Posts Tagged 'orchestra'

Revisiting Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor

Mozart-NepomukDellaCroce

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass in C minor (K. 427) stands alongside the Requiem (K. 626) as his most remarkable church composition. Today it enjoys almost cult status, first because of its monumentality, which is unique in Mozart’s sacred vocal music, and second because, like the Requiem, it partakes of the aura of the unfinished and mysterious. The exact circumstances that gave rise to it as a votive mass have eluded explanation to the present day. The same applies to the reasons why it was left unfinished and to many details of its first performance, which, as far as we know, took place at St. Peter’s Church, Salzburg, on October 26, 1783. Finally, the transmission of the original sources also raises many questions. Indeed, it is astonishing that the Mass, although left as a torso, was performed at all during Mozart’s final visit to Salzburg.

It seems that the work had not been commissioned but that it was written to fulfill a vow, which is vaguely discernable in the incomplete correspondence with this father, as he writes on January 4, 1783 in response to his father’s reproaches:

“It is quite true about my moral obligation and indeed I let the word flow from my pen on purpose. I made the promise in my heart of hearts and hope to be able to keep it. When I made it, my wife was not yet married; yet, as I was absolutely determined to marry her after her recovery, it was easy for me to make it — but, as you yourself are aware, time and other circumstances made our journey impossible. The score of half of a mass, which is still lying here waiting to be finished, is the best proof that I really made the promise.”

The mention of the Mass in this context makes clear that the work did not, as is occasionally presumed, owe its existence to an external incentive, such as the 1,200th anniversary of the Bishopric of Salzburg, officially celebrated in 1782.

ConstanzeMozart

Constanze Mozart

By all appearances, his wife, Constanze’s, participation was an indispensable part of Mozart’s vow, and in fact this may have been one reason that the first performance of the Mass took place at St. Peter’s, rather than the Salzburg Cathedral, since in the eighteenth century, women were still not allowed to partake in musical performances for church worship. Indeed, the delicate and deeply moving soprano solos of the “Christe eleison” in the “Kyrie” and, perhaps most famously, the “Et incarnatus est” in the “Credo” (called “matchless” by Pope Francis, who proclaimed in an August 2013 interview that the aria “lifts you to God!”) are widely considered as love offerings by the composer to his soprano wife.

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Just as we must forever wonder about the voice that inspired Mozart to write such sublime music, we must also forever wonder how Mozart would have completed the Mass, for the work has come down to us in fragments. Moreover, not only were some sections of the Ordinary Mass left unset, with others only left in advanced drafts, even some of the sections that Mozart finished have come down to us incomplete.

MozartCMinorMassBärenreiter, working together with the International Mozarteum Foundation Foundation in Salzburg, has published a new edition of this work, reflecting the cutting edge of scholarship while doing justice to the needs of performers. This new edition completes and reconstructs movements according to high scholarly standards in order to come as close as possible to the work itself:

  • The “Kyrie” and “Gloria,” both of which survive complete in Mozart’s hand, are presented in a scholarly-critical Urtext edition.
  • The first two sections of the “Credo” have been meticulously completed by the editor, Ulrich Leisinger, drawing on original Mozart compositions, e.g. the aria “Deh vieni non tardar” from The Marriage of Figaro, and paying attention to a stylistically appropriate and transparent sound.
  • The “Sanctus” and “Benedictus” (with the “Hosanna”), which are either incomplete or survive only in secondary sources, have been reconstructed by the editor.

More specifically, editor Ulrich Leisinger comments on some of his key findings in this new edition:

  • On the use of trumpets and timpani in “Credo in unum Deum”: “To omit trumpets and timpani at the opening of the Credo, appropriately set in C major, is to contradict eighteenth-century church music practice.”
  • On the use of trombones in “Credo in unum Deum” when no wind score came down to us: “As with the Sanctus, Mozart probably would have entered the trombones [in the wind score], for he normally did not have them play continuously ‘colla parte’ with the lower voices.”

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  • On the absence of horns in “Et incarnatus est”: “The Figaro aria ‘Deh vieni non tardar’ K. 492 (1786) in particular reveals such striking parallels in its handling of the instruments that the expansion of the orchestration to include two horns, as is found in other reconstructions, has little justification. As in other scores, when Mozart prepared his staves, he entered systems which he did not necessarily make use of when he later filled in the instrumentation.”
  • On the reconstruction of the “Hosanna” fugue for double choir: “Of special significance is the observation that Mozart’s Salzburg church compositions for double choir invariably have the three trombones playing ‘colla voce’ together with choir I.”

Reconstructed and added parts are rendered in small print. Sections without any known sources are left out in this edition. Rounding off the publication are an extensive Foreword (Ger/Eng) and a detailed Critical Commentary (Eng).

The premiere of Ulrich Leisinger’s new edition was given in April 2019 in the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg by the Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra and the ChorWerk Ruhr under the baton of Kent Nagano. The first Austrian performance took place in Salzburg in August 2019 in the Great Hall of the Mozarteum, with Andrew Manze conducting the Salzburg Camerata to rousing applause from audience and critics alike.

Series Spotlight: Teaching Music through Performance

Teaching Music through Performance is a best-selling series of books and CDs that are theoretical, practical, and analytical. Written, researched, and compiled by scholars with a wealth of teaching and conducting experience, this series enables conductors,  educators, and students to move beyond the printed page toward full musical awareness. Sheet Music Plus had the opportunity to learn from the publisher what inspired the creation of the series.

1. When was the Teaching Music through Performance series developed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first edition of Volume 1 was for band and was released at the Midwest Clinic in 1997. This year, 2017 is the 20th anniversary of the series.  The Teaching Music through Performance series now includes 26 volumes, 16 for band, three for jazz, three for orchestra, and four for choir. In addition, each volume has accompanying CDs.

Continue reading ‘Series Spotlight: Teaching Music through Performance’

Classical Music Program for Halloween

by Jacy Burroughs

There are a plethora of classical pieces appropriate for Halloween. The best known are arguably Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King. Here are my suggestions for a slightly less typical, yet spooky program. They are also great pieces to listen to and get you in the mood for a night of tricks and treats!

1. Isle of the Dead, 29, Sergei Rachmaninoff – 1908

Rachmaninoff was inspired to compose Isle of the Dead after he saw a black-and-white reproduction of Arnold Böcklin’s painting by the same name in Paris in 1907. The image is of a boat bearing a coffin to a fortress on a mysterious island. Rachmaninoff’s musical interpretation begins with the sound of oars in the water, represented by an irregular 5/8 meter. The urgency of the music increases as the boat approaches the island. Then, the Dies irae – the Gregorian Chant from the Mass for the Dead – takes over. Briefly, there is a struggle with music that sounds full of life, but the Dies irae theme is stronger. At the end, the piece comes full circle, returning to the relentless sound of rowing oars.

Continue reading ‘Classical Music Program for Halloween’

Why Supporting Local Music Matters

Not only is it back to school season, it’s also the time of year when local symphonies and bands, both professional and community, begin their new seasons. Orchestras and bands exist in all 50 states and nearly every community. The Performing Arts Alliance estimates that there are approximately 1800 orchestras alone in the United States, including professional, paid orchestras, volunteer orchestras, collegiate orchestras, and youth orchestras. Do you have an orchestra or band in your community? If you don’t know, it is very likely that there is at least one in your town or county. During the 2014-2015 performance season, we challenge you to go to at least one concert of a local community group, and here’s why:

Community music groups are great for local economies. How many times have you and your friends or family gone out for dinner before or after a sports game or important school function? Musical performances encourage spending at local restaurants, parking facilities, shops and more.

Music organizations create jobs – and not just for the musicians. Depending on the size of the group, it may have an executive director, a marketing team, a personnel manager and music librarian, just to name a few. Even small community groups will require stage crew at venues, box office attendants, and ushers to distribute programs.

Orchestras and bands play an important role in music education and community engagement. Musicians from these groups will often visit local schools and provide educational assemblies, instrument petting zoos, and even coachings on their instruments to students in the music program. Some groups give free performances or open rehearsals in senior living centers, or free, family friendly concerts in local parks. Even the country’s most esteemed musical organizations perform special concerts for children and families. For example, the San Francisco Symphony recently performed live music from several Pixar movies with clips and memorable scenes playing in the background.

To reach a wider audience, orchestras and bands have expanded their musical selections beyond the traditional repertoire. Not everyone finds the standard Bach, Beethoven or Brahms appealing, and there is a lot of great music for orchestra and band from the movies and even video games. So, if you aren’t a particular fan of classical music, look up your local group’s programming for the season and select a concert to attend that will interest you.

This only scratches the surface of the many reasons it is important and FUN to support local music. If we are preaching to the choir and you already do support local music, share this with your friends! Invite them to a concert. Ask them to attend one of your performances. Attend a concert with them – make it an event and go out to dinner before or dessert after. We want everyone to attend one local music concert this season! Lastly, please chime in with reasons why and how you support music in your community.

From Trash to Treasure – Landfill Harmonic

By Brendan Lai-Tong

Landfill Harmonic

Landfill Harmonic

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure“. It’s likely that you have heard, or even used this saying at some point. As easy as it is to use this phrase, seldom does it take on such a literal meaning like the story of the Recycled Orchestra. The orchestra is comprised of impoverished children from Cateura, Paraguay who have dedicated themselves to making music on instruments made out of only bits and pieces of trash. These instruments, gracefully constructed by director Favio Chavez and luthier Nicolas “Cola” Gomez, were made from objects found in the landfill close by. A film/documentary, Landfill Harmonicwill feature the orchestra.

Under the direction of Chavez, the orchestra has Continue reading ‘From Trash to Treasure – Landfill Harmonic’


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