Easter, April 4, 2021
Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II, the long-time patron of Franz Josef Haydn, commissioned a new mass setting each year for his wife’s name-day. In 1807, the commission fell to Beethoven, who, in his own words, “treated the text in a manner in which it has rarely been treated”.
The great masses of Bach and Mozart are structured somewhat like operas, whereas Beethoven’s mass is powerfully symphonic, with the soloists treated as a unified quartet, inextricably interwoven with the choir, all based on the elegantly simple motif of rising and descending fourths. Esterhazy was not pleased, but the next performance, at Prince Lichnowsky’s residence, received a more positive response. After its publication in 1813, one commentator wrote that the mass conveyed “a childlike optimism that in its very purity devoutly trusts in God’s grace, and appeals to him as a father who desires the best for his children and hears their prayers”.
On November 18, 2018, the Schiller Institute NYC Chorus performed Beethoven’s Mass in C at the beautiful St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City. https://youtu.be/N1B27voNUBw