A MASS BY SALIERI.
The contributions of Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) to the vast repertory of concerted Mass settings performed in and around Vienna during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, despite their relatively small number, bear considerable historical significance and musical interest. His four Masses in the "solemn" church music idiom (i.e., in mixed style and with an orchestration that incorporates the traditional trumpets and drums of festal princely liturgy), belong to the body of church works composed in the last phase of his life, during which the composer gradually withdrew from the operatic career that had earned him international renown, and turned much of his attention to the demands of the Viennese court chapel. The first of these, his Mass in D Major, marks his appointment as court Kapellmeister by Emperor Joseph II in 1788. Three further solemn Masses composed between 1799 and 1809 demonstrate Salieri's commitment to sustaining the musical splendor of Hapsburg court religious ritual in the midst of a politically and culturally tumultuous period for the dynasty and its capital. The Masses, along with many pieces in smaller ancillary genres, also reflect an aesthetic perspective on solemn liturgical music that is distinctive among the contemporaneous and older concerted works they joined in the court's active repertoire. Jane Schatkin Hettrick's critical edition of the Plenary Mass in C with Te Deum presents Salieri's most grandiose effort in this field. With its publication, all of the composer's orchestral settings of the Mass are now available in modern critical editions, each a laudable product of Hettrick's painstaking research.
This oversized edition represents an extraordinary accomplishment by both composer and scholar-editor. The Mass Ordinary setting in C for two choirs and orchestra, which constitutes its core, is Salieri's largest Mass, and a rare example of extended choral-orchestral scoring in the broader concerted Mass repertory of his time. For its original 1804 performance context the composer augmented the Mass with similarly orchestrated pieces to function as its Proper movements, as well as a full setting of the Te Deum. Together, these elements provided an impressive composite liturgical work suited to the highest type of state religious ritual. Hettrick's critical score reunites the components of this monumental conception, which had been separated over the course of their subsequent performance and bibliographic history. It is based on the authoritative sources archived by the Vienna Hofkapelle, and subsequently preserved in the Musiksammlung of the Austrian National Library. These include autograph and authentic scores as well as original performance parts. The critical text meets the high standard set by Hettrick's editions of Salieri's other Masses. The introduction offers a detailed summary of the work's complicated origins, genesis, and performance history. An extensive account of the work's sources and their complications, as well as a thorough discussion of Hettrick's judicious editorial processes are given in the critical report.
Hettrick explains in the introduction that Salieri initially composed the Mass in C, with its Introit, Gradual, and Offertory pieces, for a peace celebration planned for 1799, when the Holy Roman Empire and France were newly embroiled in the War of the Second Coalition. The peace celebration ultimately went unrealized. By mid-1804 France had risen to a new imperial status under Napoleon, making the survival of the venerable empire ruled from Vienna uncertain. In response, Salieri's patron, the Holy Roman Emperor and Hapsburg monarch Francis II instituted and assumed the hereditary title of emperor of Austria. It was for performance in the Dankfest, or liturgy of thanksgiving, which solemnized this momentous political development, that Salieri returned to the Mass. He not only revised and expanded the Mass, he added an enlarged version of his 1790 Te Deum to it; he also appended brief motets on the traditional Eucharistic adoration verses Tantum ergo and Genitori, Genitoque (from the hymn Pange lingua). These pieces call further attention to the impressiveness of the occasion. Settings of the Te Deum (the hymn in the Office of Matins) were by custom performed paraliturgically in commemoration of a great achievement or blessing, including victories and coronations. Meanwhile, the placement of the Tantum ergo and Genitoque at either end of the Mass indicates that it began with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and concluded with the corresponding benediction, as Hettrick points out. More specifically, these would appear to indicate that the Mass took place coram Sanctissimo--an extraordinarily solemn manner of celebration before the Sacrament enthroned upon the altar.
While the classification "plenary" identifies the Mass as a setting that includes music for both the Ordinary and the Proper, it is important to note that the Introit, Gradual, and Offertory texts employed do not conform to any specific Proper of the Roman liturgical cycle. It was not unusual in this period for composers or patrons to generate pseudo-Propers from sacred texts with little or no respect to liturgical prescripts. The present texts served to underscore the political dimension of the 1804 liturgical celebration, perhaps also to evoke a coronation ritual. For example, the Introit declaims the twelfth verse of Psalm 32, "Beata gens, cujus est Dominus Deus eorum: populus quern elegit Dominus in hereditatem sibi" (Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord: the people whom He hath chosen for his inheritance). The Gradual Venite gentes, which takes the place of the Gradual and Alleluia in the Mass, combines lines found in two different standard Alleluia verses, and also cites the first letter of St. Peter, where we read an instruction to fear God and "honor the monarch" (1 Peter 2:17). Meanwhile the Offertory Cantate Domino canticum novum, which renders the first three verses of Psalm 95, asserts the notion of renewal, something that was central to the original commemorative context.
The occasional nature and purpose of the work is reinforced by an orchestration that exceeds by far the choral and instrumental ensemble typically used in orchestral Masses of this time. Salieri employs two four-voice choirs (SATB), each supported and accentuated by woodwinds (oboes, bassoons), brass, and timpani. While the brass of choir II is limited to trumpets (including clarino), that of choir I includes horns. Choir I also includes a contrabassoon. The orchestral core--violins I and II, viola, cello and violone, and organ continuo--is linked mainly to choir I, whose instruments tend to carry the concerted material. Hettrick concludes that the instrumentalists heard in the first performance of the work amounted to approximately forty, while the choral singers numbered between forty and fifty. Since many of the instrumental parts often serve doubling or reinforcing functions, much of the orchestration could be distilled to a more conventional large orchestra, along the lines of that employed by Michael Haydn in his Missa a due cori, MH 422. This work was composed in Salzburg in 1786, and attracted the interest of the empress consort Maria Theresa in 1805 (John A. Rice, Empress Marie Therese and Music at the Viennese Court, 1792-1807 [Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003], 52). As Hettrick points out, it stands as one of very few precedents for concerted double-choir Mass composition in the Viennese musical sphere around this time. Although Salieri probably did not know the Missa a due cori prior to composing his double-choir Mass, it is possible that he encountered earlier Viennese works by Antonio Caldara and Georg Reutter II for choir, double solo-voice quartet, and orchestra, if only within the court archive. In any case, Salieri's Mass differs from examples such as these in a fundamental respect: it forgoes the use of solo voices. Like his Mass in D of 1788, it follows instead the practice of ripieno or tutti compositions, in which full choral textures prevail.
Salieri employs both four-voice choirs in all of the ancillary choral pieces as well as the Mass Ordinary and Te Deum. In the shortest of these, the Eucharistic motets and Introit, he favors a reserved and historically-oriented style. The choirs sing mainly in chordal textures either in simple alternation or together on doubled parts. In the Tantum ergo and Introit the instrumentation is limited to the woodwinds and organ in colla parte roles--reinforcing the four choral voices. This strategy represents one nod to ecclesiastical a cappella style in its eighteenth-century guise, as choral writing without independent instrumental accompaniment. The Introit, moreover, begins with an even more traditional element, a plainchant intonation. In their sobriety these pieces contrast with the celebratory style of the Te Deum that precedes them, and effects a degree of anticipation for the concerted Mass setting that ensues. They also fit relatively better with the chanted prayers that might have been heard at this junction in the liturgy. At the conclusion of the Mass, the Genitori presents a similarly simple choral texture, but adds a solemn flourish with the addition of brass and timpani ornamentation.
In the more substantial Gradual Venite gentes and Offertory Cantate Domino omnis terra, Salieri employs the choral voices more intricately and the instruments more amply. While chordal vocal writing tends to dominate in these pieces as well, contrapuntal inflections and larger swaths of polyphonic fabric also appear. Galant-style orchestral embellishments emerge alongside these traditional textures. For example, Salieri renders the first phrase of the Gradual in chordal texture with fast scalar accompaniment in the strings, but the second in species counterpoint with instruments collaparte (a more overt employment of the historical a cappella style). The words based on 1 Peter 2:17, "Justi semper Deum timete, Regem honorificate" receive particular emphasis. They are similarly cast in a cappella style in choir I, but are also punctuated by "alleluia" exclamations in a contrasting martial style in choir II. Salieri also varies such choral material with contrasts of dynamic and expressive character. For instance forte passages are often answered by piano ones; dolce markings are used to inflect the openings and endings of statements. In the Offertory Salieri exploits sonic contrast more dramatically. It opens with a majestic orchestral introduction in fanfare style, but the instruments fall silent at the entrance of choir II, on the words "Cantate Dominum canticum novum," which is not only sung unaccompanied, but in stark unison and octaves. From here unfolds music of greater textural sophistication in comparison to the Gradual, including increased imitative polyphony and double-choir interaction, pared choral texture, and more elaborate orchestration.
The Te Deum and movements of the Mass Ordinary often manifest similar textural and stylistic strategies. The lengthy text of the Te Deum unfolds in a conventional through-composed structure with a fugal conclusion on "In te Domine speravi." As is typical of eighteenth-century settings of the hymn, military and brilliant styles abound in its outer sections. Yet further orchestral accompaniment and brief instances of solo writing tend to be modest. Changes of meter, tempo, or key mark eight structural subdivisions, including contrasting, affective minor-key segments on "Te ergo quaesumus" and "miserere nostri." Salieri nevertheless differentiates many of the hymn's lines and phrases by shifting between chordal and polyphonic vocal textures, sustaining a declamatory style through much of the piece. He exploits the two choirs again for dynamic variation and antiphonal effect, but with more prominence given to echo gestures. The most prominent of these occurs at the fifth verse of the hymn, "Sanctus: Sanctus: Sanctus: Dominus Deus sabaoth," where by having choir II answer "Sanctus" to each "Sanctus" in choir I, he represents the cries of both the cherubim and seraphim. As an appendix to the edition, Hettrick supplies a four-measure fanfare-like passage that was part of the introduction to an earlier version of the Te Deum. She explains that it offers evidence of the type of unwritten intradas that would have been incorporated in the Te Deum in performance.
The Ordinary follows the typical late-eighteenth-century six-movement format, with the Sanctus and Benedictus texts separated into two, and the longest texts, the Gloria and Credo, taking up single, continuous movements with few structural subdivisions. Salieri expressed distaste for the kind of "pompous" Kyrie settings heard in many Masses of the era, according to his student Anselm Huttenbrenner (Salieri, Mass in D Major, edited by Jane Schatkin Hettrick, Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, 39 [Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 1994], ix). While he demonstrates this outlook in the relatively subdued openings of his other Masses, he begins the Kyrie of this setting with a grandiose display of choral-orchestral strength. In its opening four measures, soft utterances in oboe I, accompanied by violins, are interspersed with two fanfare-like tutti exclamations of "Kyrie," accompanied by all the instruments. After this brief C-major introduction, the main body of the movement proceeds in C minor. Here thickly orchestrated declamatory choral statements dominate, suspended by a few concertante interjections. The Gloria opens in a particularly impressive way. After the initial tutti "Gloria" enunciation, the two choirs sing "in excelsis Deo, gloria" in an eight-voice texture with a profusion of brilliant and military-style orchestral accompaniment. At "Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis" the orchestration immediately reduces to choir I and collaparte strings (with bassoon), observing the traditional gesture of representing earth in contrast to heaven. An emphatic reiteration of the words "et in terra pax" with choir II joining choir I on a prolonged "pax," recalls another typical gesture, one that would have carried particular significance in the original performance context. Further juxtapositions and more subtle shifting of styles and textures ensue as the text continues, with conventional structural subdivisions at "Qui tollis" (where hunt-style accompaniment and a quasisoloistic use of the bass voices are prominent) and "Quoniam tu solus." The movement concludes in the customary manner, with a fugal "Cum Sancto spiritu." At the opening of the Sanctus, Salieri once again highlights the wide sonic spectrum covered in this Mass through juxtaposition. In its first four measures, a cappella enunciations of "Sanctus" in choir I are punctuated with tutti reiterations of the word by both choirs and instruments.
An emphasis on more subdued styles mark the remaining movements of the Ordinary. In Benedictus settings of the era, reduced orchestration, decorative string writing, and solo or solo-ensemble vocal material often predominate. The present Benedictus displays these traits with the exception of its vocal scoring; it utilizes both choirs in four- and eight-voice configurations. The choral style is again largely chordal, but becomes more contrapuntally elaborate in the middle of the movement, where the orchestration also expands in anticipation of the Hosanna section. This last section of the movement recalls the music of the earlier Hosanna section of the Sanctus. The Agnus Dei brings a renewed focus on the a cappella style. Salieri sets its main segment (through the third petition of "Agnus Dei qui tollis peccatamundi") in a decidedly old-fashioned style: the meter is 3/2, the tempo is slow, the choirs interact in an antiphonal manner, and a reduced orchestral accompaniment reinforces the choirs (though not strictly colla parte). Nevertheless, the choral statements are bridged by a graceful ritornello played by solo oboe and bassoon. This movement concludes with a predictable shift to faster tempo, increased polyphony, and more elaborate orchestration on the text "Dona nobis pacem."
Arguably the most unusual movement of the Ordinary is the Credo, where Salieri appears to have taken plainchant as a main inspiration. It is organized in a typical ABA' form, but composed in the very untypical key of the submediant (A major). While only instruments sound in its first measure, the music proceeds with choir I singing the lengthy text in unison (though no Gregorian melodic quotation is apparent), supported by instruments collaparte. Choir II punctuates the monophonic statements with harmonic reiterations of the word "Credo," a gesture that recalls the Credo Mass tradition of the eighteenth century. Salieri interrupts the colla parte role of the choir I instruments to accentuate the traditional word painting on "descendit." Here a measure-long D leading to a downward skip to E in choir I is filled in by a stepwise descent between the same notes by strings, bassoons, and organ. The "Et incarnatus" begins with a shift to F major and a pulsating accompaniment that briefly suggests pastoral style, but soon yields to a more intense chromatic character. The third section begins with a return of the distinctive first unison choral theme, now played as a brief instrumental introduction. While the remainder of the movement resumes the same basic choral unison strategy, the orchestration is increased, providing a stronger sense of conclusion.
The unison-oriented Credo is the most striking instance of a peculiar approach to setting the liturgical text, one that could be described as somewhat reticent. In spite of the expansive formal and orchestral limits of this work, Salieri offers few displays of elaborate contrapuntal invention, preferring to let more transparent chordal or unison writing resound in more or less traditional sonorities. At the same time, in spite of his prowess as a composer of dramatic vocal music, he not only abstains from providing solo vocal and ensemble material, he mostly avoids choral writing that would be characterized as florid or theatrical. Often he intensifies a choral part by giving it a particularly lyrical shape; other times he does so by giving it an angular one, or by infusing it with unexpected melodic or harmonic turns. His restraint need not be judged as a deficiency. Rather it should be understood as the manifestation of Salieri's apparently conservative perspective on church music aesthetics, which promotes the intelligibility of the text and sensitivity to its role in the sacred liturgy, even above the more typical enshrining of polyphony (Jane Schatkin Hettrick, "Salieri's Mass in B-flat (1809)," Studien zur Musikwissenschaft 39 : 156). Works by con temporaneous liturgical music specialists such as Michael Haydn and Johann Georg Albrechtsberger tend to balance all these elements more closely. In the case of all these composers, however, the result is often a composition that fits effectively in the ceremonial setting, but much less so in a concert context.
While the scope and scale of the composite liturgical music achievement presented in this edition makes it an unlikely candidate for frequent, complete performance, individual components of it are certainly viable and well worth consideration by choral conductors (though at this time parts have not been made available by the publisher). It is hoped that a complete recording might be achievable in the not-so-distant future, so that we are able to hear this important document of Viennese liturgical music from the turn of the nineteenth century, and expand our appreciation of both Salieri's capabilities and the variety of the historical repertory. In any case, having all of the composer's solemn orchestral Mass settings available in critical editions represents a major contribution to eighteenth-century music studies. Jane Hettrick must be commended and thanked for this accomplishment.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music
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|Title Annotation:||Antonio Salieri: Plenary Mass in C with Te Deum|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2018|
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