Saturday, June 15, 2019

Mozart and the Mass

The Gregorian Chant I wrote about last time has made me see classical music differently. Specifically it has made me see Mozart differently.

Every Thursday I have been going to chant practice. And I am starting to understand how Gregorian Chant is the purest form of worship. Just like Latin never changes, Gregorian chant never changes. And as the priest has pointed out to us, it is not passionate.

Now when I listen to Mozart church music I have to say, it is, well, rather passionate.

All these years I have been listening to him and I have not seen that. In the classical music world Mozart is seen, although I have not been on board with this, as one of the "cooler" composers, as in temperature. Beethoven is seen as hotter.

The other day I was listening to Mozart's Mass in C Minor, "The Great." Because of all the Gregorian chant, it struck me: Mozart burned hot.

Hotter than Beethoven. I am going to go ahead and say that.

Beethoven was more calculated in comparison. Mozart took it to the wall. The Mass in C Minor, it is like listening to "Don Giovanni." It is beautiful and I am not saying it is not devout. It is a hymn to his faith. But it is hot, is all I am saying.

I am going to do more research into the situation but I do remember understanding that in Mozart's time there was already this discussion going, about Gregorian chant, and what was appropriate. There was pressure coming from somewhere to stick with the chant and not to go with contemporary music, which was Mozart.

Mozart was not against the chant. There is a story I keep reading about how he said that he would have given up all his music to have written the beautiful Preface you hear in the Tridentine Mass. To be honest I would like to see documentation for that. I do not remember reading it in all my years of reading about Mozart. But everyone writes it and so it is likely true.

At the same time ... contemporary music written by Mozart is not the same as contemporary music we are stuck with these days like, oh, "The Servant Song."

Mozart can fill you with awe.

Listening to this I found myself remembering a famous line from the biography of Mozart written by Marcia Davenport. Other people have quoted this line to me too, which makes me think it is famous. Davenport was writing about Mozart's death, on Dec. 5, 1791. She wrote:

"Thus died this glory of Catholicism."

It is fascinating to imagine this music being heard in churches in the 18th century, with some of the faithful shaking their heads, thinking, the wheels have come off.

They might have been right. It is passionate music. Hot.

Still, so beautiful ...