The season concludes with a program of coronations. Mozart’s Coronation Mass includes the tender Agnus Dei. The program also includes Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 was a favorite of Marie Antoinette, leading to the name La reine, by which it’s still known today.
- Handel: "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from Solomon
- Mozart: Exsultate, jubilate
- Haydn: Symphony No. 85, La reine
- Handel: Zadok the Priest
- Mozart: Coronation Mass
One hour before the start of each performance in Symphony Hall's Higginson Hall.
Join us for a post-concert celebration of the 2011–2012 Season at Lucca Back Bay.
Orchestra & Chorus
Christina Day Martinson
Krista Buckland Reisner
Sonja DuToit Tengblad
Marcio de Oliveira
Music is an integral component of many celebrations, both private and public. It comes as no surprise, then, to hear a particular type of music specific to an occasion. By direct commission or unintentional connection, the music on today’s concert is associated with royalty of all kinds: biblical, political, and cultural.
George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) spent his youth in his native Germany and moved to Italy at the beginning of the 18th century. There he met many influential Italian musicians and gained invaluable experience composing opera and oratorio. In 1710, he was appointed Kapellmeister to the Elector of Hanover and immediately asked for permission to go to London. Two years later, Handel requested and was granted a second leave of absence, provided he “return within a reasonable time.” He never returned to Germany for longer visits, though, because his employer, the Elector of Hanover, became George I of England. Handel was made a composer of the Chapel Royal in 1723.
Handel wrote his oratorio Solomon in 1748. Act III of the oratorio opens with an orchestral introduction commonly called Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. According to the Bible, the Queen of Sheba comes to Israel to test the renowned wisdom of King Solomon. She is impressed and awed by Solomon’s wisdom and blesses the god of Israel.
Coronation Anthem No. 1, Zadok the Priest, was composed in 1727. One of four coronation anthems Handel composed for George II, this particular anthem has been sung at every coronation since. The story of the anointing of King Solomon by Zadok and Nathan has been part of English coronations since 973. Handel’s text comes from the King James version of the Bible. The clarity of his choral and orchestral writing creates a powerful and lasting effect.
Joseph Haydn’s (1732–1809) Symphony No. 85 in B-flat Major is named for another queen, Marie Antoinette of France, the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria. Of the six symphonies Haydn wrote for Paris in the mid-1780s, Marie Antoinette said that this was her favorite. Both queen and composer agreed on a nickname and the work was published with the subtitle La reine. A slow Adagio section, featuring the short-long rhythms of the traditional French overture, introduces the first movement. In the second movement, Haydn uses a popular French folk song as the theme for a set of variations. In the third movement, Haydn again uses a short-long rhythmic pattern, but now the effect is light-hearted and playful. The final movement continues in the same vein with a dance-like finale.
Wolfgang Amadé Mozart (1756–1791) began performing for enthusiastic audiences in Vienna and Munich by the age of six. Over the next years, he traveled to European capitals, astonishing professional musicians and amateurs alike with his musical abilities and knowledge. Having been given the honorary title of concert master to the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg on October 27, 1769, Mozart was officially appointed to the post on July 9, 1772, with a salary of 150 florins (approximately $8,000 today). Mozart continued to travel; while in Italy in 1773, he composed one of his most-loved works, Exsultate jubilate, K. 165, for one of his favorite singers at the time, the famous castrato Venanzio Rauzzini (1746–1810). Part concerto for voice and part opera aria, this sacred solo work with orchestral accompaniment sparkles with virtuosic effects.
After what can only be described as an atypical childhood, Mozart’s desire for a position at a major European court is understandable. His unsuccessful search for a position marked much of the early 1770s, and a discontented Mozart returned to his duties in Salzburg in 1775. Four years later, he requested and was granted the position of court organist for the Archbishop. In 1781, Mozart left the Archbishop’s court, moved to Vienna, and married Constanze Weber. With the exception of a trip to visit his father and sister, Mozart did not return to Salzburg.
During the 1770s, Mozart composed primarily sacred music for church services in Salzburg as required by his position at the court of the Archbishop. During his travels throughout Europe, he had been exposed to many different styles of writing and surely drew on all these experiences when composing the Coronation Mass. His experience with dramatic composition (opera) is evident in this Mass, as well.
The Mass in C Major, K. 317 was completed in 1779 and probably performed for Easter Sunday that same year. One of Mozart’s most popular sacred works, this was the first of his Masses to be published; the composer felt it was one of his best and most important Mass settings. When Mozart traveled to Munich to produce an opera in 1780, he soon wrote back to Salzburg, asking his father to send several of his other compositions, including the Mass in C. With these additional compositions, Mozart hoped to show his skill in composing different genres of music.
This Mass, now called Coronation, was not used for any coronation ceremony. Although the origins of the name Coronation are not documented, this Mass most likely received its nickname in the early 19th century from being associated with the Imperial Court in Vienna.
The sense of dramatic text setting is heard at the opening of the Mass, as the resounding first syllable of the word Kyrie is followed by a sudden drop to a piano dynamic (soft). Coupled with this is the contrast between the declarative setting in the voices, which is punctuated by a long-short-long rhythm in the instruments. This opening may not sound as contrite as the text seems to warrant, but the next section for soloist complements the bold opening. The first measures of the next two movements, Gloria and Credo, recall the Kyrie in dynamic manipulation and in the interaction of the voices and orchestra.
The final movement, Agnus Dei, is another supplication for mercy and finally peace. Mozart writes a beautifully flowing melody (which seems to presage the aria “Dove sono” from The Marriage of Figaro) for muted violin with a counterpoint in the oboe. The final statement in the Agnus Dei reaches a moment of new expectation; this is answered by the Dona nobis pacem, using a setting very close to that heard in the Kyrie.
Many compositions have gained nicknames through their association with larger works, associations with certain people, or for reasons long lost in the course of history. No matter the history or source, these names are enduring reminders of the continuing appeal and popularity of these compositions.
Program notes prepared by Teresa M. Neff, PhD
2011–2012 Historically Informed Performance Fellow
Artists, dates, and programming are subject to change.