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March 15, 2023Print | PDF
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. He is recognized as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music, having excelled at composing music in all of the musical genres of his time. He composed a number of sacred works including short masses or “missa brevis” meaning brief mass. Emily Lagace
Mozart composed his “Missa Brevis in C major, KV 258” in 1776. It consists of six movements, titled “Kyrie”, “Gloria”, “Credo”, “Sanctus”, “Benedictus” and “Agnus Dei” respectively, all of which are in accordance with the set of Latin texts that are part of the Mass Ordinary. It is scored for SATB soloists and choir, as well as an orchestra consisting of 2 trumpets, 2 violins, the timpani, plus the following instruments in basso continuo: the cello, bassoon, double bass and organ, and the following instruments in ad libitum: 2 oboes and 3 trombones. It is speculated, given a document that was written by his father, Leopold Mozart in1778, that he may have written it for the consecration of Count Ignaz Joseph von Spaur, which is why this mass is also often referred to as the “Spaur Mass”. However, this is misleading as Mozart wrote several masses, and the document does not specify which one he was writing for the Count. The words Missa Brevis are Latin for “Brief Mass”. Mozart titled his “Missa Brevis in C major, KV 258” accordingly, owing to its brevity in comparison to the length of a typical mass. In fact, another name, “Piccolomini Mass”, was given to his piece which is also thought to refer to its briefness. Matthew Walker
The Kyrie is the first of the six movements and includes SATB soli and chorus. The text of the Kyrie is “Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.”, which translates to “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” It is written in ¾ time and performed at an Allegro tempo. The piece consists of several well-timed exchanges between chorus and solo, as well as between different solo parts, creating a compelling question and answer type effect. Amye Buchan
The second movement, Gloria, uses the well-known text “Gloria inexcelsis Deo,” which translates to “Glory to God in the highest.” Though fast and joyous for the most part, there are sections that are more somber, making use of minor harmonies and darker text such as the pleading cry “suscipe deprecationem nostrum” (which translates to “hear our prayers”). Listen carefully for the rhythmic variations created by the delayed entries and overlapping of the choral texts, and also for the echoing melodies heard from the soloists. This movement ends with a short fugal section and choral voices singing layered “Amens,” or “So shall it be.” Kate Bootsma
In the missa brevis, the Credo is the movement which contains the most text because it outlines the Nicene creed. The movement is in ternary form with two Allegro movements that surround an Adagio section. Though mostly homophonic throughout, the movement concludes with an amen section with some limited polyphony.
The fourth movement, Sanctus, is one of the shorter movements in the missa brevis. It starts with three iterations of “Sanctus” perhaps alluding to the trinity. The movement ends with a robust canonic section using the words “Hosannah in excelsis”.
The Benedictus in this work is a call and response between the choir and the soloists. The movement features a repetitive Latin phrase Benedictus, qui venit, in nomine Domini, where the choir joins forces and sing one word, Benedictus (“Blessed”) to show the importance of the text amongst the melodies of the soloists. The whole movement changes when the text changes to Hosanna in excelsis (Hosanna in the highest), the choir takes over to provide a great strength while delivering this phrase, highlighted by melismas throughout the parts, the audience never quite knows where the down beat falls, until finally, the choir resolves together in a series of cadences. Meghan Guillemette
The final movement is titled Angus Dei, meaning ‘Lamb of God’. It is a movement present in virtually every Catholic mass setting. The Angus Dei is the only slow movement in the Missa Brevis, marked Adagio and it serves as a cooldown from the generally bright and energetic character of the previous movements. The texture is more homophonic and emphasizes open consonant voicings. It is in a rounded binary form, with a brief codetta tonicizing IV to wrap up the piece with a plagal cadence (sometimes called the amen cadence), a common ending in sacred Catholic music. The text which appears halfway through the movement nicely wraps up the movement’s purpose: Dona nobis pacem (grant us peace). Ben Lizon
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Et in terra pax
hominibus bonæ voluntatis.
Laudamus te; benedicimus te;
adoramus te; glorificamus te.
Gratias agimus tibi
propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex coelestis,
Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine Fili unigenite Jesu Christe.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei,
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dextram Patris,
O miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solus Sanctus,
tu solus Dominus,
tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe.
Cum Sancto Spiritu
in gloria Dei Patris.
Amen. Glory be to God in the highest.
And in earth peace
to men of good will.
We praise Thee; we bless Thee;
we worship Thee; we glorify Thee.
We give thanks to Thee
for Thy great glory.
O Lord God, Heavenly King,
God the Father Almighty.
O Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son.
Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy upon us.
For thou only art holy,
thou only art the Lord,
thou only art the most high, Jesus Christ.
Together with the Holy Ghost
in the glory of God the Father.
Credo in unum Deum;
factorem coeli et terrae,
visibilium omnium et invisibilium.
Credo in unum Dominum Jesum Christum,
Filium Dei unigenitum,
Et ex Patre natum ante omnia sæcula.
Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine,
Deum verum de Deo vero,
Genitum non factum,
per quem omnia facta sunt.
Qui propter nos homines,
et propter nostram salutem
descendit de coelis.
Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto
ex Maria Virgine: et homo factus est.
Crucifixus etiam pro nobis
sub Pontio Pilato,
passus et sepultus est.
Et resurrexit tertia die
Et ascendit in coelum:
sedet ad dexteram Patris.
Et iterum venturus est cum gloria,
judicare vivos et mortuos:
cujus regni non erit finis.
Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
Dominum, et vivificantem:
qui ex Patre Filioque procedit.
Qui cum Patre et Filio simul
adoratur et conglorificatur:
qui locutus est per Prophetas.
Credo in unam sanctam
catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam.
Confiteor unum baptisma,
in remissionem peccatorum.
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum
et vitam venturi sæculi.
Amen. I believe in one God;
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of God,
begotten of the Father before all worlds;
God of God, light of light,
true God of true God,
begotten not made;
being of one substance with the Father,
by Whom all things were made.
Who for us men
and for our salvation
descended from heaven;
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost,
of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
He was crucified also for us,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
and was buried.
And on the third day He rose again
according to the Scriptures:
and ascended into heaven.
He sitteth at the right hand of the Father;
and He shall come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead;
and His kingdom shall have no end.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the Lord and giver of life,
Who prodeedeth from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together
is worshipped and glorified;
as it was told by the Prophets.
And I believe in one holy
catholic and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one baptism
for the remission of sins.
And I await the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Osanna in excelsis.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
qui tollis peccata mundi,
Dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God,
Who takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God.
Grant us peace.
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