The mystery of Mozart’s C Minor Mass

Pianist Katie Mahan in Salburg’s Peterskirche in Salzburg.

The origin of Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor is somewhat of a mystery. It seems that the work was a tribute to Mozart’s wife Constanze, but whether composed in honor of his marriage to her or out of thankfulness for her recovery from some mysterious illness remains unclear. In any case, what appears certain is that Mozart intended it specifically to be performed in Salzburg and that he composed the soprano role for his wife to sing.

But why compose it for Salzburg and not for Vienna where he was living by that time? Was it a peace offering to his father? Or an opportunity to show off his Constanze’s music talents to his hometown? Or was it composed to commemorate a specific event or anniversary? And why did he never finish the monumental work?

In this episode of Mozart Snapshots, Katie discusses these questions and more with the Kapellmeister of the Stiftskirche St. Peter, or Peterskirche as it is known locally, where the only performance of the great work took place during Mozart’s lifetime.

See all episodes of Katie's Mozart Snapshots, where she walks in the footsteps of Mozart in his hometown of Salzburg.

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