The C Minor Mass
Wolfgang A. Mozart
Presbyterian Church
Eugene Sirotkine
From the Met Chorus
The Hudson Valley Singers
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The C Minor Mass — known also as the Grand Mass — is widely regarded as his most ambitious and elaborate choral masterpiece. Interestingly, Mozart scholars differ on the question of why he never finished it. (That, dear reader, is where you come in…but we'll get to that in a minute.)

Wolfgang began work on the Grand Mass in 1782, the same year he became enamored with the fugues of Johann Sebastian Bach. Such counterpoint of the "strict" style was decidedly out of fashion in the late 18th century. In vogue were the more melodious and "natural" styles favored by the European aristocracy.

Wolfgang, musical genius though he was, struggled mightily to match Bach's mastery of contrapuntal composition. One of Mozart's most widely read and respected biographers, Alfred Einstein (Mozart, His Character, His Work), offers these insights:

"It has been rightly said that [the Grand Mass] is the only work that stands between the B Minor Mass of Bach and the D Major Mass of Beethoven."

"Mozart was too great and fine a musician not to feel deeply and painfully the conflict produced when his habit of thinking in terms of galant and 'learned' music was shaken by the encounter with a living polyphonic style."

"Mozart learned from Haydn to handle polyphony or counterpoint lightly, as a playful exercising of humor and wit, though also, to be sure, as an object of the greatest seriousness."

Mr. Einstein goes on to say of Wolfgang in the early 1780s:
"And then began for Mozart, with Constanze's pleased encouragement, a period of fugue composition, the grandest traces of which appear in the C Minor Mass. It is significant that only a portion of these fugues were completed. Mozart began to write a fugue as the finale of a violin sonata in A (K.402), but it remained unfinished for two reasons: it was composed for Constanze, and it was a fugue."

It's interesting that, of all the symphonies, concertos, operas, sonatas and sacred music that Wolfgang composed, the one form that his wife favored above all others was the one with which he had the greatest difficulty composing: the fugue.

Another interesting fact: the meticulous Wolfgang never finished anything he wrote for his beloved bride. Nothing. Not even the Grand Mass.

Isn't that odd? You tell us. Play a round of C Minor Mastery - better yet, play all three rounds. And then render your verdict in the C Minor Mystery: how could a piece of such personal significance to Wolfgang have been left unfinished?

It's more fun than watching the Sopranos, and you might just win a pair of free front-row tickets to the performance, where you'll get to enjoy our sopranos for a change.

Of course, the vast majority of the seats are not free but they are disappearing fast. So order your advance tickets today for before they're all gone. Click here or call 914-674-2865.

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