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Ludwig van Beethoven

Vienna Boys Choir, Vienna State Opera men's choir, "Choralschola der Wiener Hofburgkapelle", Members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Jordi Casals, Wolfgang Kogert

Ludwig van Beethoven, Mass in C major, op. 86

Ludwig van Beethoven had a connection with church music from childhood onwards; even at a very young age, while still in Bonn, he served as court organist. Even though he created relatively few church music compositions, they seem to have been of importance to him in his personal engagement with the faith.

The C major Mass was a commission from Nicholas II Prince Esterházy in Eisenstadt. Every year, on the name day of Maria Josepha Hermenegilde Princess Esterházy de Galantha, there was a great celebration with a representative service. Joseph Haydn's late masses were intended for these celebrations - Beethoven had received the commission for 1807. Haydn's compositions were already held in high esteem at the time, which must have commanded respect from Beethoven, who still had little to offer in this field. Thus, in a letter to the prince, he wrote, "may I also say that I will hand over the Mass to them with much fear, since Their Serene Highness are used to having performed the inimitable masterpieces of the Great Haidn for them."

Knowing the tradition and after intensive study of Haydn's masses, Beethoven transposed the text into a very personal tonal language; as he himself writes, he approached it "in a way that it has rarely been treated before". Perhaps because it was so different, but probably above all because of its late completion and lack of rehearsal time, the premiere in Eisenstadt on 13 September 1807 was anything but a success - at least in the eyes of the Prince.

The Mass gets by without big arias, rather works with all the harmonic, contrasting changing moods, is varied, expressive, but at the same time with a certain withdrawn simplicity in which the text is in the foreground, with its very personally differentiating musical interpretation. Maria Helfgott

Translation: Godwin Gundacker using


Conductor: Jordi Casals
Organist: Wolfang Kogert
Choir: Vienna Boys Choir, Vienna State Opera men's choir, "Choralschola der Wiener Hofburgkapelle"
Orchestra: Members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Celebrant: Peter Schipka

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Trombones and Flutes of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra