Florence and Mozart

I am really looking forward to seeing the film Florence Foster Jenkins.  Florence was an American socialite and amateur operatic soprano, except she couldn't sing.  As such she was ridiculed for her lack of rhythm, pitch and tone.  Initially she only gave concerts to her friends but then with the support of an adoring husband decided to hold a public concert in the famous Carnegie Hall in New York.....  I think the film will be enchanting and stars Meryll Streep and Hugh Grant.  Released in early May have a look at the trailer:  YouTube   Here is a clip of the real Florence Foster Jenkins strangling the aria sung by the Queen of the Night from the Magic Flute  YouTube.  Good for her for having a go!

From the ridiculous to the sublime and on to a film some may remember about Mozart called Amadeus.  The soundtrack featured one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, the Kyrie from the Mass in C minor often called the Great Mass.  Although the film portrayed Mozart to be rather an unlikeable idiot, it certainly did justice to his music as you can see from the following clip on YouTube.   This is where Mozart's wife Constanze takes the jealous Salieri some of Mozart's work.

Mozart left the employ of the church in Salzburg 1781 and moved to Vienna to become a freelance composer so it seemed odd that he should write this great religious work in 1782, a year after he left.  It was all to do with his wife Constanze Weber who was expecting a child, it was 'solemnly promised' for when her confinement was over.  Furthermore he used the work to make peace with his father who disapproved of his marriage and promised to have it performed on a return visit to Salzburg.  He did indeed have the work performed in Salzburg with his wife singing the solo part but he didn't finish it in time and then never got round to doing so.

Looking closely at the work there is no doubt that he intended it to be on a monumental scale; 4 soloists, a chorus mostly in 5 parts but at times 8 and a large orchestra.   Mozart had recently been introduced to the great works of Bach and Handel which were to have a big influence on him, it is clear that the C minor Mass was intended to be pitched against the great giants of a former age.

 Mozart only completed the Kyrie, Gloria and Benedictus but the grand scale is evident in the opening movement with the Kyrie.  The movement opens solemnly in the minor key but is lifted with the entry of the exquisite soprano in a major key.  One of of the most sublime moments in all classical music.  Here is the Kyrie on YouTube.    

The recording I recommend of the Mass in C minor is conducted by John Eliot Gardiner with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists.  The Kyrie is sung by Sylvie McNair.   

The Mass in C minor is being performed on 20th August at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms

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Posted on April 22, 2016 .