Mozart - Ave verum corpus

Just forty-six bars containing around three minutes of music. And yet they are capable of leaving the listener just as moved as might an entire five-day long cycle of Wagner’s The Ring. And certainly less tired.

Ave verum corpus is another work that Mozart composed in the final year of his life. It was written almost as a payment to a friend – in much the same way that Picasso would give away sketches. Anton Stoll was a chorus master at a small church in Baden, and had often helped Mozart by making travel arrangements for his wife, Constanze. Despite having his money worries, Mozart still liked to make sure his wife had her restorative periods at Baden.

Writing very simply, Mozart was perhaps conscious of the limitations of a small-town choir, although, as the Austrian pianist Artur Schnabel once said of the work, it is ‘too simple for children, and too difficult for adults’. It was written to be performed on the Feast of Corpus Christi and contains the words sotto voce (meaning ‘subdued’) in Mozart’s hand on the score.

Recommended Recording

The Sixteen; Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Harry Christophers (conductor). Coro: COR 16057.