Mozart: Coronation Mass & Regina Coeli
Orchestra and choir of the Amadeus Chamber Ensemble
Cathedral Concert Series — Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
711 S. Northshore Drive in Knoxville
Sunday, September 25, 5:30 p.m.
Admission is free, but online registration is required
IIt’s fair to say that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a “love-hate” relationship with Salzburg, the city of his birth, childhood and young adulthood. The prodigious musical talent of young Mozart (and his sister Nannerl) was recognized early on by his parents and the rulers of the independent city-state 100 miles west of Vienna. At the time of Mozart’s birth, Salzburg was ruled by Archbishop Sigismund Christoph von Schrattenbach, who employed Father Leopold Mozart as vice-kapellmeister. For years the Archbishop encouraged Leopold to harness his children’s talents for Salzburg’s cultural reputation, exploitation that included sponsoring and promoting their travels across Europe, performing in what cannot be described than as a traveling road show.
When the archbishop died in 1771, his successor was Hieronymus von Colloredo, himself a musician of some talent. Colloredo, despite his despotic inclinations and frugal temperament, was an excellent judge of musical talent and continued Leopold’s employment – as well as Wolfgang as court concertmaster on a salary. However, for Colloredo, the young Mozart was still a servant, serving at the pleasure of his employer with all the limitations that entailed. His nine years of work for Colloredo were marked by constant arguments, requests for time off, displays of ego and objections to the archbishop’s limitations and restrictions. During this period, Mozart began to resent not only the archbishop, but also the provincial atmosphere of Salzburg, longing for bigger and better things, especially the musical richness and variety of Vienna. In 1781, at the age of 25, Mozart permanently severed ties with Colloredo and the confined musical environment of Salzburg.
The theme of the Amadeus Chamber Ensemble concert centers on Mozart and some of his sacred choral music written during his years in Salzburg. In the program notes, ACE Music Director and Conductor Howard Skinner explained his selection of Mozart works.
“Unquestionably”, writes Skinner, “the most important sacred work that Mozart wrote in Salzburg is the Mass in C major, K. 317, “Coronation”. Written in 1780, this twenty-five-minute composition predates the Six Late Masses of Mozart’s mentor, Franz Joseph Haydn, and is therefore one of the earliest examples of what are known as “cantata” masses. .. this work was most likely written for a festive occasion as its length would prevent it from being used during a celebration of Mass at Salzburg Cathedral. Archbishop Colloredo had imposed a twenty-minute limit on the musical portion of the service. As one can imagine, this arbitrary order did not please the clerk to the young composer.
Continuing the Salzburg theme, Skinner also includes the Regina Coeli (K.108). This four-movement work was written in 1771, just before the death of Archbishop von Schrattenbach.
To contrast with the choral music of the young Salzburg Mozart, Skinner will conclude the concert with the 1791 motet in D major, Hail Verum CorpusK.618.
“This remarkable composition written in the last year of Mozart’s life,” explains Skinner, “is perhaps the best known of all the composer’s sacred works. It is an extraordinarily simple work in an unadorned chord style. None of the more dramatic aspects of Mozart’s style are brought out. Michael Steinberg [in Choral Masterworks, A Listener’s Guide] captures the essence of the piece when he writes: ‘Mozart never invented anything more moving than these forty-six perfect bars.”
Along with conductor Skinner, the Amadeus Chamber Ensemble Choir and Orchestra will feature soloists Abigail Santos Villalobos, Diana Salesky, Kirk Dougherty and KC Armstrong. The ensemble’s concertmaster is Miroslav Hristov.