Mozart 'Great' Mass in C minor
Saturday 27 June 2015 at 7.30pm
  Date:  Saturday 27 June 2015
  Time: 7.30pm
  Venue:  St Matthew’s Church, Kettering Road, Northampton, NN1 4RY
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Sickness and death bind together two of Mozart’s finest works – perhaps his most intense and inspired Concerto (tonight performed by the brilliantly virtuosic son of Northampton, Harry Michalas), and certainly his greatest choral achievement, the ‘Great’ Mass in C minor.

At the time he composed the ‘Great’ Mass in C minor, Mozart would have been just twenty-two years old. He was engaged to Constanze Weber. It’s true to say that he had pursued her sister, Aloysia, first, and then switched camps when rebuffed, but no matter. Suddenly, though, Constanze became ill. Illness, it need not be said, was a far greater concern in the eighteenth century and everything was done to bring her to health again.

When she finally did recover, Mozart vowed to write a Mass in thanks for her life. This he did, despite history having deprived us of a couple of major chunks of it – parts of the Credo and Sanctus are not intact. The story of its première, at the Salzburg court of Archbishop Colleredo seems romantic, if not least for one aspect: singing the female solo was Constanze Weber herself.

The Clarinet Concerto in A was completed in 1791, the year of Mozart’s death, and it marked his farewell to instrumental music. It was also the first clarinet concerto to be written by a major composer – except that Mozart did not write it for the clarinet at all.

The clarinet was not yet in existence, and its immediate predecessor the basset clarinet was just emerging as an orchestral and solo instrument. The inventor of the basset clarinet, and its leading virtuoso, was Mozart’s friend and fellow Mason, Anton Stadler, for whom Mozart had written the Clarinet Quintet. “Never,” wrote Mozart to Stadler, “would I have thought that a clarinet could be capable of imitating the human voice as deceptively as it is imitated by you. Truly your instrument has so soft and lovely a tone that nobody with a heart could resist it.”

The concerto was written in Vienna sometime between the end of September and the beginning of October 1791. The completed score was sent off to Stadler in Bohemia and it received its first performance at Stadler’s benefit concert in the Prague Theatre on October 16, 1791. Seven weeks later, Mozart was dead.


Northampton Bach Choir
National Festival Orchestra

Soprano: Philippa Boyle
Contralto: Esther Brazil
Tenor: Christopher Trenholme
Bass: Peter Foggitt
Clarinet: Harry Michalas
Conductor: Lee Dunleavy

Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A, K 622 (30’)
Mozart ‘Great’ Mass in C minor, K 427 (60’)