To gain further insight into Mozart and his Requiem, I’m moving backwards and sticking with sacred music by listening to the C minor Mass. This was also a late work, so I’m expecting some stylistic similarities with the Requiem, but otherwise, I’m not sure what to expect.
I also casually listened to some Haydn masses as well this morning. The early ones are clearly bridging the more Baroque polyphonic style with the Classical period homophonic style, but those early Haydn masses and Mozart’s C minor mass are decades apart.
I’m listening once again to Sir Neville Marriner leading the Academy and Chorus of St. Martin in the Fields. The soloists are Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Anne Sofie von Otter, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and Robert Lloyd.
Sheet Music (The Credo section is placed at the end because Mozart left it unfinished at the time of his death. Notice how there’s no Agnus Dei either.)
Mozart “Great” Mass in C minor K. 427
- This is heavy. I don’t normally think of the “Kyrie” being quite this dramatic.
- Much more polyphonic than most Mozart music.
- Once the soloist enters, it sounds much more classical. The orchestra plays chords, and the chorus moves as one.
- Nice low notes, Dame Kiri.
- The call and response between soloists and chorus is used to great effect.
- When the chorus takes over again, we’re back to polyphony.
2. Gloria: Gloria in Excelsis Deo
- Hyperactive. A bit manic after that first movement.
- Almost sounds like Handel at times (“in Excelsis! in Excelsis! in Excelsis!”).
- At the end, a staggered entrance that is more like those in his instrumental music. Staggered, but not really polyphonic and then coalescing into homophony.
3. Gloria: Laudamus Te
- Hard to separate the piece from how well Anne Sofie von Otter sings it. Gorgeous phrases and phrasing.
- In some ways, it resembles a Baroque “da capo” aria, in that it’s basically an ABA structure, but it’s all composed out here. There’s also a lot of repetition of single phrases.
4. Gloria: Gratias
- A return of drama.
- Interestingly jagged “Gratias”.
- That dotted rhythm is a constant in the orchestra as well. Another novel effect as unifying element.
- Brief. Wow.
5. Gloria: Domine
- Dual soprano duet.
- Virtuosic for both.
- Some great imitative moments.
6. Gloria: Qui Tollis
- More super jagged writing.
- Dual choir.
- The chorus however, at least at the start, sings in contrast to the orchestra with sustained tones.
- Surprising harmonies. Surprising sudden dynamics.
- Yea, listen to the moments where it shifts suddenly to piano, and hear that funny harmony change. I love that.
- Choirs remain in contrast.
7. Gloria: Quoniam
- Trio with soprano/soprano/tenor.
- Most of the time, they’re singing their own thing and only occasionally do they really come together rhythmically.
- Sequential writing at times.
- This is pretty tough. The contrasting lines mean that you’re really on your own when singing.
8. Gloria: Jesu Christe – Cum Sancto Spirtu
- Ah, the “Jesu Christe” section serves as a dramatic introduction to the “Cum Sancto Spirtu” part.
- And then we have an extended fugue movement.
- The little turn figure is the unifying musical gesture. It reappears over and over.
- Dynamics are clearly specified, with several unexpected piano measures followed by more forte singing.
- The whole note melodies get timpani accompaniment with every down beat.
- Lots of melismas. I bet this is a ton of fun to sing.
- The whole movement is charming.
9. Credo: Credo in Unum Deum
- This is a very bouncy statement of beliefs.
- Mostly homophonic as they recite the text with a few imitative polyphonic sections.
- The sixteenth/sixteenth/eighth rhythm is the unifying musical gesture. Over and over.
10. Credo: Et Incarnatus Est
- Solo soprano with solo oboe/flute/bassoon.
- Lots of interplay between solos, especially soprano and oboe.
- THE CADENZAS ARE SO COOL. You have to hear it. Any soprano who gets to sing this is one of the luckiest people on the planet.
If you only have time for one movement, then this is the one. Unfortunately, the one listed above isn’t available on YouTube, so here’s another excellent rendition:
- This piece rocks. I want to head bang to this.
- Well, not during the fugue.
- I take that back.
- Very active fugue. So much happening besides the voices.
- Polyphonic orchestral introduction.
- Welcome finally, bass soloist.
- Long quartet of the soloists.
- Staggered chorus entrances.
- Lots of melismas, sometimes all voices are singing a melisma in unison.
- Orchestra is also very active. Lots of contrast between chorus/winds/strings.
I’m enjoying listening to these sacred pieces and getting to hear the combination of many traditional Baroque compositional techniques modified to fit in the later part of the 1700’s. Besides that, I hear a lot of what draws me to Mozart in the first place.
Until next time.