Mozart - Coronation Mass
from 6 bars before you come in
Agnus Dei
from the Andante con moto bar 57


Programme Notes

K. 317 Mass in C major, ‘Coronation’ Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)
Composed: Salzburg, 1779.
Movements: Kyrie Elison, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei

Soprano Solo: Laura Armstrong Alto Solo: Tiffany Hore Tenor Solo: James Dooley Baritone Solo: Anthony Ordman

This mass in C major (one of seventeen mass settings, seven of which are in the key of C major) is a short mass, Missa brevis, rather than a fuller Missa solemnis. All of Mozart’s mass settings were written before he left Salzberg for Vienna. While they often lack the complexity of Mozart’s later works they nonetheless display his skill at writing elegant and appealing melodies; and they certainly conformed to the accepted Austrian church idiom of the time.

There is some debate as to when the mass was first performed and for whom it was written. It certainly featured at the coronations of Leopold II in Prague 1791 and Francis I of Austria in 1792, hence its popular title of ‘coronation’ mass. For a long time it was thought to be associated with the pilgrimage church of Maria Plain on the outskirts of Salzberg, where a statue of the Virgin Mary was crowned each year. However, it was probably first composed for the Prince-Archbishop of Salzberg and performed on Easter Sunday at the city’s Cathedral.

The Kyrie, Gloria and Credo all begin emphatically in C major with an almost military rhythm. The soloists are often juxtaposed with the chorus in a concertante style and this is beautifully demonstrated in the Credo which is unusually structured in a Rondo form. Listen out for the quite stunning ‘Et incarnatus est’. There are also other structural variations from the norm, for example in the Benedictus where there is a solo reprise following the Hosanna from the chorus.

The final movement, Agnus Dei, features the soprano solo singing a melody that is a precursor for the famous aria ‘Dove sono’ from Le nozze di Figaro’. The mass ends with a symphonic and choral flourish that pushes the traditional boundaries of a Missa brevis and anticipates the late high masses of Haydn. You can compare and contrast the two in our Autumn concert when we perform the Harmoniemesse.