W.A. Mozart’s Coronation Mass

Mass No. 16 in C Major “Krönung” (Coronation), K 317 (1779)

One story is that W.A. Mozart (b.Salzburg1756; d.Vienna1791) composed his Coronation Mass for the shrine of Maria Plain, a pilgrimage place on a hill overlooking the city of Salzburg, where an icon of the Blessed Mother and Child was crowned in 1751, indicating that it had been the place where a miracle had been performed through the intercession of the Mother of God. It was said that Mozart composed the Mass in fulfillment of a vow to keep the anniversary of the crowning of the Holy Icon – thus the name “Coronation Mass”. More recently a “scholarly consensus” has emerged that the subtitle was assigned to it after Antonio Salieri (b.Legnago1750; d.Vienna1825), the Habsburg Hofkapellmeister (court music director), conducted a presentation of the Mass at the Prague coronation of Leopold II, as King of Bohemia, on September 6, 1791, less than four months before Mozart’s death. Brief as it is, the Coronation Mass has many beautiful passages. The Mass is scored for trumpets, horns, two oboes, three trombones, timpani, continuo, organ, and strings. The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, and Sanctus all begin with C major choral “proclamations”, accompanied by timpani and trombones. The Agnus Dei foreshadows Countess Almaviva’s despairing aria, Dove sono (Act 3, No. 20), in Le nozze di Figaro, K 492 (1786). Some modern day ersatz “liturgists” assert that Masses with orchestra are too “operatic” for regular liturgical use. Rather than saying the Agnus Dei is operatic, one should say the Dove sono is ecclesiastic! (34:30)

(Adapted from an undated note by Chorale founder Monsignor Richard J. Schuler and from a note by Roger Dettmer, “All Music Guide to Classical Music”, published in 2005 by Backbeat Books)

Mozart’s Coronation Mass, K 317 is conducted by 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 Coronation Mass was first presented by the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale & Orchestra during its inaugural season in residency at Saint Agnes in 1974-1975. The Chorale & Orchestra last presented this Mass on March 11, 2018.

Recommended Listening:

  • Mozart: Coronation Mass; Vesperae Solennes / Hogwood: Academy of Ancient Music / 1993 / L’Oiseau-Lyre 436585
  • Solemn High Mass in St. Peter’s / Karajan: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / 1985 / CD DGG 419 096-2
  • Solemn High Mass in St. Peter’s / Karajan: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / 1985 / DVD Sony SVD 46382
  • Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro / Gardiner: Monteverdi Choir / English Baroque Soloists / 1994 / Arkiv 439871-2

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