Mozart's Mass in C minor

Mozart's Mass in C minor
Queensland Symphony Orchestra. St Stephens Cathedral, Brisbane. 10-11 May, 2024

A full house greeted the opening night of QSO's foray into a program of ecclesiastical music, fittingly performed in one of Brisbane's iconic and historical buildings and to celebrate the cathedral's 150th birthday. Along with the orchestra, conducted with great passion by QSO resident Umberto Clerici, the concert also included four soloists, the Brisbane Chamber Choir and St Stephen's Cathedral Schola, an opening address by the Archbishop of Brisbane, The Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, a brass fanfare (Canzon septimi toni No 1 by Gabrieli) and a short work by Lili Boulanger Psalm 24, The Earth is the Lord's. Though she is not as well known as her sister, Nadia Boulanger, this is indeed a rich and striking work, which includes church organ in the score, and a moving reflection of spiritual devotion from a composer who sadly led such a short life.

Certain elements of this particular Mass are shrouded in mystery because Mozart never completed it and as it was not one of his commissioned compositions, questions have been asked what was his ultimate vision with the work. Though its initial performance included just four movements, with his wife Constanze as one of the soloists, he later added more material and it was later reconstructed by others after his death from various sketches and separate parts and eventually became a much larger opus, having been widely performed since and considered one of his finest of all sixteen masses written. This particular version was arranged by Franz Beyer.

Being an avid fan of Mozart, in particular his operas and instrumental concertos and previously a chorister myself, I found this work somewhat reminiscent of the character of Bach and Handel and lacking in what I find is so unique about Mozart's style. It was, however, apart from a few snippets, new to my ears and couldn't have been a better venue and occasion to hear it as a first and with such polished and experienced performers as sopranos Sara Macliver and Sofia Trancoso, tenor Andrew Goodwin and baritone David Greco and of course the orchestra and two choirs, all contributing to various high-points of a tonal blend which integrated well with the reverberation in the cathedral. This is possibly a score, too, which grows on you being full of soaring solos and sombre spiritual sonority.

For lovers of church music and with the cathedral being such an acoustic treasure for this kind of work, lighting included, this was indeed an evening of exultation successfully capturing the flavour of its intentions in a very professional bold and magnanimous fashion.

Brian Adamson

Subscribe to our E-Newsletter, buy our latest print edition or find a Performing Arts book at Book Nook.