St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Messe in G D.167

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THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD

Sung to the

MESSE IN G, D.167

- Franz Schubert
 


FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828) was the only one of the Viennese masters who was actually Viennese-born and the atmosphere of that most beguiling of cities resonates in all his music. In 1815 he was an 18 year old novice schoolmaster who nevertheless found time enough to make it his most productive year of composition, a significant statement when one considers that his short life produced almost a thousand published works.

The Mass in G was begun on 2 March and completed on 7 March of that year. Both the speed of composition and the circumstance that he interrupted work on his second symphony in order to complete the mass, suggest that it was composed on commission, probably by Michael Holzer. choirmaster of the Parish Church of Lichtenthal, the parish church of Schubert’s youth and in the choir of which he sang on Sundays and Feasts. The dates suggest that it was written for Easter, which in 1815 fell on 26 March.

Unlike Haydn and Mozart, who wrote for professional vocalists, Schubert composed his choral music for middle class parishioners who had assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the Austrian church music tradition. In Vienna, as elsewhere, the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars had disrupted the framework of social-political and cultural life and the aristocratic chapel establishments had been much reduced.

The mass was originally scored for just strings and organ, in which form it is given this morning, although the composer himself later added trumpets and timpani. His brother, Ferdinand, caused a posthumous edition to be published in which he further added oboes and bassoons.

The soloists in this morning’s mass are Beverley Chiat (soprano), Willem Bester (tenor) and Njabulo Mthimkulu (bass). The chamber orchestra is led by Jurgen Schwietering, with Gareth Baard playing continuo.

The choir will also sing a selection of carols.

 

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