The C Minor Mass
Wolfgang A. Mozart
Presbyterian Church
Eugene Sirotkine
From the Met Chorus
The Hudson Valley Singers
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The Inextricable OppositesA Family Torn AsunderThe C Minor mystery

As we learned in Chapter 3, Mozart scholars hold different views on the paradox that shrouds the C Minor Mass. Here's what we know followed by a ballot with which you can vote for the solution to the C Minor Mystery that feels right to you.

The Key Facts

1.Wolfgang composed the Mass from the heart to fulfill a prenuptial vow. To him it was entirely personal.

2.Since he wasn't being paid for it, whether or not it was performed was entirely up to him.

3.He arranged it for a collection of instruments unique to Salzburg at the time.

4.He wrote one of the soprano solos to suit his beloved Constanze's voice.

5.The manuscript was still incomplete when he and Constanze left for Salzburg and some of the surviving shards were on manuscript paper unique to Salzburg.

6.He intended to finish, rehearse and perform the Mass within three to four weeks of arriving in Salzburg.

7.That trip was intended to overcome two intractable Mozart family schisms:

To set straight once and for all who was in charge of Wolfgang's life and career.
To introduce Constanze to his father in a way that convinces him to welcome her into the family.

8.Neither of these goals was achieved; Leopold remained convinced that his son's career was out of control and his daughter-in-law was unworthy of the Mozart name. Wolfgang and Constanze were disheartened, to say the least.

9.Their six-week-old son, who was left in Vienna in the care of a wet nurse, tragically died of dysentery only days before the C Minor Mass was originally scheduled to be performed.
(Historians differ on whether the parents were ever told of this until their return to Vienna 15 weeks later.)

10.The Mass was not performed until two months later. During that time the couple remained in Salzburg, a city Wolfgang openly loathed. They were also in dangerously close proximity to the tyrannical Prince Archbishop who, as Wolfgang's former employer, could have thrown the composer in jail for leaving the Court without formal discharge papers.

11.Both Wolfgang and Leopold Mozart were meticulous about preserving every letter and composition.

12.Very little of the score that was written in Salzburg survived, and that which did had an incomplete draft-like quality to it.

13.Wolfgang's modus operandi as a composer was to work out a piece fully (or nearly so) in his head before putting pen to paper, so his "drafts" were often finished works.

14.An angry and embittered Constanze was known to have destroyed over a years' worth of letters that Leopold had written to her husband - letters before and after the Salzburg visit in which he expressed his disapproval of her.

15.Wolfgang could only have performed a complete Mass or none at all.
(Historians agree on this, although they differ on how he filled in the now missing pieces. The most prevalent theories include adaptations of his earlier church music and simple plainchant, either of which would have represented an abandonment of his artistic conscience.)

16.Wolfgang and Constanze departed Salzburg without fanfare early in the morning following the performance.

The Core Issue and Questions

Questions remain largely because there was no correspondence between the family members (during or, quite interestingly, after the Salzburg trip) to chronicle their feelings and events.

So the fundamental mystery surrounding the C Minor Mass is rooted in the difference between an "unfinished composition" and an "incomplete manuscript."

The latter is obviously true, it is incomplete. And it was not uncommon for Mozart to abandon a piece mid-stride when the motivation for completing it vanished. (And according to biographer Albert Einstein, Wolfgang never completed any piece that was dedicated to Constanze…how odd.)

But how could a composer of Mozart's stature complete but not "finish" the one piece that had so much riding on it? The piece that includes his most brilliant and ambitious expression of counterpoint — on a scale worthy of Johann Sebastian Bach himself? The piece intended to forge a new family unity?

Unlike his more famous but also "unfinished" Mass, the Requiem in D Minor (K.626), he could not simply claim an untimely death as an excuse. Or could he?

How would you solve the C Minor Mystery?

Something was written and performed. But what was it? What happened to it? And why?

Here are several plausible answers to each of these three vexing questions. Construct your own solution to the mystery by voting for the answers you feel are right and click on "Send".

If you feel there's a different answer than what you see here, there's a textbox for each question where you can type it in. The most interesting submitted answers will get added to the ballot for consideration by subsequent readers.

The ongoing vote tally is published here.

C Minor Mystery Question 1:
What was performed during the now missing portions of the Grand Mass? (select one)
Adapted portions of Wolfgang's earlier Masses
  Original music by Wolfgang that may or may not have risen to the standard of the surviving sections
  Original music by Leopold that surely would not have risen to the standard of the surviving sections
C Minor Mystery Question 2:
What happened to the now missing portions of the Grand Mass? (select one)
  They were left behind in Salzburg and were lost along with all the orchestra parts
  They were left behind in Salzburg in the care of Leopold but were lost following his death in 1787
  Wolfgang destroyed them immediately after the performance
  Constanze destroyed them in Vienna the same time she burned Leopold's letters of that period
C Minor Mystery Question 3:
As it relates to both Questions 1 & 2 — WHY? (check all you feel apply)
  After Raimund's untimely death and Leopold's cold rejection Constanze, Wolfgang simply could not muster the inspiration to compose sections worthy of the grandeur and complexity of what he penned in Vienna.
  Seeing that his son lost all interest in completing such a glorious Mass, a sympathetic Leopold composed music for the missing sections. An appreciative Wolfgang felt compelled to go through with the performance, even though his father's music was not of the same caliber as his own.
  The Prince Archbishop decreed that the Mass must never be performed again because it did not conform to his orthodox view of what was permissible in sacred music.
  The C Minor Mass was always intended by Wolfgang to be a one-time affair in Salzburg; once it was over there was no point in keeping any portions with which he wasn't completely satisfied.
  Wolfgang would never publish anything that was not up to his standard, which is why he repurposed only certain parts in the Davidde Penitente oratorio a year and a half later.
  As a pointed reminder of a bitter and hurtful time, Constanze could not bear to have the Salzburg manuscripts around.
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