## 101 - 106 - Mass In A flat, D.678
## 201 - 206 - Mass in E flat, D.950
Wolfgang Sawallisch / Staatskapelle Dresden
==== Mass for soloists, chorus, orchestra & organ in A flat major (Missa Solemnis), D. 678 (1819 -1822)
It took Franz Schubert, a man who could throw three or four songs onto paper in a matter of hours, three full years (1819-1822) to come up with a version of the Mass No. 5 in A flat major, D. 678 that pleased him - seven years if we include the revision of the Mass that he made in 1826 when he used it to audition (unsuccessfully) for a position within the Imperial Court Chapel. At one point he chose to call the work a Missa Solemnis; he eventually decided against that title but it has nevertheless continued to appear over the years. Schubert himself felt this to be possibly the finest of his six Latin Masses, and it is not difficult to understand why. Neither the most expansive or imposing of the Masses (No. 6 in E flat can claim that distinction) nor the most immediately endearing of them (the simple charm of No. 2 in G seems to strike people rather faster), it is probably the finest and most perfectly balanced fusion of traditional sacred style with Schubert's own radiant songfulness and astonishing inventiveness among the composer's choral pieces.
The A flat major Mass may or may not have been performed during Schubert's lifetime; the records simply do not exist. It remained unpublished for decades after Schubert's death but during the last century countless listeners and musicians have come to agree with Schubert that it is a remarkable work.
The usual six portions of the Mass Ordinary are all in place: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. The Andante con moto Kyrie begins with mild woodwind thoughts that are soon enough duplicated by the chorus; the movement's central, "Christe eleison" portion is, as per tradition, assigned to the four vocal soloists. There is something positively symphonic about the Gloria (Allegro vivace e maestoso) - the choral writing is very frequently the poor sister of the orchestral music that "supports" it. The soloists again come out of the woodwork during the "Adoramus te" section, perhaps to prepare themselves for the more extended soloism of the central "Gratias agimus" - calm music that sounds almost as though it might have been conceived for string quartet. The Gloria culminates in a large fugue. The Credo opens in a solid and self-assured C major. There is a stunning pause and then sudden drop down to an A flat major chord for the throbbing "Et incarnatus est." The Sanctus (Andante) is absolutely stunning in its first bars, as what seems to be a confident F major pulsation in the orchestra is sharply undercut by the chorus's decision to enter in F sharp minor. The movement as a whole is one of those movements in Schubert's music where the world of Romantic harmony seems to take shape. Both soloists and chorus are given their fair share in the Benedictus, likewise in the Agnus Dei that concludes this wonderful Mass; the final moments of the Mass are ones of refined exultation, eventually melting down into a few lyrical woodwind twists.
- Blair Johnston
All Music Guide
===== Mass for soloists, chorus & orchestra in E flat major, D. 950 (1828)
Franz Schubert was one of the torchbearers at Ludwig van Beethoven's funeral in the spring of 1827, and perhaps the effect of his passing can be heard reverberating in the Mass No. 6 in E flat major, D. 950, composed a year later. Indeed, the Mass was dedicated to the very church where Beethoven's final rites were administered; it is difficult to imagine that Schubert would have been unaffected by the memory of an event that loomed so large in his own consciousness and in that of all Vienna. If the mass was a conscious tribute, Schubert would not live to witness its realization: he was dead by the time the work received its first performance in late 1829. The E flat Mass is an expansive work, blending ambitious Beethovenian architecture with Schubert's lyricism; it offers a worthy choral counterpart to the "heavenly length" of the composer's Symphony No. 9 and Piano Sonata in B flat major, D. 960.
The E flat Mass is scored for an orchestra without flutes, and while there are parts for vocal soloists, they are a good deal less significant than in Schubert's earlier Masses. All six sections of the Mass Ordinary are set: the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. Throughout the Mass there is a marked infusion of calm lyricism and songfulness into the sacred music vessel, something of which earlier composers of sacred music might have avoided. There is also a great deal more vigorous counterpoint (long a hallmark of sacred music) than one finds in Schubert's only other large-scale Mass, in A flat major.
Schubert's gentle blend of wind instruments at the start of the Kyrie is no less than perfect, setting quite a standard for the chorus that immediately imitates it. The Allegro moderato e maestoso Gloria begins a cappella. Throughout his life, Schubert had been fond of virtuosic violin writing, but seldom does he match in sheer energy the violin explosion that follows this Gloria's a cappella opening. The "Domine Deus" portion of the text is set to rather less physical music. The Credo begins Moderato, gently and quietly; with the arrival of the "Et incarnatus" text there arrives also a lovely cello melody which is soon taken over by the tenor soloist, whose refined passion seems almost too great for its slender proportions. Both the Gloria and Credo conclude with large fugues that approach those of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis of a few years before.
Several great examples of Schubert's unusual and thoroughly proto-Romantic modulation technique are on display at the start of the Sanctus: Schubert moves straight from E flat major to B minor, then to G minor, and finally to E flat minor. The process and even the rhythm are strikingly similar to the one employed by Schubert at the start of the Sanctus movement of the A flat Mass. Fugues appear in both the "Osanna in excelsis" portion of the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. Midway through the Agnus Dei the firm imitation dissolves into a rich chamber music opportunity for the soloists; the fugal writing is reprised but again melts away, this time into a warm choral passage that draws the Mass to a close.
- Blair Johnston
All Music Guide