NOTES BY ARTHUR F. EDWARDS
Mass in C Minor, K. 427
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) In 1782 Mozart was 26 years old, but by any standards other than chronological, he was an aging man with but nine years to live. He had been a working musician for two decades. The child prodigy who had climbed on the Imperial lap of Maria Theresa and who had been the darling of the courts of Europe had become a disillusioned man struggling to obtain a place in the musical life of Vienna. His disastrous attempt to recapture the fame and adulation of his early years had produced nothing but a few paltry commissions, mediocre pupils, complete indifference from the court of Versailles, and his mother's death in Paris. His idealized love for Aloysia Weber had turned to ashes. The servitude that he shared with his father to the choleric, arbitrary Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Hieronymus Colloredo, had acrimoniously been terminated when Mozart was literally kicked out of the archiepiscopal employ. Seeking some familiar surroundings in a strange city, Mozart had taken lodging with the parents of the lost Aloysia, with the result that he decided to console himself with marriage to her sister, Constanze, on August 4, 1782. The following January he wrote to his father that he had vowed that if he succeeded in bringing Constanze to Salzburg he would perform a new mass in thanksgiving for their marriage. This has been usually given as the reason for the composition of the C minor Mass, and Mozart's subsequent disillusionment with her in his marriage as the reason the mass was never completed. However, in 1782 another event had occurred which musically seems to have had a greater impact on Mozart than his decision to settle down to the questionable joys of matrimony.
Baron Gottfried van Swieten (1734- 1803), an influential musical amateur who commissioned C.P.E. Bach to write symphonies and later was to figure in the careers of Haydn and Beethoven, had established a series of Sunday morning musical salons at which new music was performed and old music rediscovered. Van Swieten in his travels had acquired manuscripts of fugues by the almost forgotten Sebastian Bach as well as fugues and other works of Handel. Mozart had been trained in academic counterpoint but now through van Swieten he discovered a polyphony that, to use Paul Henry Lang's phrase, "was not just a discipline bur an expression of life itself." The C minor Mass is the main result of Mozart's endeavor to penetrate the riches of polyphony and make it his own, but the several unfinished works of that year are evidence of the struggle he had trying to assimilate these revelations. He had little trouble with Handel but Bach was an enigma far more difficult to solve. For years Mozart had been writing the extremely concise masses demanded by the impatient Archbishop of Salzburg (Solemn Pontifical High Mass could not last over 45 minutes!), but for this labor of love he returned to the baroque cantata mass - a form in which individual sentences were treated as separate movements (as in Bach's B minor Mass) as opposed to the new symphonic mass which had been made popular by Haydn and was to culminate in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis.
Because of its incomplete condition the C minor Mass remained relatively unperformed until 1901, when the enterprising Alois Schmitt "completed" the mass by using various movements from Mozart's earlier church music. His endeavors were heroic, but to a great extent misdirected, since the result was an arbitrary juxtaposition of the composer's youth and maturity. In 1953 H. C. Robbins Landon edited a performing score that comes as close as possible to the now lost original manuscript. Where Schmitt had used solid scholarship, Landon retained his painstaking reconstruction, particularly in the Sanctus and Osanna. These sections were clearly for double chorus, but only five and four vocal lines respectively were extant. Using the oboe and trombone parts (the latter traditionally needed in Salzburg to strengthen the vocal parts) it was possible with a fair degree of certainty to supply the missing choral lines. The trombone parts, having served their musicological purpose, are in those sections and elsewhere largely omitted in tonight's performance where they merely double the vocal line.
The Kyrie is a massive, symphonic whole basically in A B A form. The choral settings of Kyrie eleison frame the virtuosic setting of Christie eleison for the solo soprano (originally written for Constanze, who had a small voice of wide range). The Gloria reverts to Handelian splendor, complete to a literal quotation of a phrase from the Hallelujah Chorus at the words in excelsis. Laudamus te is a display piece for the mezzo-soprano followed by the Gratias scored in archaic style for five-part chorus. Domine Deus is a more typically Mozartian duet for the two sopranos, but one which assimilates polyphonic subtleties new to the composer. As Paul Henry Lang aptly states, ''The musical and emotional peak is reached in the stupendous Qui tollis for eight-part double chorus, a composition of such weight, force, penetration and intensity as Mozart never again undertook. The shapely dotted baroque ostinato accompaniment (which resembles a chaconne - passacaglia) proceeds inexorably, here with sledge-hammer strokes, there barely audible, while the two choirs proclaim Christ's heavy burden .... This is an overwhelming composition, the veins stand out, throbbing, only momentarily relieved by the sudden plea of the chorus for mercy." Quoniam is a trio for the two sopranos and tenor. Brighter in texture, it absorbs the polyphony of the past while anticipating the inspired madness of the Missa Solemnis. Jesu Christe provides a stately baroque launching platform for a scholarly fugue on Cum Sancto Spiritu that incorporates canon, inverted canon, stretto and a jovian climactic unison spanning three octaves and two centuries.
Credo in unum Deum is defiantly baroque, reverting to the primary colors of Vivaldi but containing surprising little interludes for strings, and an excursion through the cycle of fifths to visit the remote key of A flat (from the key of CI). Et incarnatus est (the only other section of the Credo extant) is an extended virtuosic aria for soprano and wind trio (flute, oboe and bassoon), supported by strings (partly reconstructed or rather realized by Landon). Archbishop Colloredo would not have approved. It is too long and too operatic. But as an exquisite contemplation of the Spirit bringing the Word into fleshly reality it is most appropriate.
In the stately Sanctus, the magnificent and rollicking double fugue Osanna and the fine Benedictus (for solo quartet), which proceeds from and returns to the secondary subject of the Osanna, Mozart is totally and triumphantly in control of the baroque legacy van Swieten had revealed to him. The Mass is scored (in the Salzburg tradition) for two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, strings and organ.
Carl Orff (b. 1895)
Mozart, in the golden morning of the classic age, absorbed and built upon the past to create a new complexity and an artful simplicity. Orff, in the deepening sunset of the romantic era, unwilling to pile further accretions on what he considered a moribund form and uninterested in searching for the dawn of a new musical era, deliberately returned to what he considered to be the primal ingredients of music: rhythm and monody. Harmony is reduced to its most primitive diatonic form and counterpoint is avoided entirely. The result of this deliberate primitivism has repelled some and delighted many. Carmina Burana, completed in 1936, is derived from twelfth century manuscripts found in the monastery of Benediktbeuren near Munich. The texts are in vulgar Latin, low German, and what can only be described as Latin on the way to becoming French (Dies, nox et omnia).
In addition to triple winds, full brass and strings, Carmina Burana requires a percussion battery of three glockenspiel, xylophone, castanets, wood blocks, small bells, triangle, two antique cymbals, four large cymbals, tamtam, tubular chimes, three tuned bells, tambourine, two side drums, bass drum, six timpani, two pianos and celesta. The music is extremely direct and warrants little detailed analysis, however it is worth noting that just as the poetry consciously parodies that of the Church sequences (note for example the rhythmic similarity between O Fortuna and Dies Irae), Orff delights in parodying Gregorian chant in his musical settings.
Carmina Burana presents a fascinating and varied assemblage. The opening chorus bewails the vicissitudes of fortune. A dethroned King bemoans his fate in No. 2. The scene shifts to the bucolic delights of springtime in No. 3, and the baritone continues the lyrical mood as he celebrates the joy and torture of love in No. 4. The chorus sums up the passage of spring to summer in No.5. Nos. 6-10 are described as occurring on the lawn. After a deliberately medieval dance for orchestra, the chorus, first in Latin then in German, tells of a maid whose lover rode away on horseback. Who will love her now? A more practical attitude is shown by the girls who ask for paint for their cheeks so that no man can resist them. A round dance depicts maids in a circle awaiting their lovers. The men long for the sweet, rosy lips that will make them well. To a royal fanfare of trumpets an ardent swain declares "were the world mine from the sea to the Rhine, I would throw it away if the Queen of England would lie in my arms." This is a reference to the fabulous Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Nos-. 11-14 thrusts us into the bibulous atmosphere of a tavern where the solo baritone describes himself as tossed about by passion like a leaf in the wind. He has looked for his fellows and found them among the depraved. The spotlight now falls on the fantastic figure of the roasted swan who once dwelt in the lake but is now borne on a platter and can no longer fly. All he can see is gnashing teeth, O wretch that he is. To a clanging of bells and in a vicious parody of ecclesiastical chant, the Abbott of Cucany boasts that anyone who gambles with him will be denuded of his clothing by evening. In a paean to the universality of drunkenness, everyone and everything is an excuse for a toast in a tongue-tripping litany of intoxication.
In scene III, the Court of Love, the fair sex reappears. Children sing of Cupid and a girl states that she who lacks a man misses all delight (15). In No. 16 the baritone sighs in an apotheosis of courtly love. No. 17 celebrates a nubile girl in a red tunic. Eia! The lover whose heart is filled with sighing, prays that the Gods look with favor on his desire to undo the bonds of her virginity (18). A lascivious group gloats upon the joys of man and maid alone (19). No. 20 shouts, "Come, do not let me die of love"! The mezzo-soprano declares that she is suspended 'twixt love and chastity in No. 21. The next song is better left untranslated, but needless to say it speaks of love. In No. 23 the soprano declares "Sweetest one, I give everything to you." In Ave formosissima Venus is hailed as light of the world, rose of the world, and (rather inconsistently) as glorious virgin - Venus most generous! As the wheel of fortune constantly turns so the work closes as it began.