Franz Schubert’s Mass in G Major

Mass No. 2 in G Major, D 167 (1815)

With this Mass composed by Franz Schubert (b.Vienna1797; d.Vienna1828) in 1815, we experience his gift for lyric beauty and simplicity. Although he was only 18 years old, this was his second Mass and his 167th musical composition, as cataloged by musicologist Otto Deutsch. By the time of his death at age 31, Schubert had written at least 998 works, including more than 600 songs. Franz Schubert was an accomplished singer as well as a gifted composer for chorus, orchestra and piano.  His solo songs are considered standard repertory for voice students at any level.  His melodies are always beautiful and wonderful to sing. Much has been written about Schubert’s supposed doctrinal unorthodoxy and lack of piety, because in composing his Masses he often left out parts of the text. The explanation given by Monsignor Richard J. Schuler, the Chorale’s founding music director was that when Schubert composed his Masses he used a text from memory and that his memory was simply faulty.  The edition that the Chorale uses was edited by Monsignor Schuler and is liturgically correct, including the omitted texts. Schubert himself wrote in a letter to his father about his faith: “People have wondered at the piety I express in a hymn to the Virgin Mary, which seems to move every soul and to dispose the listener to prayer. I think that is because I never force myself to pray and, except when devotion involuntarily overpowers me, I never compose that kind of hymn or prayer – when I do, then the piety I give voice to is genuine and deeply felt.” Historical documents indicate that Schubert composed his Mass in G in just five days – between March 2 and March 7, 1815. The Mass went unpublished in Schubert’s lifetime and was probably intended for presentation at the church his family attended in the Lichtenthal parish of Vienna. This popular Mass, though simple, is a real pearl. There is a measured simplicity in the Credo, creating the impression of great weight, marching forth on a steady baseline and rising slowly from its humble, quiet beginnings to an imposing climax at the Crucifixus. This intensity continues to the Spiritum Sanctum, where the humble, quiet, steady baseline is resumed to the end of the movement. The Mass in G is scored for soprano, tenor and bass soloists, mixed chorus, strings, organ, trumpets, and timpani. Later in November of 1815, Schubert began his Mass No. 3 in B-flat, D 324 (1815), which was presented by the Chorale & Orchestra earlier this season.    (24:16)

(Adapted from an undated note by Chorale founder Monsignor Richard J. Schuler and from a note by Blair Johnston, “All Music Guide to Classical Music”, 2005)

Schubert’s Mass in G is conducted by the Chorale music director Dr. Robert L. Peterson. 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 G was in the repertory of the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale & Orchestra prior to its residency at the Church of Saint Agnes in 1974. The Chorale & Orchestra last presented this Mass on December 30, 2018.

Recommended Listening:

  • Schubert: Messe G-Dur, Messe C-Dur / Rieder: Chor & Orchester von St. Augustin / www.hochamt.at/augustinus_cds
  • Schubert: Messe G-Dur, Tantum Ergo, 23 Psalm / Abbado: The Chamber Orchestra of Europe / 1992 / DGG435486

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