Mozart’s Piccolomini Mass

Mass No. 12, Missa Brevis No. 7 in C Major “Piccolomini”, K 258 (1776)

This Missa Brevis in C Major, by W. A. Mozart (b.Salzburg1756; d.Vienna1791), is another Missa brevis (brief Mass) designed to meet the time constraints outlined by Prince-Archbishop Count Hieronymus von Colloredo in Salzburg. This composition may have received its nickname from the Italian word, “piccolo” meaning “brief”.  Composed in December of 1776, Mozart continues to explore new styles and ideas. The Gloria and Credo are not expanded in any way, but are unique in their clarity and musical integrity. The Masses composed at this time were heard by very large audiences at churches, and thus Mozart became very popular in Salzburg and Vienna for his sacred music. The Piccolomini Mass, as well as various other sacred music compositions by Mozart, survived with the help of the Augustinian canons at the Heilig Kreuz (Holy Cross) congregation in Augsburg, Germany. In 1777 Mozart and his mother Anna Maria, while traveling to Mannheim and Paris, stopped in Leopold’s hometown of Augsburg to see relatives. While there Mozart visited Heilig Kreuz, where his father had sung in the choir, and he delighted the canons with his talent as a pianist and composer. As a farewell gift, he loaned the canons several of his handwritten compositions to copy for liturgical use. In succeeding years he loaned them additional works through his cousin, Marianne Mozart, and the canons eagerly copied and played them. To this day the treasured copies are in the Heilig Kreuz and Augsburg diocesan archives. The Piccolomini Mass is scored for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, choir, violins, oboes, trumpets, trombones colla parte, timpani, and basso continuo. Although classified as a Missa brevis the inclusion of trumpets in the scoring makes it a Missa Brevis et Solemnis. (17:39)

Mozart’s Piccolomini Mass is conducted by Chorale 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 Piccolomini Mass was first presented by the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale & Orchestra as part of the1981-82 season.

Recommended Listening:

  • Mozart: Missa brevis, K. 258; Missa longa, K. 262 / Kegel: Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra / MHS 512048Y

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