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Mozart does not wish to say anything: he just sings and sounds. Thus he does not force anything on the listener, does not demand that he make any decisions or take any posistions; he simply leaves him free. Doubtless the enjoyment he gives begins with our accepting that. He (does not) will to proclaim the praise of God. He just does it -- precisely in that humility in which he himself is, so to speak, only the instsrument with which he allow sus to hear what he hears: what surges at him from God's creation, what rises in him, and must proceed from him. -- Karl Barth
Sacred music occupied a good deal of the young Mozart's attention. His motets are mostly brightly colored, extroverted works, expressing a resplendent effervescence rather than an intense personal faith. Undoubtedly the most well-known sacred piece from his early years is the motet Exsultate Jubilate.
Completed in 1773 during one of the composer's trips to Italy, this exuberant work was the creation of the 17-year-old Mozart -- not for a female singer, but for the famous Roman castrato singer, composer, and keyboardist, Venanzio Rauzzini. The excellent musician, but also perhaps the recent succes of his opera Lucio Silla (in which Rauzzini created the part of Cecilio) in Milan. The Exsultate Jubilate received its first performance January 17, 1773, in the Church of the Theatins, Milan. Evidence that the work was first used for liturgical purposed is given in a later version from Salzburg, early 1780's where the text was adapted for the feast of the Holy Trinity.
Scored for soprano solo, oboes, horns, organ, and strings, the piece is a miniature vocal concerto in three movements with a recitative bridge between the opening allegro and the andante movements. The slow movement leads directly to the finale, the brilliant Alleuja -- a favorite of sopranos, concertgoers, and worshipers the world over.
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One of the most beautiful and most precious gifts of God is music. Satan is very hostile to it, since it casts out many scruples and evil thoughts. The devil does not remeain near it, since it casts out many scruples nad evil thoughts. The devil does not remain near it, for music is one of the finest of all arts. Its notes instill life into its texts. Music drives away the spirit of sadness, as may be seen from the life of King Saul. Several members of the nobility and certain bigwigs are of the opinion that they have savaed my most gracious Lord the annual sum of 3,000 gulden by inducing him to do away with his musicalorganizations; at the same time, however, they squander 30,000 gulden on unworthy puroses. Kings, princes and lords must support music...While some private citizens and common people are willing to finance the cultivatoin of music and love it, they are not able to shoulder its maintenance and cultivation...Music is a semi-discipline and taskmistress, which makes people milder and more gentle, more civil and more sensible. -- Martin Luther
There is no question that music played an important part in the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Today, celebrations of the Reformation are frequently accompanied by Luther's hymn Ein' fest Burg ist unser Gott (often called the battle hymn of the Reformation).
The idea to compose a symphony in honor of the tercentenary celebration of Augsburg Confession (1530), one of the most important documents of the Reformation, came to Mendelssohn while he was in England during the fall of 1829. The symphony was completed during that winter; its first performance, which the composer conducted, in Berlin, November 15, 1832. It was first entitled Symphony for the Celebration of a Religious Revolution; the title Reformation became associated with the piece later. The symphony received few performances during the composer's lifetime and was evidently laid aside, as it wasn't published until 1868, posthumously.
Of the compositions four movements, only the first and last allude to Lutheran themes. The work opens with a slow solemn introduction closing with pianissimo strings intoning the Dresden Amen (taken from the 18th century Lutheran liturgy used in Saxony). The ensuing allegro con fuoco is dominated by a bold powerful theme. Following the development section, the recapitulation is signaled by the reappearance of the Dresden Amen.
The second movement engages in turns the woodwinds, strings, then full orchestra in a tuneful, playful scherzo. The trio features a lilting oboe line.
The short contemplative andante, a song without words for strings, serves as a prelude for the finale -- a fantasia on Luther's hymn Ein' feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress is Our God). Simply introduced by a single flute, then woodwind chorus, the chorale leads into new material in sonata form. Phrases of the chorale reappear in the development, growing in strength in the recapitulation. The work concludes with a majestic statement of the hymn for full orchestra.
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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 1992.
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