Antonio Salieri: Plenary Mass in C with Te Deum

By Jane Schatkin Hettrick

Antonio SalieriSix oboes, four clarinets, ten bassoons, one contrabassoon, four horns, four trumpets, and two timpani—such are the instrumental forces added to bolster the “usual” scoring of masses performed in the Vienna imperial chapel in order to produce an ensemble fit for a grand occasion. Indeed, what could be grander than the inauguration of a new empire?

On 11 August 1804 Holy Roman Emperor Franz II issued a “Patent,” by which he assumed the office of Emperor of Austria, and thus became Kaiser Franz I of Austria. The creation of an imperial Austria was a momentous event that called for general festivities and a formal celebration. The state-religious service marking Franz’s assumption of this office took place on 8 December. It began with a procession of dignitaries through central Vienna and culminated with a Dankfest (ceremony of thanksgiving) held in St. Stephan’s Cathedral. The music for the Dankfest event was Salieri’s Plenary Mass in C with Te Deum, published here for the first time (C103).

Hofkapellmeister Antonio Salieri (1750–1825) was responsible for preparing the music for the Dankfest. His duties included selecting and/or composing the works to be performed, hiring (extra) musicians, overseeing the production of performance materials, and rehearsing and directing the performance. In preparing the music, he had to consider that St. Stephan’s Cathedral was a vast space—especially compared to the small imperial chapel for which he composed most of his sacred music.

To fit the venue, Salieri created his most monumental work of liturgical music: a composite work consisting of twelve movements. The usual six-movement mass Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei) is interspersed with three movements from the Proper (introit, gradual, offertory), two verses of the hymn Tantum ergo, and a Te Deum—all for double choir. I say “created” because the complete work in its final form took shape in a series of stages over several years. The history of this Gesamtkunstwerk began in 1799, when Salieri composed a double-choir mass, gradual, offertory, and Te Deum for a planned peace celebration. Apparently this celebration did not take place, so, according to his first biographer, Ignaz Franz von Mosel, “these compositions remained for a later opportunity.” That opportunity came in 1804: Mosel goes on to report that these compositions “were performed at an eternally memorable occasion in the history of the world, at the celebration in which our most gracious monarch assumed the office of Emperor of Austria.”

The 1799 pieces were complete and ready to go in 1804, with all of their performance parts copied, and none of them had been performed yet except the Te Deum, which had been based on a setting originally composed in 1790 for the coronation of Leopold II. But Salieri determined that even bigger, more imposing music was needed for this momentous event. He added thirty-one wind instruments and extra timpani to the original scoring, and significantly increased the numbers of existing string and choral parts. Only the two trombone parts remained unincreased from the original scoring. For the Te Deum, Salieri reworked his original setting by adding a second choir, though he made surprisingly few changes to the original structure of the piece.

In spite of the extensive alterations he made to the original versions of the pieces, Salieri did not notate new scores except for the Te Deum. Rather, he indicated the changes by three means: adding annotations to the original scores, emending and correcting some of the original performance parts, and preparing additional performance parts. In the scores, he used a nonmusical code of three letters—P, S, and T—to signal the passages where the new parts are to play with choir 1 (P for “primo”), choir 2 (S for “secondo”), or in tutti sections (T). For instruments not represented on the original scores (namely, clarinets and horns), he had new performance parts prepared. He also converted some parts from one instrument to another, e.g., from oboe to clarinet. In the case of the gradual “Venite gentes,” Salieri seems to have revised his original setting in order to accommodate a different text better suited to the new occasion—but because he did not write out a new score, I had to reconstruct his revised version from one of his drafts and from other manuscript sources, including performance parts and a late fair copy of the original text setting. With its multiplicity of disparate sources, some in sketchy or fragmentary form, this work would delight the mind of a cryptologist!

Salieri also composed two new pieces for the imperial Dankfest that were not part of the work in its original form. He added an introit (“Beata gens”) to the mass and framed the mass with two verses of the hymn Tantum ergo, one at the beginning and the concluding doxology verse at the end. In this he honored Hofkapelle tradition, which records occasional performances of the Tantum ergo as part of a “Segen vor und nach dem Amt” (service of blessing before and after the mass). From an annotation in an autograph manuscript particella containing added oboe and bassoon parts, we know that the Te Deum opened the ceremony instead of being sung after the mass in the more usual practice; the particella bears the heading “Te Deum—ed in seguito il restante di tutta la Funzione” (Te Deum—and following, the rest of the entire ceremony), with every piece in order.

The Wiener Zeitung (12 December 1804) described the music of the Dankfest in glowing terms, noting the unusual size of the ensemble: “The music was all newly composed for this celebration by the first imperial royal Hofkapellmeister Salieri and was masterfully performed by the entire imperial royal Hofkapelle ensemble and other musicians and a very large orchestra.”

In its musical style, the Mass in C is a hybrid. It stands well within the Viennese tradition, resembling Salieri’s other mass settings, but it has some unusual features nevertheless. First, plenary masses are rare in Viennese liturgical music; they are not found among the works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, or Schubert. In writing for double choir, also uncommon in Vienna, Salieri may have been reaching back to the Venetian polychoral tradition, part of his own northern Italian heritage. Throughout these pieces he skillfully explores varied combinations of the different sound groups to achieve dramatic effects. In the Credo, for example, he combines a unison, chant-like presentation of the entire text in choir I punctuated by repeated cries of “Credo” by choir II, thus placing Salieri’s mass in the category of “Credo mass.” There are also several striking tonal contrasts between movements, such as the use of A major for the Credo and E-flat major for the Benedictus.

The entire set of works received its first modern performance in 2006 in Vienna’s Minoritenkirche, the Italian Congregation of which Salieri had been a member. Directed by Uwe Christian Harrer, artistic director of the Vienna Hofkapelle and the Vienna Choirboys, this performance was based on a reduced version of the scores, in which the number of wind parts had been cut to a more manageable size while preserving all the constituent tone colors. The result? We confirmed that the use of smaller forces did not erode the essence of Salieri’s music. The lesson? Realistically, for modern ensembles lacking the resources of the imperial Hofkapelle, the use of a judiciously reduced scoring will make it possible for this “grand music for an imperial occasion” to be heard today.


 

Jane Schatkin Hettrick

Jane Schatkin Hettrick Professor of Music emeritus at Rider University, began her life in music as an organist. While a Fulbright organ student in Vienna, she found the autograph manuscript of Antonio Salieri’s organ concerto in the collection of the Austrian National Library. After editing (and performing) this work, she edited Salieri’s symphonies and has subsequently devoted herself to editing his complete masses: the Mass in B-flat Major in Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich, three orchestral masses (D major, D minor, and the Plenary Mass in C with Te Deum) and one Requiem (Requiem with Two Related Motets) with A-R Editions; and the Missa stylo a cappella with Carus-Verlag. She has also edited music by Anna Bon, Franz Schneider, Florian Leopold Gassmann, Pietro Sales, and other eighteenth-century composers.

Dr. Hettrick has written widely on the sacred music and liturgy of both the Catholic and Lutheran traditions, with over 150 articles, reviews, and book chapters published. Recent writings include “Musical Settings of Clement’s Hymn to Christ the Saviour” (The Seventh Book of the Stromateis, . . .  Clement of Alexandria, 2012); “The Holy Spirit and Music” (Holy Spirit: Unfinished Agenda, 2015); “Music as the Supreme Gift of God” (The American Organist, August 2016); and “A Lutheran Hymnal of the Enlightenment,” (forthcoming, presented at a Reformation 500th anniversary conference, Wittenberg, 2017). Current projects include editions of more liturgical music of Salieri, further research in Lutheran archives, and a translation and study of Arnolt Schlick’s Spiegel der Orgelmacher und Organisten (1511). Dr. Hettrick continues to serve as an organist and church musician.