CONDUCTOR’S NOTES BY JOHN CURRIE
Mozart 'Litaniae Lauretanae' K 195
The Lorrentine Litany has an odd text based on the inscriptions in the Casa Santa in Loreto. This may account for the general neglect of a work in which Mozart offers some of his finest inspiration, and in which his mature operatic style is beginning to show its strength in largescale structures and beautiful melodies. The Kyrie which opens the work and the exquisite Agnus Dei which closes it show that Mozart was aware that the text is a private, evening devotion. On the other hand, the drama of 'Salus infirmorum,' the gaiety of 'Regina angelorum' and the embellishments and cadenzas of the singers leave no doubt of the work's theatrical and Italian origins. The music of the last movement appears, in essence, in the 'Hunt' quartet and there are many other passages which anticipate later, more famous, Mozart themes. But the work stands in its own right. The orchestration, for strings (with continuo), two horns and two oboes is a joy to the ear. Einstein called the work 'a marvel of youthful art and feeling.'
Mozart 'Exsultate, Jubilate' K 165
This work was written at Milan in 1773 for the castrato soprano Venanzio Rauzzini. It is typically ltalianate in style and form and introduces formidable display elements. As always, however, Mozart's inspiration raises the work above the conventional mould in which it is cast. The scoring is for two oboes, two horns, strings and continuo.
Written in 1802 when he was 70, Haydn's Harmoniemesse ('Wind-band Mass') is, apart from a few Scots song settings, his last completed composition. It is so called because it uses a fuller wind section than any other of the late Haydn masses and gives an intensity and prominence to the wind writing which recalls a more familiar late Haydn work, The Creation. Haydn's own comment on the Creation could well apply to this mass:
'I am an old man, soon to die, and I have only now learned to write for the winds ...'
Robbins Landon's comment that Haydn had problems composing this work and felt 'immeasurably weary' during his efforts, finds no reflection in the music itself. The solemn, sonorous Kyrie owes much to the flat-key wind music in Mozart's The Magic Flute. It is thoroughly German and one of the most satisfying opening movements of any Classical mass. As in The Magic Flute, the wind-band is used both to express solemnity (in the tutti passages) and chamber-music-like intimacy (in the solo passages). The Gloria and the Credo have the exciting virtuoso violin lines which are a finger print of all Haydn's late masses. The Benedictus has the revolutionary and somewhat puzzling marking 'Molto Allegro.' The 'Et vitam venturi' (The life to come) in 6/8 Measure, and the final 'Dona nobis pacem' are both typical of the classical buoyancy and optimism which is best known in similar passages in Beethoven's two settings of the Mass.
HISTORICAL NOTES BY
RICHARD H. TRAME, S.J. Ph.D.
The Litaniae Lauretanae (Litany of Loreto), K 195, constitutes one of four litanies composed by Mozart while intermittently resident in Salzburg between 1771 and 1776. Two of these litanies written for the Feast of Corpus Christi are directed to the Eucharistic Sacrament of the Altar. The second of them (K 243) ranks exceedingly high among all of Mozart's Salzburg Church compositions.
This evening's Litany of Loreto, the second of two such, probably received its first performance in May, 1774. The site at which this performance took place is disputed due to the Litany's unusual instrumentation for that period in Salzburg of 2 oboes, 2 horns and strings. Some opt for a smaller Salzburg church, others for the stately Cathedral.
The month of May, being the traditional month in popular Catholic devotion dedicated to Mary, would have witnessed special extra and paraliturgical Marian ceremonies such as processions and the floral coronation of her images and statues at which the Litany would have been recited or sung.
The litany as a form of prayer finds its roots in Psalm 136 'O give thanks unto the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endureth forever.' The italicized phrase was repeated after each verse invocation of the Psalm probably by the assembled Levites or Temple worshippers. As early as the Fourth Century, the Eastern Church responded to its liturgical diaconal in vocations with Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy). In the Western Church litanies early established themselves in Holy Week services and at ordinations to Holy Orders, e.g. the Litany of the Saints.
The Litany of Loreto designation has served to identify the accepted litany addressed to the Virgin Mary. The name 'Loreto' derives from the fact that numerous of its invocations were inscribed on the walls of the great Marian pilgrimage basilica perched atop Monte Gargano on the central Adriatic coast of Italy. From the end of the Thirteenth Century Loreto had attracted in numerable pilgrims from all over Europe since the Basilica incorporated within its walls the purported Holy House of Nazareth dwelt in by the Holy Family and ultimately transported in popular belief to Italy through the ministry of angels.
The pilgrims thus spread the Litany throughout Europe. The Jesuit saint, Peter Canisius, provided it with a German translation which became standard throughout German Catholic principalities.
Palestrina, for one, composed a setting of the Litany in the 16th Century.
The Litany's origins, however, go further back into the earlier Middle Ages before the Loreto inscriptions practically stabilized and standardized it. Pope Sixtus V at the end of the 16th century officially authorized it for liturgical use. Subsequent popes from that time onward to Pius XII have on occasion added appropriate invocations. .
Mozart's setting of the Litany in five movements clearly reflects general litany structure and in this instance the particular structure of the Marian litany, which he composed in the form of a five movement choral symphony.
The Kyrie First Movement (Allegro) addresses itself to the Triune God, Father, Son-Redeemer, and Holy Spirit, the response being as with all invocations to the Deity 'Miserere nobis' (have mercy on us).
The Second Movement, Sancta Maria (Andante), addresses its invocations to Mary under the prerogative privileges which form the whole basis of her theological veneration, her Motherhood of the Divine Savior, her perpetual virginity, and her role as the enduring symbolic Ark of the New Covenant. The response in the case of all invocations to Mary and the saints is 'ora pro nobis' (pray for us).
The Third Movement, Salus Infirmorum (Adagio), embraces those invocations to Mary characterizing her intercessory role as advocate, consoler and protectress of embattled Christians.
The Fourth Movement, Regina Angelorum (Allegro con spirito), serving as the symphonic finale, embraces those aspects of Mary's triumph as Queen of Heaven, a theme so exquisitely depicted in Fra Angelico's painting of the Coronation of the Virgin. This jubilant movement reflected in the tenor soloist's coloratura passages serves to bring the litany proper to its exhilarating climax.
After this climax, the Agnus Dei (Adagio) sets the required customary conclusion of all litanies with triple invocations to the Lamb of God for pardon and mercy. It functions as an ethereal symphonic coda to the whole work.
Mozart's Litany of Loreto has been variously described as 'one of intimate devoutness,' 'tender in character,' a work in which the writing for the four soloists and chorus is singularly orchestral in character and in which the various movements reflect a mature and adroit use of symphonic sonata form.
Unfortunately, perhaps, for its reputation, Mozart's Exsultate, jubilate (K 165) finds itself recognized almost exclusively from performances of the Alleluia third movement so often sung as an Easter solo. Consequently in view of this fact, its name, and Latin text, the work has been assumed by most to be a Latin liturgical work, which most definitely it is not. Rather it is a virtuoso vocal concerto setting of a Latin poem with oblique religious overtones.
During 1772-1773 Mozart sojourned in Milan, then an Austrian dominated city, where he directed performances of his opera seria, Lucio Silla. The leading role was sung by the famed Roman castrato Venanzio Rauzzini. For this virtuoso Mozart composed Exsultate, Jubilate as a complete three movement concerto for voice and orchestra furnished with a typical introductory orchestral ritornello, fast, slow, and fast movements. The two coloratura fast movements sandwich in a deeply expressive Andante aria preceded by a rather extensive recitative.
The Latin poetic text exhorts 'happy souls' to sing a paean of praise to the beauty of a new dawn, symbol of the dawn of the eternal day. The second movement aria then addresses itself to Mary, Crown of Virgins, invoking her to touch sinful hearts with peace. The third movement, as noted, is the famous Alleluia.
Rauzzini sang Exsultate, jubilate in Milan sometime after the opera closed, on January 16, 1773, eleven days prior to Mozart's seventeenth birthday.
After the completion in 1801 of his vast oratorio, The Seasons, Joseph Haydn remarked that its composition had 'broken his back.' Nevertheless, in 1802 he undertook the composition of what proved to be his last large work, the superb Harmoniemesse (Mass in B flat). He did not, to quote H.C. Robbins Landon, 'make things easy for himself.' As with the previous five masterly settings composed between 1796 and 1801, this Mass served to celebrate the birthday of Princess Marie Hermenegild, wife of his fourth patron, Nicholas II Esterhazy.
The Harmoniemesse under Haydn's direction was sung at Mass on September 8, 1802, the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the spacious choir loft of the Bergkirche (Mountain Church) situated atop a small hill a short distance from the grandiose Esterhazy palace in Eisenstadt.
The Austrian Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Prince Starhernberg, reflected glowingly in his Diary on the occasion. 'On September 8, the Princess's birthday, at ten in the morning, we with a great procession of Esterhazy attendants clad in the princely livery proceeded to Mass. Superb Mass! New excellent music by the famous Haydn, and directed by him! Nothing could have been more beautiful and better executed!' The Ambassador likewise highlighted Haydn's distinguished European stature when he noted that, unlike his much earlier servile condition at the princely court, Haydn, sitting among the dignitaries at the birthday dinner table, was the object of affection and adulation: Prince Nicholas, at last recognizing the genius of his Kapellmeister, provided in simple and touching tribute that in perpetuity Haydn should annually receive six Eimer of princely table wine.
The Harmoniemesse, although the first of Haydn's Masses to be published in the twentieth century and commanding as it always has great respect, was not as frequently performed in Austria as the Mariazeller or Nelson Masses because of the amplitude of its instrumentation. The renewed princely orchestra in 1802 permitted Haydn to score it with large wind band, whence it derives its name. Moreover he used the key of B Flat, the key of four other Masses, as Robbins Landon notes, for a number of technical reasons.
At the opposite poles of the vocal range there is low F in the bass line and top B flat for the sopranos, which gives a composer a solid dominant in the bass if he wants one . . . , while the very end of the Mass shows to what brilliant effect Haydn puts his top choral B flat in the sopranos. The sound of the trumpets and drums in B flat is also particularly suitable for church music; they take on a silvery sheen in piano and the low notes have a fascinating color of their own . . . . the entire color of B flat is highly suitable for wind instruments, and especially the clarinets, instruments to which Haydn tuned only late in life.
The entire Mass can be divided up into three vocal/orchestral symphonies each embracing four movements, the first being Kyrie, Gloria, Gratias, and Quoniam. The second symphony includes the four movements of the Creed - Credo, Et incarnatus est, Et resurrexit, and Et Vitam venturi. The third symphony comprises the four movements of the Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and Dona nobis.
While the Harmoniemesse clearly demonstrates the integration of chorus, soloists and orchestra based on Haydn's previous symphonic development of sonata-form principles, all his masses assimilated effortlessly the Baroque within this high classical achievement making them so satisfying to us. Haydn is the last great composer who could with masterly ease elaborate those great Baroque fugues which customarily end the Gloria and Credo in a blaze of contrapuntal fanfare.
The Harmoniemesse commences with an enormous slow movement, 'a surging Adagio which rolls like a mighty river.' It sets the tone of the whole composition. The Mass glows with majesty, bright joy, stately and extraordinarily effective harmonic modulations coupled with a solemn rapt grandeur fostered by Haydn's consummate use of trumpets and drums. It is a Mass of spirited movements, radiant coloristic touches through the deft use of the glorious sound of clarinets, of poignant emotion and exquisite word painting. The Agnus Dei, a gentle plea for mercy, resembles that of Mozart's Coronation Mass, a Rococo show piece for the soloists which then culminates with the stunning entrance of the Chorus in its dramatic transition to the Dona nobis pacem, an aggressive demand for peace.
Sometime after the first successful performance of this Mass Haydn in a letter summed up his life's work,
Often when struggling against the obstacles of every sort which oppose my labors; often when the powers of mind and body weakened, and it was difficult for me to continue in the course I had entered on - a secret voice whispered to me: 'There are so few happy and contented peoples here below; grief and sorrow are always their lot; perhaps your labors will be a source from which the care-worn, or the man burdened with affairs, can derive a few moments of rest and refreshment.' This was indeed a powerful motive to press onwards, and this is why I now look back with cheerful satisfaction on the labors expended on this art, to which I have devoted so many long years on uninterrupted effort and exertion.