Magnificence and passion

At the age of 34, when this portrait was painted, Ludwig van Beethoven was already becoming hard of hearing.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Mass in C major was not well received by the man who commissioned it when the work was premiered in 1807.

“But, my dear Beethoven, what is that you have done again?” said Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy II.

The court chapel master laughed and Beethoven left in a huff.

Gisborne Choral Society musical director Gavin Maclean sees the magnificence in the “long-underrated masterpiece” though, and the choral society will perform the work in August.

“Beethoven composed two masses,” says Maclean.

“Although this one is shorter and earlier than his crowning glory, the enormous Missa Solemnis, it bears the dramatic stamp of the master.”

Prince Nikolaus commissioned the work to commemorate the name day of his wife, Marie von Liechtenstein. Beethoven’s motivation for writing it is said to have been less related to his own religious feeling although the musical form follows the form of music traditionally written for the mass.

The composition opens with a short repeated invocation known as Kyrie (pronounced kiriei) and used in many Christian liturgies. Kyrie translates to “Lord, have mercy”. Gloria, a celebratory passage, follows then there is a statement of belief called Credo.

Sanctus is a short hymn of praise and Benedictus is a continuation of the Sanctus.

Agnus Dei, the “Lamb of God” litany, contains the Latin lines “miserere nobis” (have mercy upon us), which are repeated twice, and dona nobis pacem (grant us peace) once at the end.

Similarities are often noted between this Beethoven mass, and those written by 18th century Austrian composer Joseph Haydn.

But Maclean finds more gold in Beethoven’s mass.

“To the classical grace of his predecessors Haydn and Mozart he added an intense yearning and passion, not least because in the middle of his career he was painfully aware of becoming deaf.”

Accompanied by the Hawke’s Bay Youth Orchestra, and invited local adult players, the Gisborne and Hastings choral societies will join forces for their performance of Beethoven’s Mass in C major, Op. 86 on August 5. The combined choirs will perform the work in English although, in the tradition of the mass, parts of it are in Latin.

The first half of the Beethoven concert will be made up of a quartet from the opera Fidelio and a piano double duo (eight hands, two pianos). The choral society will also perform three choruses from various sources that are by turns dancing, mourning and rejoicing.

“When Beethoven celebrates, you really know about it,” says Maclean.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Mass in C major was not well received by the man who commissioned it when the work was premiered in 1807.

“But, my dear Beethoven, what is that you have done again?” said Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy II.

The court chapel master laughed and Beethoven left in a huff.

Gisborne Choral Society musical director Gavin Maclean sees the magnificence in the “long-underrated masterpiece” though, and the choral society will perform the work in August.

“Beethoven composed two masses,” says Maclean.

“Although this one is shorter and earlier than his crowning glory, the enormous Missa Solemnis, it bears the dramatic stamp of the master.”

Prince Nikolaus commissioned the work to commemorate the name day of his wife, Marie von Liechtenstein. Beethoven’s motivation for writing it is said to have been less related to his own religious feeling although the musical form follows the form of music traditionally written for the mass.

The composition opens with a short repeated invocation known as Kyrie (pronounced kiriei) and used in many Christian liturgies. Kyrie translates to “Lord, have mercy”. Gloria, a celebratory passage, follows then there is a statement of belief called Credo.

Sanctus is a short hymn of praise and Benedictus is a continuation of the Sanctus.

Agnus Dei, the “Lamb of God” litany, contains the Latin lines “miserere nobis” (have mercy upon us), which are repeated twice, and dona nobis pacem (grant us peace) once at the end.

Similarities are often noted between this Beethoven mass, and those written by 18th century Austrian composer Joseph Haydn.

But Maclean finds more gold in Beethoven’s mass.

“To the classical grace of his predecessors Haydn and Mozart he added an intense yearning and passion, not least because in the middle of his career he was painfully aware of becoming deaf.”

Accompanied by the Hawke’s Bay Youth Orchestra, and invited local adult players, the Gisborne and Hastings choral societies will join forces for their performance of Beethoven’s Mass in C major, Op. 86 on August 5. The combined choirs will perform the work in English although, in the tradition of the mass, parts of it are in Latin.

The first half of the Beethoven concert will be made up of a quartet from the opera Fidelio and a piano double duo (eight hands, two pianos). The choral society will also perform three choruses from various sources that are by turns dancing, mourning and rejoicing.

“When Beethoven celebrates, you really know about it,” says Maclean.

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