Programme (First Half) - Schubert Mass in G

Kyrie Gloria Credo Sanctus Benedictus Agnus Dei

Unlike Mozart, Franz Peter Schubert (1797 – 1828) was born in Vienna and hardly ever left the city, refusing opportunities to travel to London (as Haydn and Mozart both did) or even to other parts of Austria.   The only great Viennese composer who was actually native to the city, he was the composer of six Latin Masses, much chamber music, symphonic works and stage works, but is perhaps best remembered today for his immense contribution to the genre which is Lied, or solo song with piano accompaniment.  Sir Charles Grove, in his original musical dictionary wrote, “he has graced every department of music with a masterpiece.”  The son of a schoolmaster, he was enrolled by his father as a choirboy in the Imperial Court Chapel in 1808.  He was taught by the Court Composer, Anton Salieri, and, by his early teens, is reported to have played the violin and organ to a very high standard.   On his great musical aptitude, Salieri is reported to have remarked that he taught Schubert virtually nothing – “he has learned everything from God that lad.”  At the age of 16 his voice broke and he left the Imperial Court.  He enrolled at the teacher training college in the Annagasse, near St Stephen’s Cathedral, and by 1815 he was teaching in his father’s school.  The Mass in G dates from this time, being written between 2nd and 7th March 1815, immediately after the second symphony was written, and immediately before he began work on the third. It appears that Schubert took a week off from writing symphonies to compose this mass!  It was performed in the spring of 1815 and published for the first time in 1846. 

Mozart Epistle Sonata in B♭, K.212 (composed in 1774)

The Sonata da Chiesa (Church Sonata) was an instrumental composition dating from the  Baroque period, generally consisting of four movements, one of the greatest exponents of which was Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713).  The three solo violin sonatas of  J. S. Bach are of the Sonata da Chiesa form, as are his six sonatas for violin and obbligato  harpsichord.  The Sonata da Chiesa had become largely outdated by the classical period; however, Mozart composed seventeen church sonatas, or Epistle Sonatas as they are often called, between 1772 and 1780.  Mozart’s works were shorter, joyous, single-movement pieces for organ and strings in sonata form, which were played during the celebration of the Mass between the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel on high feast days such as Easter Day and Christmas Day.   

Mozart Missa Brevis in D, K.194

Kyrie Gloria Credo Sanctus Benedictus Agnus Dei

Mozart’s troubled relationship with the Episcopal authorities is well documented. Born in Salzburg in 1756, he was a child prodigy, touted around the courts of the aristocracy throughout Germany and Austria by his father, Leopold Mozart, during his early childhood, and taken on concert tours to Paris, London and Vienna before he was ten years old. In 1769, aged thirteen, he was appointed Konzertmeister to the Salzburg Court. His father was already a violinist in the court orchestra.   Throughout his teens he embarked on concert tours to Germany and Italy and began receiving commissions from various courts, civic authorities and opera houses in places as diverse as Munich, Vienna, Milan and Verona.  Mozart’s non-commissioned output was phenomenally prolific.  By the time of his twentieth birthday, he had written eleven settings of the Mass, twenty-one other sacred choral works including a Stabat Mater, two oratorios, nine works for the stage including four operas, over twenty symphonies, and a seemingly endless stream of serenades, sonatas, concertos, cassations, divertimenti and chamber works. The Missa Brevis in D was written on August 7th 1774 in Salzburg, when he was just eighteen.  A Missa Brevis, or short mass, is a setting where the Credo is usually omitted, although not in this case, and where there is no significant repetition of the words in the setting. The death in 1772 of the Prince Archbishop, Count Schrattenbach, who had been a tolerant employer to Mozart, allowing him extended periods of time off to travel and undertake commissions, signalled the start of a depressing period in Mozart’s life.  His successor, Count Colleredo, took quite a different view of the arts; opportunities in Salzburg’s musical establishment were limited, and the new Archbishop was ungenerous about leave. This discontent came to a head in 1777 when Mozart wrote a strongly worded letter with a hint of insolence about it to the Archbishop asking to be released. In a sarcastic written retort, the Archbishop released both Wolfgang and Leopold from his employment, but Leopold could not afford to be out of work and persuaded the Archbishop to reinstate him. Mozart left for Mannheim and then Paris. Sixteen months later he returned to Salzburg and took up the post of cathedral organist until 1781 when, after a further falling out with the Archbishop, he moved to Vienna, the city which was to be his home until his death. His entry in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians contains the following paragraph:

“His mature music, distinguished by its melodic beauty, its formal perfection, and its richness of harmony and texture, is deeply coloured by Italian opera though rooted in Austrian and south German traditions.   Unlike [Josef] Haydn and Beethoven, he excelled at every medium current in his time, especially chamber music for strings, the piano concerto and opera.    He may thus be regarded as the most universal composer in the history of Western music.”