Sometimes, when I leave the house early in the morning and the sun is about to rise over the horizon, I feel a deep serenity inside myself, coupled with a glowing joy of being. And if I were a better singer, I would probably start singing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Exsultate, jubilate” KV 165 (158a). It is such a wonderful piece, and I can listen to it again and again. It makes me relive that joy and serenity all over.
Especially the final “Alleluja” lifts my spirits up… Too bad, that church services have become rather dull over time. I am convinced that such beautiful music could inject some religious fervour into the community of the faithful and help filling the benches on Sundays.
Composition for a castrate
Mozart wrote this motet in 1773 while staying in Milan and he composed it for a specific singer, the castrate Venanzio Rauzzini, who sung a part in one of Mozart’s operas. He very much admired Rauzzini’s technical proficiency. The motet has three movements and is to be performed by a solo soprano voice, two oboes, two horns an organ and strings. At the time, Mozart was only 17 and toured Europe with his father Leopold, proud to present the Child Prodigy. They stayed in Italy to supervise the production of Mozart’s opera “Lucio Silla”. The motet was later adapted for female voices – the recording I cherish features the American soprano singer Barbara Bonney and the Concentus Musicus Wien, an Austrian Baroque music ensemble.
On the same album you will find another masterpiece of the young genius from Salzburg: Mozart’s Missa Solemnis in C Minor K.139 “Waisenhaus”. He was twelve when he composed it upon a commission of a Jesuit priest for the consecration of the “Waisenhauskirche”, the church of an orphanage in the south-east of Vienna. The sumptuous opening “Kyrie” underlines the festive nature of the piece and the “Gloria” always carries me away. The “Qui tollis peccata mundi” is very impressive and I imagine that some in the audience at the “Waisenhauskirche” in 1768 started to wonder if their sins would really be taken away! The “Crucifixus” and “Et ressurexit” makes you relive the drama of the crucifixion and the joy over Jesus’ resurrection.
The question of faith, again!
I often wonder how deep a composer must be penetrated by his own faith to compose pieces of sacred music of such intensity and suggestive power. Or is it possible to write such music without being a believer? The answer to this mystery rests in a church in Paris, but no, I will say nothing more! Not now.
© Charles Thibo
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