Mass No. 8 in C Major: “Missa Cellensis,” “Mariazellermesse” (Mary in the Cell Mass) (H. XXII:8) (1782)

Mariazell is a small town in the province of Steiermark, where the Austrian national shrine, Mater Austriae, is located.  The name “Mariazell” means “Mary in the cell,” a reference to the cell of Brother Magnus, a Benedictine monk who carried a lime-tree wood statue of Mary to this site in 1157 and founded a chapel there. Ailing visitors who prayed before the statue reported miraculous cures, and by the 17th century more than 300,000 pilgrims visited the shrine annually.  For over 800 years, the great basilica dedicated to Our Lady at Mariazell has been a place of pilgrimage for central and eastern Europe.  In the center of the great baroque church is the Chapel of Grace with its silver altar and ancient statue of Our Lady dressed in brocaded robes.  In September of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI and 30,000 pilgrims traveled to the basilica in the Styrian Alps to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the founding of Austria’s national shrine. Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) composed his Mass No. 8 in C Major in 1782, but it was probably not performed first at Mariazell, since it is unlikely that the musical forces needed for its performance could be found in so remote a place.  Rather, the Mass was probably sung in Vienna for a society that fostered pilgrimages to the shrine. The fugues that close the Gloria, Credo and Agnus Dei are masterful examples of choral composition. The Benedictus uses the melody of the Austrian national hymn, Gott Erhalte den Kaiser Franz (God Save the Kaiser Franz) in a tender and touching manner.  The orchestration for this Mass, written in C, requires strings, two oboes, two trumpets and tympani.  Because of the restrictions imposed by the Emperor Joseph II (Emperor 1765-1790), Haydn did not compose another Mass until 1796 when he composed both the Paukenmesse (Mass No. 10 in C Major: ‘Missa in tempore belli’, H. XXII:9) and the Heiligmesse (Mass No. 9 in B-flat Major ‘Missa sancti Bernardi von Offida’, H. XXII:10), both of which are in the repertoire of the Chorale and were sung earlier this season. The Mariazellermesse was first presented by the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale & Orchestra as part of its 1974-1975 inaugural season.

(Adapted from an undated and unpublished note by Monsignor Richard J. Schuler)

Offertory Motet: Victimae paschali laudes by Pietro A. Yon (1886-1943)

Pietro Yon was an early 20th Century Italian-born organist and composer who made his career in the United States as Music Director of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. This moving work is a setting for choir and orchestra of the Easter Sequence and a favorite of worshipers attending Easter and Low Sunday Masses at the Church of Saint Agnes.  The beautiful Alleluia reminds us of the great joy and celebration during Easter Week.

Dr. Robert L. Peterson is Music Director of the Chorale.   Mary E. LeVoir is the organist with soloists Patricia Kent, soprano; Jocelyn Kalajian, contralto; Adam Gedde, tenor; and Jon Nordstrom, bass. The Schola Cantorum is directed by Paul W. LeVoir.

Recommended Listening:
- Haydn: Mariazellermesse; Paukenmesse / Burdick, Rebel Baroque Orchestra / 2010 / Naxos

The weekly schedule of Chorale Masses is posted here, and printed copies are at the church entrance, along with donation envelopes. The Chorale is a non-profit organization and depends on the generosity of donors. Please send contributions to: Twin Cities Catholic Chorale, P.O. Box 4234, St. Paul, MN 55104. A few of our contributors have asked about sponsoring a specific Mass on a given Sunday. If you might be interested, please contact Virginia Schubert, the Chorale’s President, at inquiry@catholicchorale.org.

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