Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Year's Music: Mozart's Coronation Mass

Today (January 27) is Mozart's 260th birthday, so I thought I'd listen to his Coronation Mass (Krönungsmesse, or Mass No. 15 in C major, K. 317). I used to have a nice LP set of Mozart's sacred music, on the Phillips label if I remember correctly, and this particular short mass (Missa brevis), was included on the set. It's a favorite since that time when I was a single, rural pastor in a small parsonage on the state highway.

The mass got its name from its use in Viennese imperial coronations and likely premiered on Easter, 1779, not long after Mozart completed it. As this site indicates, "Certainly the music itself is celebratory in nature, and would have fitted a coronation or Easter Day service perfectly. The soloists are continually employed either as a quartet, in pairs or in solo lines that contrast with the larger forces of the choir. The most stunning examples are the central hushed section of the Credo, and later when the Hosanna section of the Benedictus is well under way, the quartet begins the piece again, seemingly in the wrong place! Perhaps the most obvious reason for the mass's popularity in Prague in 1791/2 was the uncanny similarity between the soprano solo Agnus Dei and the Countess's aria Dove sono from Figaro which had been so successful there in the 1780's."

Here is a performance conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt:

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