Missa brevis in G
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Christe, du Lamm Gottes
On March 4, the Third Sunday of Lent, the St. Mary’s Adult Choir, soloists and strings will present a special music service featuring Mozart’s Missa brevis in G major (KV 140) and the chorale cantata Christe, du Lamm Gottes (Christ, thou Lamb of God) by Felix Mendelssohn.
A Missa brevis (Short Mass) is a musical setting of the Ordinary texts of the Mass – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei – which provide the liturgical backbone of the service and remain constant each week. In contrast, the Propers of the Mass are the texts that change according to the Sunday of the Church Year. On March 4 the St. Mary’s Choir will sing the Ordinary of the Mass in its liturgical context interspersed throughout the service. Because it is the Lenten season, the Gloria will be omitted.
The Missa Brevis in G was probably composed in Salzburg in March 1773, shortly after Mozart returned from his third trip to Italy. Early scholars debated the authenticity of the work, but later research uncovered a set of parts for the Mass with notes in Mozart’s handwriting. In 1955, the scholar Walter Senn came to the conclusion that “the Missa Brevis in G Major K. 140 may be classified as an authentic composition by W.A. Mozart.” This Mass is called the “Pastoral Mass” because it follows a popular pattern of the time in which folk melodies or other well-known tunes are used as melodic themes throughout the piece.
Martin Luther’s chorale Christe, du Lamm Gottes (Christ, thou Lamb of God) is often referred to as the German Agnus Dei. Luther took the Latin hymn, translated it into German and set it to a familiar chant melody that could be sung by the people in their own language. Mendelssohn used this chorale as the basis for his composition, which he wrote and dedicated to his sister Fanny at Christmas in 1827. The chorale melody (called the cantus firmus) appears three times, sung by the sopranos, with the other voices and strings weaving a contrapuntal fabric around the melody. The form of the piece indicates that Mendelssohn was influenced by his study of Bach’s works, but the harmonies are clearly his own. Please join us for this service of Lenten music on March 4!