Franz Schubert’s Mass in B-flat

Mass No.3 in B-flat Major, D 324 (1815)

Franz Peter Schubert (b.Vienna1797; d.Vienna1828) is the most Viennese of all the classical composers of church music. He composed 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 Schubert composed 285 musical pieces, according to the catalogue system established by 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 century.  (28:04)

(Adapted from an unpublished and undated note by Msgr.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

Schubert’s Mass in B-Flat is conducted by music director Dr. Marc Jaros. Mary E. LeVoir is the organist. Soloists are Patricia Kent, soprano; Jocelyn Kalajian, contralto; John deCausmeaker, 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 as part of its 1975-1976 season. The Chorale & Orchestra last presented this Mass on November 18, 2018.

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

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Church of St. Agnes