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Thread: Why Schubert masses is not more popular?

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    Senior Member peeyaj's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Why Schubert masses is not more popular?

    Schubert is known for omitting some passages on his masses, so it is understandably that it is not widely performed in Catholic settings, but the dearth of recordings and performance is particularly baffling considering that his masses (esp. no. 5 and no. 6) contain some of the most ravishing melodies and harmonies he have penned. In terms of melodic invention, they could be compared to some of Mozart's and the Mass no. 6 is harmonically daring that approaches Beethoven's Missa Solemnis.

    Special mention: The modulation on this piece is very daring.








    What do you think?
    Schubert manages that most supreme of feats, to be melancholy without being maudlin, his pain is not a mockery of pain but truly heartfelt, and he manages to pass that though with all of its complexities in his music.

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    DrMike
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    I have the 6th, performed by Richard Hickox and Collegium Musicum 90 on Chaconne, and agree that it is very nice.

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    I only listened to Schubert's masses relatively recently, but I agree they are wonderful (at least those I have heard). I do especially love the 6th mass.

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    Senior Member DaDirkNL's Avatar
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    I've listened to them all, the 6th being my favourite. The Deutsche Messe is also wonderful.

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    Partita
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    I'm a big fan of Schubert's liturgical and sacred works.

    It is well known that Schubert had some doctrinal issues with the some parts of the Mass. Like Beethoven, he was brought up in the RC faith but neither of them was a regular Church service attendee. In Schubert's case his attachment to religion was somewhat quirky, but not overall questioning.

    Schubert churned out loads of liturgical and sacred music, not just 6 complete masses but various stand-alone parts of the Mass like the Kyrie, Sanctus, Benedictus, Offertorium. He also wrote several pieces that were formed the accompaniment of other services like the Benediction and the Rosary, e.g. the Tantum Ergo, Stabat Mater, Magnicat, Salve Regina. He wrote very beautiful settings for psalms 23 and 92, and an Oratorio,"Lazarus". He even wrote a Requiem Mass that not many know about, D 453 Requiem in C minor, which was unfinished, and ends abruptly.

    The first four of Schubert's Masses are quite short. The last two, Masses 5 and 6 are much longer. Mass No 5 in A-flat was composed between 1819 and 1822, and then revised several years later. The Mass No 6 in E-flat major, D 950, was written in 1828, the year of his death and was part of Schubert's last great musical efforts, the size and high quality of which must go down as the most monumental last year achievements in the whole of classical music history.

    I haven't studied the exact text in all of Schubert's 6 Masses but I understand that he deliberately left out parts of the Creed that caused him concern. He regularly left out “Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam", presumably because he didn't agree with it. In what many consider to be his best and most famous Mass, Mass 6 in E flat, he also left out several other parts of the Creed: “Patrem omnipotentem”; “Génitum, non factum, consubstantiálem Patri"; and “Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum". I believe that the Gloria in Mass 6 also is truncated by: “... súscipe deprecatiónem nostram. Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserére nobis".

    These various excisions got Schubert into a bit of bother with the Church authorities of the day, and subsequently, but I don't think they necessarily caused Schubert's Mass settings to be set aside completely. Rather I think that some of them were performed.

    Mass 6 is one of my favourite Schubert works. I think it is the most beautiful Mass setting of the whole lot, including any by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, or by anyone elsee. To me, despite its various excisions, it sounds spot-on in terms of getting just about everything right in terms of beauty, balance and piety. Performance is everything here. I have several copies of the work and my favorite version is by Sawallische with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and an all-star line up of vocalists.
    Last edited by Partita; Feb-12-2014 at 09:25.

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    Senior Member Kieran's Avatar
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    Really, composed masses should be about the mass itself, and not the composer. To my mind, they don't have the option to detract from, or edit, the sacred mass. And a lot of masses carry the heavy dirge-like premonitions of drama that are more opera-like to my ears - and that includes Wolfie. Fact is, I rarely listen to Church music outside the Church, which is where it's meant to be heard. I'm not interested in it as entertainment or accompaniment to my drive to town.

    It works best as prayer-by-proxy, bringing the faithful closer to God. I've heard some of Schubert's performed in Church and they fulfill this function: they ease the physique and loosen the spirit so it can gaze upwards to God. I don't know why they'd be less popular, but the excisions might be part of it. I'm not sure what his reasons might be to stamp his own self on the sacred liturgy, but maybe it goes unnoticed in Church, being in Latin, and all that...
    The Brain - is wider than the Sky

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    Senior Member Xaltotun's Avatar
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    I find Schubert's masses (5 and 6) to be some of the best choral music in existence. I often imagine the 5th to be a "believer"-mass, and the 6th a "doubter"-mass, in terms of feeling. Thus they form a nice pair, too!
    Wäre das Faktum wahr, – wäre der außerordentliche Fall wirklich eingetreten, daß die politische Gesetzgebung der Vernunft übertragen, der Mensch als Selbstzweck respektiert und behandelt, das Gesetz auf den Thron erhoben, und wahre Freiheit zur Grundlage des Staatsgebäudes gemacht worden, so wollte ich auf ewig von den Musen Abschied nehmen, und dem herrlichsten aller Kunstwerke, der Monarchie der Vernunft, alle meine Thätigkeit widmen.

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    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    I'm not really familiar with Schubert's sacred choral music except for a Cappricio disc of short pieces featuring Peter Schreier. I love the disc but left it at that. I should and will get into Schubert's larger scale choral works; this thread has been good for me.

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    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    Really, composed masses should be about the mass itself, and not the composer. To my mind, they don't have the option to detract from, or edit, the sacred mass. And a lot of masses carry the heavy dirge-like premonitions of drama that are more opera-like to my ears - and that includes Wolfie. Fact is, I rarely listen to Church music outside the Church, which is where it's meant to be heard. I'm not interested in it as entertainment or accompaniment to my drive to town.
    I pretty much have the opposite opinion, primarily because I am rarely found in a church or temple (I'm non-religious jewish). From my end, Schubert can take any options he wishes.

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  14. #10
    Partita
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    I have carried out a little more research on Schubert's last Mass, D 950.

    It would seem that it was commissioned in 1827 by an old school friend of Schubert, Michael Leitermayer, who was the choirmaster at the church of the Holy Trinity in the Viennese suburb of Alsergrund. This happened to be the same church where Beethoven's body was taken upon his death in March 1827. Beethoven's funeral took place on 29 March at that church.

    It would seem, with some margin of uncertainty, that the work was possibly intended for the purpose of a new "Society for the Performance of Church Music", of which the choir master was a patron, and was intended to be first performed in October 1828. Schubert was a pallbearer at Beethoven's funeral, and deeply admired Beethoven. It is therefore possible that the work itself was not intended so much to be used strictly for liturgical purposes but rather as a type of concert piece, in the manner that Schubert may have seen Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, in tribute to Beethoven.

    Schubert began work on Mass D 950 in early 1828 and was probably finished by June. As it turns out, the work was not performed until about a year after Schubert's death which occurred in November 1828. The work was conducted by Schubert's brother, Ferdinand at the Holy Trinity Church, in October 1829. Meanwhile both Beethoven and Schubert were lying in their graves very close to each at the Währinger Friedhof, not far from the Holy Trinity church, which is now "Schubert Park", following exhumation of both bodies in 1888 and re-burial at Zentralfriedhof, in the Simmering suburb of Vienna. After this performance, the work lay dormant for several decades until it re-surfaced some time in the 1860s.

    In summary, it possible that Schubert may have seen this work more as a concert piece, albeit with very strong liturgical links, rather than as a bona-fide Mass, and this may have led to him feel less inclined to comply with the full textual rigours of the Mass, even more so than in his earlier Masses. [In the RC Church, there is far less latitude permissible in respect of deviation from the standard texts than is seen in some other churches]. Looked at purely orchestrally, the work itself does seem to depart somewhat from pre-existing norms in respect of large-scale standard Mass settings. But this kind of departure was not unique, since Schubert was already throwing convention aside in terms of his late piano sonatas, string quintet, works all written at roughly the same time.
    Last edited by Partita; Feb-12-2014 at 18:57.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Partita View Post
    Mass 6 is one of my favourite Schubert works. I think it is the most beautiful Mass setting of the whole lot, including any by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, or by anyone elsee. To me, despite its various excisions, it sounds spot-on in terms of getting just about everything right in terms of beauty, balance and piety. Performance is everything here. I have several copies of the work and my favorite version is by Sawallische with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and an all-star line up of vocalists.
    excellent recommendation

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    Schubert is one of my loves. I visit his grave every year while in Vienna. He and my other love, Beethoven, are neighbors there. I love Schubert’s Masses. I’m not really a religious person - certainly I don’t consider myself affiliated with any organized religion. I still LOVE religious music. I guess classical music is my religion. It feeds my soul. I just want to be another voice in the admiration of Schubert’s masses, especially the 6th.

    It’s such a loss that Mozart and Schubert both died so young. The world has missed out on so much great music because of that.
    Last edited by gellio; Apr-26-2020 at 16:50.
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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Schubert's masses are superb, some of my favorite Romantic choral music. All of them are pretty consistent to my ears, but the 6th is by far the greatest - Abbado is a must-hear for it. Otherwise the set by Sawallisch for, I think, EMI, is probably the best bet if you want 'em all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    Schubert's masses are superb, some of my favorite Romantic choral music. All of them are pretty consistent to my ears, but the 6th is by far the greatest - Abbado is a must-hear for it. Otherwise the set by Sawallisch for, I think, EMI, is probably the best bet if you want 'em all.
    My favorite is the Harnoncourt. I feel the spirit of Schubert within his readings more than I do under any other conductor. He has said Schubert was a his favorite composer and I think it shows. It's also got Röschmann, Fink, Kaufmann and the Berliner Philharmoniker. All start set. Magnificent.
    Last edited by gellio; Apr-29-2020 at 20:15.
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