Mass in B-flat by Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Born in Vienna on January 31, 1797, Franz Peter Schubert is the most Viennese of all the classical composers of church music. He wrote six Masses: F, G, B-flat, C, A-flat and E-flat. No nicknames were given them; perhaps the Austrians had used up all their nicknames on Haydn’s Masses. Schubert’s church music compositions are small in number compared to his output of songs, symphonies, keyboard, and operatic music. He was just 18 when, in November of 1815, he began this Mass in B-flat.  Earlier that year he had composed the popular Mass in G (Mass No. 2, D.167), simple, but a real pearl. In these early works, his use of melodious themes, lyric in quality, reminds one of the Austrian folksongs with which he was familiar.  Schubert’s melodies are wonderful to sing.  His choral works and solo songs bring great joy to performers of the vocal art. Schubert’s treatment of the liturgical texts has come in for some criticism. He has omitted some passages from the Gloria and Credo, causing purists to censor his music and others to attempt to edit in the missing phrases. Still others try to find deep reasons for his skipping words, which can best be explained by the fact that the very prolific Schubert was regularly quoting the works from memory, without direct access to written liturgical texts. Indeed, between his Mass in G, composed in March of 1815, and his Mass in C (Mass No. 4, D.452), composed in July of 1816, young Franz composed 285 musical pieces, according to the numbering system of musicologist Otto Deutsch.  Because Schubert Masses at Saint Agnes are sung in a liturgical setting, the Chorale has consciously decided to sing edited versions of these Masses that include the liturgically correct complete text.  Despite the controversy surrounding his Mass texts, Franz Schubert was a serious Viennese Catholic at the turn of the 19th century, when romanticism was just beginning.  His music (plus Beethoven’s and a few others) provided the link between the classicism of the 18th century and the romanticism of the 19th.
(Adapted from an unpublished and undated note by Msgr. Richard J. Schuler)

Schubert’s Mass in B-flat is conducted by music director Robert L. Peterson.  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.  The Mass in B-flat was first presented by the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale & Orchestra during the 1975-1976 season.  The Chorale and Orchestra last presented this Mass on November 10, 2013.

Recommended Listening:
Schubert: Mass in B-flat D324; Mass in C D452 / Weil: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / 2009 / Sony SK 68248
Schubert: Messe in B-Dur; Deutsche Messe / Wolf: Chor & Orchester von St. Augustin, Wien / 1990 / Preiser 93325

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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