Classical: First Night Mozart Masses, Royal Festival Hall
Saturday 31 October 1998
Twenty years after it first burst on the scene, Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus has reopened at the National Theatre. First reports suggest Shaffer has returned to his script and slightly toned down his somewhat outrageous initial portrait of Mozart, as a rowdy child who never grows up, revelling in bawdy puns and anarchic behaviour. From what biography has given us, that aspect did make for one side of Mozart's complex personality, but by no means the only one. To begin with, throughout his life, he was deeply religious and devoted to the Catholic faith, regularly attending Mass, receiving communion and attending confession.
And that deep sense of faith is exemplified in a wide range of sacred settings - litanies, vespers, oratorios and masses, all finally culminating in his last composition of all, the transcendental Requiem.
Now two of his finest mature Masses are presented side by side in a concert from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Andrew Davis - the Mass in C, K317, the "Coronation", and that in C minor, K427, the "Great".
Mozart's most prolific time for the production of church music occurred during his Salzburg period in his early 20s when he held a post as composer to the city's archbishop. The "Coronation" Mass dates from 1779. The key of C major, suiting trumpets and drums, was a particular sparkling feature of settings of High Mass of the time. Here, Mozart's orchestration is suitably austere yet glowing, displaying solo voices in clear and effective melodic lines against the orchestra, while also allowing for dramatic and powerful choral entries.
The Mass in C minor, K467, came about in more personal circumstances, Mozart vowing to compose a work to bless his recent marriage to Constanze Weber. Dating from four years after the "Coronation", the "Great" incorporates elements of a new-found Viennese style, plus a tighter grip on the fugal procedures of Bach and Handel. "Great" though this Mass is, it is still unfinished, with sections of the Credo and the entire Agnus Dei missing. As so often in the composer's hectic life, pressures of time simply prevented him completing it before the scheduled premiere. Still, what we have is far more than a torso; and both splendid Masses should richly compare and contrast when performed by the superb period-instrument outfit, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, here probing the very heart of the Enlightenment ethos itself.
The OAE plays Mozart at the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London SE1 (0171- 960 4242) on 3 Nov at 7.30pm
arts + entsThere were towering ideas, some scintillating performances and revelatory grooves... our writers pick out their personal highlights
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
peoplePrepare to be entranced by worms as the molecular biologist gets ready to give the Royal Institution science lectures
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Arts & Ents blogs
Heavy rain and years of 'benign neglect' may have caused Apollo Theatre roof collapse
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Justin Bieber isn't retiring from music after all
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 1 Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
- 5 Police seize possessions of rough sleepers in crackdown on homelessness
- < Previous
- Next >