the better. From the new Emperor he had received nothing, but the German opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) won popular success in the autumn, and there was the prospect of a position as adjunct to the ailing Kapellmeister at the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna, with the likelihood of succession in due course. Death intervened. Mozart died in the early hours of 5th December, after a short illness.
The so-called Coronation Mass, the Mass in C major, K. 317, was completed on 23rd March, 1779, in Salzburg, where Mozart had returned after an abortive attempt to find employment in Mannheim and in Paris. He had been compelled to resign from the Archbishop's service in order to undertake a journey on which, for the first time, his father had been unable to accompany him. The fifteen months away had been expensive in monetary terms and his mother, who went with him, had died in Paris in the summer of 1778. Eventually his father managed to arrange for him a position again at Salzburg, this time as court organist, a post for which he made a formal petition in January 1779.
The composition of the Coronation Mass may be seen as a concomitant of Mozart's new duties in Salzburg. The work was apparently intended for performance at one of the two festival days of Easter in the same year, either 4th or 5th April, together with the Epistle Sonata K. 329, with its more elaborate organ part, which Mozart himself would have played. The popular name of the work, the Coronation Mass, has been supposed to originate in the association of the Mass with a commemoration of the crowning of the miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin of Maria Plain, near Salzburg. Others have chosen to infer a connection with the coronation of the Emperor Leopold II in Prague in 1791, the occasion of the first performance of the new coronation opera La clemenza di Tito.
The Coronation Mass is scored for pairs of oboes, horns, trumpets and drums, three trombones, strings without violas, and organ, the bass line reinforced, according to custom, by bassoons. The Kyrie opens in celebratory style, before the entry of the soprano soloist and the solo tenor. As is customary, the Gloria retains a more homophonic texture in the choral writing and in the writing for solo voices until the words Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, sung by the soprano, with the tenor soloist adding the next clause, overlapping with the words before. There is space for a brief passage of imitative counterpoint in the final Amen. There is an impressively lively introduction to the Credo, largely homophonic in choral texture until the words Descendit de caelis are illustrated in descending melodic lines, one voice imitating another. The statement by the four soloists of belief in the Incarnation is duly muted, with its florid first violin accompaniment to the simple chordal texture of the vocal parts, a burst of jubilant sound being reserved for the affirmation of belief in the resurrection, The soloists propose faith in the Holy Spirit, joined by the chorus in the additional declaration of belief in the Catholic Church. There are subtle dynamic effects in the treatment of the words expressing belief in the resurrection of the dead, while the Amen again allows a brief excursion into contrapuntal writing. The more emphatic music of the Sanctus is followed by a gentler introduction to the Benedictus from the strings and organ and the four solo voices, joined by the choir and the trombones for the final Hosanna in excels is. The final Agnus Dei is at first entrusted to the soprano soloist, without the brass instruments of the orchestra, leading to a plea for peace from the four soloists, joined finally by the choir and full orchestra.
The motet Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165, belongs to a happier period of Mozart's life, when all seemed to lie before him. With his father he had first visited Italy late in 1769. A second visit followed in 1771, with the commission for a serenata, Ascanio in Alba, in Milan. The third and final visit took place in the winter of 1772, with the reluctant assent of the new Archbishop of Salzburg. The primary object of the journey was to provide a new opera, Lucio Silla, for Milan, then ruled by Archduke Ferdinand, son of the Empress Maria Theresia. The leading singer in Lucio Silla was the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, who was shortly to make his home in England, and it was for him that Mozart wrote his Exsultate, jubilate, a work that makes considerable demands on a singer. The motet is scored for pairs of oboes and horns, strings and organ. The opening section is followed by a brief recitative, modulating from the original key of F major to the A major of the succeeding Andante. The original key is restored for the final jubilant Alleluja.
The setting of the Ave verum, K. 618, belongs to the last summer of Mozart's life and was written in Baden, where his wife was taking the waters. It was composed for the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi and designed for his friend Anton. Stoll, a schoolmaster with responsibility for a church choir. The music, in its simple clarity, represents a more popular and less formal type of church music, rather in the spirit of those Josephine reforms to which Mozart had earlier taken such exception in Salzburg.
Anna di Mauro
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