2013-11-24 Notes from the Bench

Mass in G by Franz Schubert

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate

Franz Schubert (1797-1828) is considered one of the great composers of the early nineteenth-century, an era of transition from the Classical style toward the early Romantic style. This Austrian composer is best known for his 600 lieder, songs for the voice and piano that are settings of German poetry. The beauty and flow of Schubert’s melodies are cherished by musicians and listeners alike, and is among the distinguishing qualities of his music.

The Mass in G is one of six mass settings by Schubert. He wrote this mass in 1815 in less than a week, but it was not published until 1845. This is one of Schubert’s “shorter” mass settings, others are longer and much more elaborate. This original score calls for string orchestra, organ, soloists, and choir. The entire mass consists of six movements: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Santus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei, of which we will include the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth movements during today’s choral Eucharist service.

Schubert was born in Vienna, a city renowned for its blossoming musical culture during the nineteenth-century. Schubert received his earliest musical training from his father, a parish schoolmaster with limited musical training, his brother, and family acquaintances. His musical talent was recognized by Antonio Salieri, a leading authority of music in Vienna at that time. In 1808, Schubert became a student at the Stadtkonvikt in Vienna, or the Imperial Seminary, through a choir scholarship and was exposed to the rich Viennese music scene, especially the music of Mozart and Haydn. Although Schubert was an active singer, violist, and pianist, his true musical genius was shown through his compositions. In addition to his lieder, Schubert composed operas, symphonies, chamber music, and works for the piano. Nearly 1000 compositions were penned by him during his short life. During his lifetime, he enjoyed a close group of admirers that were centered in Vienna. It was posthumously that interest in Schubert’s music increased and his work rose to their present prominence with the repertoire. Schubert supplemented his income by teaching at his father’s school, through the support of his friends, and teaching music for the court of Johann Karl Esterházy. Schubert died following complications with typhoid fever in 1828.

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