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Great Mass in C minor (Mozart)

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Great Mass in C minor (Mozart)

The Great Mass in C minor (German: Große Messe in c-Moll), K. 427 (K. 417a), is a musical setting of the Mass by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Mass was composed in 1782 and 1783 in Vienna. The large-scale work, set for two soprano soloists, a tenor and a bass, double chorus and large orchestra, remained unfinished.

Composition and first performance

The work was composed during 1782/83. In a letter to his father Leopold dated 4 January 1783, Mozart mentioned a vow he had made to write a Mass when he would bring his then fiancée Constanze as his wife to Salzburg; Constanze then sang the "Et incarnatus est" at its premiere.[1]

The first performance took place in Salzburg on 26 October 1783.[2] Mozart had moved to Vienna in 1781, but was paying a visit to his home town in the company of Constanze, who had not yet met his father or his sister (Nannerl).

The performance consisted of the Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus and took place in the Church of St. Peter's Abbey in the natural context of a Roman Catholic Mass. The performers were members of the "Hofmusik", that is the musicians employed at the court of Salzburg's ruler, Prince-Archbishop Count Hieronymus von Colloredo and thus Mozart's former colleagues.[3] There was a rehearsal in the nearby Kapellhaus on 23 October 1783.[3]

Fragmentary status

The work is incomplete, missing all of the Credo following the aria "Et incarnatus est" (the orchestration of the Credo is also incomplete) and all of the Agnus Dei. The Sanctus is partially lost and requires editorial reconstruction. There is a good deal of speculation concerning why the work was left unfinished. Given the absolute necessity of a complete text for liturgical use, it is likely that Mozart spliced in movements from his earlier Masses for the premiere,[4] although Richard Maunder has noted that the surviving parts (including an organ part) contain only the completed movements. For purposes of modern performances, the editions and completions available are those by H. C. Robbins Landon (Eulenburg), Helmut Eder (Bärenreiter), Richard Maunder (Oxford University Press), Philip Wilby (Novello), Robert Levin (Carus-Verlag) and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs (Musikproduktion Höflich). Robert Xavier Rodriguez has also completed the Agnus Dei.[5]

Mozart later reused the music from the Kyrie and Gloria, almost without changes except for the text, in the cantata Davidde penitente, K. 469.

Autograph of the first two pages of the Mass ("Kyrie")

Larger version of page 2


  • Kyrie (Andante moderato: Chorus and Soprano)
  • Gloria
    • Gloria in excelsis Deo (Allegro vivace: Chorus)
    • Laudamus te (Allegro aperto: Soprano II)
    • Gratias agimus tibi (Adagio: Chorus)
    • Domine Deus (Allegro moderato: Sopranos I and II)
    • Qui tollis (Largo: Double choir)
    • Quoniam tu solus (Allegro: Sopranos I and II, Tenor)
    • Jesu Christe (Adagio: Chorus) – Cum Sancto Spiritu (Chorus)
  • Credo
    • Credo in unum Deum (Allegro maestoso: Chorus)
    • Et incarnatus est (Andante: Soprano I)
  • Sanctus (Largo: Double choir)
    • Benedictus qui venit (Allegro comodo: Quartet and Double chorus)


The work embodies pomp and solemnity associated with the Salzburg traditions of the time, but it also anticipates the symphonic masses of Joseph Haydn in its solo-choral sharing. The mass shows the influence of Bach and Handel, whose music Mozart was studying at this time (see Gottfried van Swieten).[2]


See also



External links

  • Great Mass in C minor: Neue Mozart-Ausgabe
  • Great Mass in C minor: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  • "Mozart's Mass in C Minor"
  • Mozart, Great Mass in C minor, preface (German/English) of the completion by Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs (2010)

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