Mozart’s C Minor Mass K. 427 – A New Edition

Guest post by Dr. Uwe Wolf

The problems posed for anyone who wants to publish a performable version of the C Minor Mass are not new. Various solutions have been adopted, some more successful and some less. Nevertheless, we have taken up this composition once again, viewing it from the perspectives of both practicing musicians and scholars, out of a certain dissatisfaction with previous attempts and the conviction that many of the attempted solutions no longer correspond with current practice. In our edition we have attempted to produce a performing version while maintaining the greatest respect for available material and without obscuring Mozart’s musical manuscript with our own contributions. This has turned out to be no easy task. We have spent a great deal of time pondering and discussing alongside a great deal of experimentation which has been a richly rewarding experience for us all.


As can frequently be discerned from the ink colors, Mozart only entered the essential parts as a first step. In a vocal movement these were the vocal parts, the continuo and the principal instrumental parts, mainly violin I, but also the obbligato wind and brass parts. The harmony and tonal texture was only augmented in a second step which was however not undertaken in the Credo. What is largely missing in this section is violin II and viola, and all the non-obbligato wood wind and brass instruments (see facsimile). The wind instruments, for example, probably played these passages largely colla parte, as is the case for extended passages in the other tutti movements in the C Minor Mass. The trumpets and timpani are also missing, as there was no more space for these instruments on the twelve staves of the main score. Some well-known reconstructions of the mass avoid using these instruments entirely here, but there is some evidence that Mozart had planned to include them at this point: firstly, trumpets and timpani would always have been included in the Credo of a festive mass of this period and secondly, they are implied here through the key and opening theme. The new completion, published here for the first time, is intended to create the sound of a tutti movement, but without composing something new, instead employing already existing material as far as possible.


In the Et incarnatus est the strings play a secondary part; the movement is defined by the soprano and the three solo wind parts. Mozart only entered the strings at the beginning and the end; a string accompaniment was added to provide a background harmonic support for the soprano. As the strings do not have a particularly prominent role here, we have been very restrained in making additions. We have also avoided adding horns as other versions do; it is not appropriate in this movement and evidence of other instruments is sparse and doubtful.


The music exists for the Sanctus and Hosanna. In the largely homophonic Sanctus, the five-part texture notated by Fischer (indicating the allocation of the sopranos to the appropriate choir) has to be filled out to an eight-part texture. The Hosanna requires even fewer interventions. The tradition of orchestrally-accompanied choral fugues shows that the instruments largely play colla parte with the vocal parts, so it is only necessary to divide the material between the relevant voices. Some reconstructions make the assumption that the four parts in the copy represent one of the two choruses, but this leads to imbalance and an unsatisfactory division of the thematic material between the choirs. Others focus particularly on the division of contrapuntal material between the parts; this remains speculative.

As with many sacred music works in southern Germany and Austria, the mass is scored for three trombones which largely play colla parte with the alto, tenor, and bass choral parts. We have always allocated the trombones to choir I, following the example of Mozart’s double-choir Offertorium Venite populi K. 260. Based on this hypothesis, it was possible to achieve a convincing division of the eight choral parts into two choirs, largely copied in the instruments colla parte. It was sometimes necessary to make considerable interventions in the part-writing in Fischer’s vocal parts so that they follow the trombones, but on closer examination it was those precise passages in Fischer which proved to be particularly problematic.

Picture [© Filmmanufaktur]

On the left:

Prof. Frieder Bernius’s musical career has been characterized by a curiosity about new repertoire, and a questioning of interpretative traditions. With the Kammerchor Stuttgart and the Hofkapelle Stuttgart he has recorded numerous CDs, receiving many international recording prizes. Among others his recording of Mozart’s Requiem was awarded the “Diapason d’Or de l’année” and he was awarded the “International Classical Music Award” for his complete recording of Mendelssohn’s sacred choral works.

On the right:

Dr. Uwe Wolf is a musicologist specializing in the 17th and 18th centuries. His special focal areas range from the period of Monteverdi and Schütz, via Bach and the generation of the Bach sons and pupils, to the Viennese classics. His intensive study of the works of Mozart has now come to fruition in his edition of the C Minor MassSince October 2011 he has been Chief Editor of Carus-Verlag.


Shop this new edition of the C Minor Mass on Sheet Music Plus.

1 Response to “Mozart’s C Minor Mass K. 427 – A New Edition”

  1. 1 Sport Trackback on October 6, 2018 at 5:30 am

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