Great Mass in C minor, K. 427
|Great Mass in C minor|
Unfinished missa solemnis|
by W. A. Mozart
Interior of St Peter's Abbey, Salzburg, where the mass was first performed
|Performed||26 October 1783 Salzburg:|
Great Mass in C minor (German: Große Messe in c-Moll), K. 427/417a, is the common name of the last musical setting of the mass by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (not counting his Requiem Mass left unfinished at his death). He composed it in Vienna in 1782 and 1783, when he was no longer a church musician of the Salzburg Cathedral. The large-scale work, a missa solemnis, is scored for two soprano soloists, a tenor and a bass, double chorus and large orchestra. It remained unfinished, missing large portions of the Credo and the complete Agnus Dei.
Composition and first performance
The work was composed during 1782/83. In a letter to his father Leopold dated 4 January 1783, Mozart mentioned a vow he had made to write a mass when he would bring his then fiancée Constanze as his wife to Salzburg; Constanze then sang the "Et incarnatus est" at its premiere.
The first performance took place in Salzburg on Sunday 26 October 1783 (the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost). Mozart had moved to Vienna in 1781, but was paying a visit to his home town in the company of Constanze, who had not yet met his father or his sister (Nannerl).
The performance consisted of the Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus and took place in the Church of St. Peter's Abbey in the context of a Roman Catholic mass. The performers were members of the "Hofmusik", that is the musicians employed at the court of Salzburg's ruler, Prince-Archbishop Count Hieronymus von Colloredo and thus Mozart's former colleagues. There was a rehearsal in the nearby Kapellhaus on 23 October 1783.
The work is incomplete, missing all of the Credo following the aria "Et incarnatus est" (the orchestration of the Credo is also incomplete) and all of the Agnus Dei. The Sanctus is partially lost and requires editorial reconstruction. There is a good deal of speculation concerning why the work was left unfinished. Given the absolute necessity of a complete text for liturgical use, it is likely that Mozart spliced in movements from his earlier masses for the premiere, although Richard Maunder has noted that the surviving parts (including an organ part) contain only the completed movements. For purposes of modern performances, the editions and completions available are those by H. C. Robbins Landon (Eulenburg), Helmut Eder (Bärenreiter), Richard Maunder (Oxford University Press), Philip Wilby (Novello), Robert Levin (Carus-Verlag) and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs (Musikproduktion Höflich). Robert Xavier Rodriguez has also completed the Agnus Dei. The editions by Robbins Landon, Eder and Maunder aim to simply fill out the missing orchestrations and choral parts in the Credo and Sanctus, whereas the editions by Wilby, Levin and Cohrs all aim to complete the work by composing new music for the Credo and Agnus Dei through the use of parody or elaboration of period sketches by Mozart.
- Kyrie (Andante moderato: Chorus and Soprano)
- Gloria in excelsis Deo (Allegro vivace: Chorus)
- Laudamus te (Allegro aperto: Soprano II)
- Gratias agimus tibi (Adagio: Chorus)
- Domine Deus (Allegro moderato: Sopranos I and II)
- Qui tollis (Largo: Double choir)
- Quoniam tu solus (Allegro: Sopranos I and II, Tenor)
- Jesu Christe (Adagio: Chorus) – Cum Sancto Spiritu (Chorus)
- Credo in unum Deum (Allegro maestoso: Chorus)
- Et incarnatus est (Andante: Soprano I)
- Sanctus (Largo: Double choir)
- Benedictus qui venit (Allegro comodo: Quartet and Double chorus)
The work embodies pomp and solemnity associated with the Salzburg traditions of the time, but it also anticipates the symphonic masses of Joseph Haydn in its solo-choral sharing. The mass shows the influence of Bach and Handel, whose music Mozart was studying at this time (see Gottfried van Swieten).
On 20 August 2016 the version reconstructed by Helmut Eder was performed at the Royal Albert Hall, for the first time as part of The Proms series, by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, with Ilan Volkov conducting and featuring Louise Alder, Carolyn Sampson, Benjamin Hulett and Matthew Rose.
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- Ferenc Fricsay, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Chor der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale Berlin, Maria Stader, Hertha Töpper, Ernst Haefliger, Ivan Sardi. Label: Deutsche Grammophon, 1960
- Mozart: Great Choral Works – Helen Donath, Heather Harper, Ryland Davies, Stafford Dean, London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Sir Colin Davis (Conductor). Label: Philips Classics Records, recorded February 1971.
- Raymond Leppard, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Ileana Cotrubaș, Kiri Te Kanawa, Werner Krenn, Hans Sotin, John Alldis Choir (John Alldis, chorus master). Label: EMI, 1974
- Herbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Singverein, Barbara Hendricks, Janet Perry, Peter Schreier, Benjamin Luxon, Label: Deutsche Grammophon, 1982
- Mozart: Mass in C minor – Edith Wiens, Delores Ziegler, John Aler, William Stone, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Robert Shaw (conductor). Label: Telarc, 1988.
- Mozart: Mass in C minor, K. 427 (417a) "Great" – Barbara Schlick, Monika Frimmer, Christoph Prégardien, Klaus Mertens, Collegium Cartusianum Orchestra, Cologne Chamber Choir, Peter Neumann (conductor). Label: Virgin Classics, 1988/1990/2008.
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- Version of Richard Maunder: Christopher Hogwood, Academy of Ancient Music, Westminster College Quiristers, Winchester Cathedral Choir, Arleen Auger, Lynne Dawson, John-Mark Ainsley, David Thomas, Label: L'Oiseau-Lyre/Decca, recorded 1990, published 1993
- Masaaki Suzuki, Christian Immler, Makoto Sakurada, Carolyn Sampson, Olivia Vermeulen, Bach Collegium Japan, Label: BIS Records, 2016
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