Mozart - Mass in C Minor (‘Great’)

Despite Mozart sometimes being portrayed as being rather juvenile and as keen on smutty humour as he was on music, his letters and diaries do also point to a man of greater depth.

The story of the Great Mass, for example, reveals a person with strong spiritual feelings.

At the time he composed it, Mozart would have been just twenty-two years old. He was engaged to Constanze Weber. It’s true to say that he had pursued her sister, Aloysia, first, and then switched camps when rebuffed, but no matter. Suddenly, though, Constanze became ill. Illness, it need not be said, was a far greater issue back then and all was done to bring her to health again.

When she finally did recover, Mozart vowed to write a Mass in thanks for her life. This he did, despite history having deprived us of a couple of major chunks of it – parts of the Credo and Sanctus are not intact. The story of its premiere, at the Salzburg court of Archbishop Colleredo (Mozart’s boss) seems romantic, if not least for one aspect: singing the female solo was Constanze Weber herself.

Recommended Recording

Felicity Lott (soprano); Willard White (bass); London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir; Franz Welser-Möst (conductor). EMI Classics: 5209492.

Illustration: Mark Millington