Academic journal article Notes

A Mass by Salieri

Academic journal article Notes

A Mass by Salieri

Article excerpt

Antonio Salieri. Plenary Mass in C with Te Deum. Edited by Jane Schatkin Hettrick. (Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, 103.) Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2016. [Contents, p. v; sigla, p. vi; acknowledgments, p. vii; introd., p. ix-xviii; plates, p. [xix-xii]; performing forces, p. 2; score, p. 3-245; crit. report, p. 247-61; appendix, p. 263-65. ISBN 978-0-89579-836-7. $495.]

The contributions of Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) to the vast repertory of concerted Mass settings performed in and around Vienna during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, despite their relatively small number, bear considerable historical significance and musical interest. His four Masses in the "solemn" church music idiom (i.e., in mixed style and with an orchestration that incorporates the traditional trumpets and drums of festal princely liturgy), belong to the body of church works composed in the last phase of his life, during which the composer gradually withdrew from the operatic career that had earned him international renown, and turned much of his attention to the demands of the Viennese court chapel. The first of these, his Mass in D Major, marks his appointment as court Kapellmeister by Emperor Joseph II in 1788. Three further solemn Masses composed between 1799 and 1809 demonstrate Salieri's commitment to sustaining the musical splendor of Hapsburg court religious ritual in the midst of a politically and culturally tumultuous period for the dynasty and its capital. The Masses, along with many pieces in smaller ancillary genres, also reflect an aesthetic perspective on solemn liturgical music that is distinctive among the contemporaneous and older concerted works they joined in the court's active repertoire. Jane Schatkin Hettrick's critical edition of the Plenary Mass in C with Te Deum presents Salieri's most grandiose effort in this field. With its publication, all of the composer's orchestral settings of the Mass are now available in modern critical editions, each a laudable product of Hettrick's painstaking research.

This oversized edition represents an extraordinary accomplishment by both composer and scholar-editor. The Mass Ordinary setting in C for two choirs and orchestra, which constitutes its core, is Salieri's largest Mass, and a rare example of extended choral-orchestral scoring in the broader concerted Mass repertory of his time. For its original 1804 performance context the composer augmented the Mass with similarly orchestrated pieces to function as its Proper movements, as well as a full setting of the Te Deum. Together, these elements provided an impressive composite liturgical work suited to the highest type of state religious ritual. Hettrick's critical score reunites the components of this monumental conception, which had been separated over the course of their subsequent performance and bibliographic history. It is based on the authoritative sources archived by the Vienna Hofkapelle, and subsequently preserved in the Musiksammlung of the Austrian National Library. These include autograph and authentic scores as well as original performance parts. The critical text meets the high standard set by Hettrick's editions of Salieri's other Masses. The introduction offers a detailed summary of the work's complicated origins, genesis, and performance history. An extensive account of the work's sources and their complications, as well as a thorough discussion of Hettrick's judicious editorial processes are given in the critical report.

Hettrick explains in the introduction that Salieri initially composed the Mass in C, with its Introit, Gradual, and Offertory pieces, for a peace celebration planned for 1799, when the Holy Roman Empire and France were newly embroiled in the War of the Second Coalition. The peace celebration ultimately went unrealized. By mid-1804 France had risen to a new imperial status under Napoleon, making the survival of the venerable empire ruled from Vienna uncertain. …

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