St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Messe in C, D.452

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THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS
OBSERVATORY

SUNDAY, 4 APRIL 2010, 10.30am


THE FEAST OF
THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD


Sung to the


MESSE IN C, D.452

- 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 1815-6 he was an 19 year old novice schoolmaster who nevertheless found time enough to make it these his most productive years of composition, a significant statement when one considers that his short life produced almost a thousand published works.

The Mass in C was written during June and July 1816 for the church in Lichtental and presumably first performed there, being dedicated to the church’s choirmaster, Michael Holzer. for whom his earlier mass in G has also been composed. The Parish Church of Lichtental was the church of Schubert’s youth and he regularly sang in the choir of the church on Sundays and Feasts.

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 C major mass was originally scored for just strings and organ, in the traditional Viennese “Church trio” format (two violins, continuo and voices); it was only later that Schubert included trumpet and timpani parts in the free staves of the autograph, marking them ad libitum. It can be assumed that this enhanced orchestration was also performed at Lichtental, perhaps on a subsequent occasion, since the autograph bearing the additions passed from Holzer’s estate to that of his successor, Karl Pichler, where it was re-discovered as late as 1897.

Shortly before his death, Schubert composed a new Benedictus for the mass, possibly commissioned by the publisher Diabelli. The original solo soprano Benedictus was matched with an alternative for full chorus. This second Benedictus (which we employ this morning) is his last known work.

 

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