About this Recording
8.572279 - SCHUBERT, F.: Masses Nos. 1 and 3 (Immortal Bach Ensemble, Leipzig Chamber Orchestra, Schuldt-Jensen)
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Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
Mass No. 1 in F major • Mass No. 3 in B flat major


Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a schoolmaster, and spent the greater part of his short life in the city. His parents had settled in Vienna, his father moving there from Moravia in 1783 to join his schoolmaster brother at a school in the suburb of Leopoldstadt and marrying in 1785 a woman who had her origins in Silesia and was to bear him fourteen children. Franz Schubert was the twelfth of these and the fourth to survive infancy. He began to learn the piano at the age of five, with the help of his brother Ignaz, twelve years his senior, and three years later started to learn the violin, while serving as a chorister at Liechtenthal church. From there he applied, on the recommendation of Antonio Salieri, to join the Imperial Chapel, into which he was accepted in October 1808, as a chorister now allowed to study at the Akademisches Gymnasium, boarding at the Stadtkonvikt, his future education guaranteed.

During his schooldays Schubert formed friendships that he was to maintain for the rest of his life. After his voice broke in 1812, he was offered, as expected, a scholarship to enable him to continue his general education, but he chose, instead, to train as a primary school teacher, while devoting more time to music and, in particular, to composition, the art to which he was already making a prolific contribution. In 1815 he was able to join his father as an assistant teacher, but showed no great aptitude or liking for the work. Instead he was able to continue the earlier friendships he had formed at school and make new acquaintances. His meeting in 1816 with Franz von Schober allowed him to accept an invitation to live in the latter’s apartment, an arrangement that relieved him of the necessity of earning his keep in the schoolroom. In August 1817 he returned home again and resumed his place, for the moment, in the classroom. The following summer he spent in part at Zseliz in Hungary as music tutor to the two daughters of Count Johann Karl Esterházy von Galánta, before returning to Vienna to lodge with a new friend, the poet Johann Mayrhofer, an arrangement that continued until near the end of 1820, after which Schubert spent some months living alone, now able to afford the necessary rent.

By this period of his life it seemed that Schubert was on the verge of solid success as a composer and musician. He lodged once again with the Schobers in 1822 and 1823 and it was at this time that his health began to deteriorate, through a venereal infection that was then incurable. This illness overshadowed the remaining years of his life and was the cause of his early death. The following years brought intermittent returns to his father’s house, since 1818 in the suburb of Rossau, and the continuation of a social life that often centred on his own musical accomplishments and of his intense activity as a composer. In February 1828 the first public concert of his music was given in Vienna, an enterprise that proved financially successful, and he was able to spend the summer with friends, including Schober, before moving, in September, to the suburb of Wieden to stay with his brother Ferdinand, in the hope that his health might improve. At the end of October, however, he was taken ill at dinner and in the following days his condition became worse. He died on 19 November.

From childhood Schubert had had a particularly close association with church music. He had started at the age of eight as a choirboy at the parish church in Liechtenthal, where he was taught by the choirmaster Michael Holzer, a pupil of Albrechtsberger. From 1808 he was a chorister in the Imperial and Royal Chapel and remained in the choir until his voice broke in 1812, bringing an end to seven years of regular practical participation in the music of the church. His many liturgical compositions seem to have started in 1812 and he continued to write music for the church until the final weeks of his life.

Schubert wrote his first complete Mass, the Mass in F major, D. 105, between 17 May and 22 July 1814 and it was first performed on Friday 25th or perhaps Sunday 27 September at Liechtenthal for the celebration of the church’s centenary. The work is scored for pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets, three trombones, timpani, strings and organ, the last played at the first performance by Schubert’s brother Ferdinand. Schubert conducted, the orchestra was led by Joseph Mayseder, leader of the Kärntnertor-Theater orchestra, and the soprano solos were sung by Therese Grob, daughter of a neighbour of the Schuberts, on whom Schubert seems at the time to have set his heart. The occasion was an important one for Schubert, and it seems that the Court Composer Antonio Salieri was present for the occasion and able to express his pride in his former pupil.

The opening Kyrie includes a soprano solo, while the Christe eleison makes use of the four solo voices. The Gloria is treated at greater length than the other movements of the Mass. In C major, it opens in festive splendour. The mood and key changes for the F major Gratias agimus tibi, for solo soprano, tenor and bass, shifting to D minor for the choral Domine Deus, followed by the four soloists’ Domine Deus, Agnus Dei. The festive mood returns at Quoniam tu solus sanctus, leading to a contrapuntal Cum Sancto Spiritu of traditionally monumental proportions. The movement ends with a restatement of the opening Gloria in excelsis Deo. In the F major Credo Schubert treats the opening text homophonically, leading to a tenor solo at Qui propter nos homines and dramatic word-painting at Crucifixus etiam pro nobis. The bass soloist proclaims Et iterum venturus est and the words et in unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam are, as usual in Schubert’s Mass settings, omitted. The Sanctus is in the celebratory mood of the whole work and the B flat major Benedictus is scored for two tenors and two sopranos, with the full choir ending the movement with Hosanna in excelsis. The tenor soloist opens the F minor Agnus Dei, to which a solo oboe adds poignancy. The second plea is entrusted to the bass soloist, followed by a lilting F major Dona nobis pacem.

The Mass in B flat major, D. 324, was started in November 1815 and presumably performed at Liechtenthal. Ferdinand Schubert, however, was pleasantly surprised when, in 1824, during a tour of duty as an inspector of schools, he heard the Mass performed, in his honour, at Hainburg. The Mass is scored for similar forces, but without trombones, and on a scale to make its use possible in ordinary parish worship. The opening Kyrie is followed by a Gloria with more secular suggestions than the earlier Mass. The D minor Domine Deus is introduced by the bass soloist, leading to a passage for the tenor and then for the soprano. Quoniam tu solus sanctus brings a return to the music of the first section, with contrapuntal elements making their due appearance in Cum Sancto Spiritu. In the Credo there is a shift to F minor for the soloists’ Et incarnatus est and a dramatic hush at the choral Crucifixus etiam pro nobis, quickly dispelled at Et resurrexit. The same clause as in the earlier Mass is omitted from the text. The Sanctus brings a mood of triumph and the F major Benedictus is scored for the four soloists, joined by the full choir for the final Osanna in excelsis. The first petition of the G minor Agnus Dei is given to the soprano soloist, followed by the alto and then the tenor, and the final Dona nobis pacem restores the original key in a lilting conclusion.

Keith Anderson

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