Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) Missa solemnis in C K. 337
Urtext edited by Franz Beyer [solos,mix ch,orch] 1780 Duration: 20'
solos: SATB – choir: SATB – 0.2.0.2. – 0.2.3.0. – timp – org – str(without va)
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According to the date inscribed in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s autograph score, the present mass was composed in March 1780. The instrumental setting (oboes, trumpets and timpani add color and festive splendor to the work) rightly suggests that the work was in all likelihood performed with the Church Sonata K. 336 at the Easter high mass in the Salzburg cathedral. Since Archbishop Hieronymus Count Colloredo wanted the mass text to be treated as succinctly as possible, Mozart offered him a richly orchestrated “Missa solemnis” in the terse form of a “Missa brevis”.
The brilliant, festive character of the Mass K. 337 is abruptly interrupted by a powerful “Benedictus” in a harsh A minor, “the most striking and revolutionary movement in all of Mozart’s Masses, in the strictest contrapuntal style …” (Alfred Einstein). What could have inspired Mozart to such unexpected rigor?
But there is another surprise yet: while the dark drama of the Holy Week seems to radiate from this “Benedictus”, the following “Agnus Dei” in the distant key of E flat major sounds, with its soprano solo and concertante oboe, bassoon and organ, like a song of thanksgiving filled with the warmth and light of Easter.
Other features worth noting are the three unisons between the alto and bass heard at the “Deus pater omnipotens” in the “Gloria” (bars 22-32), the a cappella illumination of the words “Jesu Christe” found a little later (bar 62) and the descending chromaticism evocative of death at the “Crucifixus” in the “Credo”. (Incidentally, Mozart had initially planned a different movement for the “Credo” of this mass, superscribed “Tempo di Chiaconna”; he wrote out 136 bars but, for some unknown reason, never completed it.)
While the “Coronation Mass” K. 317 of 1779 is one of Mozart’s most well-known mass settings, its later composed frllow piece K. 337 – Mozart’s last completed mass before the great C minor fragment K. 427 (417a) – has been paid less attention, even though it is an outstanding example of the Mozartian mass type and contains parallels to the “Coronation Mass” in its disposition and in the structure of its various movements. The score and piano reduction of this new edition were prepared on the basis of the autograph (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek/Vienna, dass. no. Mus. Hs. 18 97512) and the Salzburg performance material (Staats- und Stadtbibliothek/Augsburg, dass. no. Hl. Kreuz 9). We wish to thank both libraries for putting the source material at our disposal.
Franz Beyer, Munich, Spring 1998