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Great Mass in C minor, K. 427

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Great Mass in C minor (German: Große Messe in c-Moll), K. 427/417a, is the common name of the musical setting of the mass by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and considered one of his greatest works.[1] He composed it in Vienna in 1782 and 1783 after his marriage when he moved to Vienna from Salzburg. This large-scale work, a missa solemnis, is scored for two soprano soloists, a tenor and a bass, double chorus and large orchestra. It remained unfinished, missing large portions of the Credo and the complete Agnus Dei.

Great Mass in C minor
Unfinished missa solemnis
by W. A. Mozart
2236 - Salzburg - Erzabtei St Peter.JPG
Interior of St Peter's Abbey, Salzburg, where the mass was first performed
CatalogueK. 427/417a
Performed26 October 1783 (1783-10-26): Salzburg
  • SATB double chorus
  • soloists: 2 sopranos, tenor, bass

Composition and first performanceEdit

The work was composed during 1782/83. In a letter to his father Leopold dated 4 January 1783, Mozart mentioned a vow he had made to write a mass when he would bring his then fiancée Constanze as his wife to Salzburg to meet his family for the first time after his father's earlier opposition. Constanze then sang the "Et incarnatus est" at its premiere.[2]

The first performance took place in Salzburg on Sunday 26 October 1783 (the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost).[3] Mozart had moved to Vienna in 1781, but was paying a visit to his home town in the company of Constanze, who had not yet met his father or his sister (Nannerl).

The performance consisted of the Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus and took place in the Church of St. Peter's Abbey in the context of a Roman Catholic mass. The performers were members of the "Hofmusik", that is the musicians employed at the court of Salzburg's ruler, Prince-Archbishop Count Hieronymus von Colloredo and thus Mozart's former colleagues.[4] There was a rehearsal in the nearby Kapellhaus on 23 October 1783.[4]

Fragmentary statusEdit

Autograph of two of the pages of the mass ("Kyrie")
Larger version of page 1 (recto) and page 2 (verso)

The work is incomplete, missing all of the Credo following the aria "Et incarnatus est" (the orchestration of the Credo is also incomplete) and all of the Agnus Dei. The Sanctus is partially lost and requires editorial reconstruction. There is a good deal of speculation concerning why the work was left unfinished. Given the absolute necessity of a complete text for liturgical use, it is likely that Mozart spliced in movements from his earlier masses for the premiere,[5] although Richard Maunder has noted that the surviving parts (including an organ part) contain only the completed movements. For purposes of modern performances, the editions and completions available are those by H. C. Robbins Landon (Eulenburg), Helmut Eder (Bärenreiter), Richard Maunder (Oxford University Press), Philip Wilby (Novello), Robert Levin (Carus-Verlag) and Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs (Musikproduktion Höflich). Robert Xavier Rodriguez has also completed the Agnus Dei.[6] The editions by Robbins Landon, Eder and Maunder aim to simply fill out the missing orchestrations and choral parts in the Credo and Sanctus, whereas the editions by Wilby, Levin and Cohrs all aim to complete the work by composing new music for the Credo and Agnus Dei through the use of parody or elaboration of period sketches by Mozart.

Mozart later reused the music from the Kyrie and Gloria, almost without changes except for the text, in the cantata Davide penitente, K. 469.


  • I. Kyrie (Andante moderato: Chorus and Soprano)
  • II. Gloria
    • Gloria in excelsis Deo (Allegro vivace: Chorus)
    • Laudamus te (Allegro aperto: Soprano II)
    • Gratias agimus tibi (Adagio: Chorus)
    • Domine Deus (Allegro moderato: Sopranos I and II)
    • Qui tollis (Largo: Double choir)
    • Quoniam tu solus (Allegro: Sopranos I and II, Tenor)
    • Jesu Christe (Adagio: Chorus) – Cum Sancto Spiritu (Chorus)
  • III. Credo
    • Credo in unum Deum (Allegro maestoso: Chorus)
    • Et incarnatus est (Andante: Soprano I)
  • IV. Sanctus (Largo: Double choir)
  • V. Benedictus qui venit (Allegro comodo: Quartet and Double chorus)


The work embodies pomp and solemnity associated with the Salzburg traditions of the time, but it also anticipates the symphonic masses of Joseph Haydn in its solo-choral sharing. The mass shows the influence of Bach and Handel, whose music Mozart was studying at this time (see Gottfried van Swieten).[3]

In July 2015, Pope Francis told reporters that the "Et incarnatus est" from the work "is matchless; it lifts you to God!"[7]

On 20 August 2016 the version reconstructed by Helmut Eder was performed at the Royal Albert Hall, for the first time as part of The Proms series, by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, with Ilan Volkov conducting and featuring Louise Alder, Carolyn Sampson, Benjamin Hulett and Matthew Rose.[8]


See alsoEdit



  1. ^
  2. ^ Einstein, Alfred (1953). "Kirchenmusik". Mozart. Sein Charakter, sein Werk (in German). Zurich, Stuttgart. pp. 362–403.
  3. ^ a b Mozart, W. A. (2006). Mass in C minor (Urtext). Holl, Monika (preface), Thalmann, Gabriele (transl.). Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag. pp. VII–X. ISMN M-0006-20223-2
  4. ^ a b Deutsch 1965, 219
  5. ^ Solomon 1995
  6. ^ "Robert Xavier Rodríguez: Agnus Dei (completion of Mozart's Mass in C minor), G. Schirmer Inc.
  7. ^!/story/pope-reveals-his-tastes-classical-music/
  8. ^ "Prom 46: Mahler's Ruckert-Lieder and Mozart's Mass in C minor, 2016, BBC Proms". 20 August 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  9. ^ NUC MED TECH (27 July 2014). "Mozart: Great Choral Works, Mozart's greatest Masses, plus the Divine Requiem".
  10. ^ "Beethoven Missa Solemnis. Mozart Mass in C minor". Gramophone.
  11. ^ "Mozart: Great Mass in C minor K.427". Deutsche Grammophon. 1991.
  12. ^ "Mass in C minor K427". Christopher Hogwood.


External linksEdit