Naperville Chorus – Royal Music

The Naperville Chorus performs two famous pieces, each composed for royalty: Mozart’s Coronation Mass, and Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum.

The Krönungsmesse (German for Coronation Mass), composed in 1779, is one of the most popular of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 17 extant settings of the Ordinary of the Mass. Mozart completed this work in 1779 (he was 23) and it premiered at the Saltzburg Cathedral on Easter Sunday April 4, 1779. The work is scored for SATB soloists and chorus, 2 violins, “Bassi”, 2 oboes, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, 3 trombones and organ. Notable is the lack of violas, typical of music written for Salzburg, and the vague name “basses” for the stave shared by organ, bassoon (specified only in the Credo), Cello and Double bass.The mass appears to have acquired the nickname “Coronation” at the Imperial court in Vienna in the early nineteenth century, after becoming the preferred music for royal and imperial coronations as well as services of thanksgiving.

A Te Deum is a liturgical work of praise, often used as a thanksgiving. The traditional Latin text, thought to have originated in the 4th century, begins “Te Deum laudamus”, or “We praise thee, God”, and this liturgy is still used in many denominations, typically at “matins”– morning prayer services. Handel was no stranger to this text; he had composed at least four earlier Te Deums although some were retreads of other compositions. Many other composers have set this text; the Chorus has previously sung settings by Bruckner, Dvorak, Mozart, and Sir Arthur Sullivan, in addition to a 1989 performance of the present work. The traditional Latin text includes ‘credo’ language, that is, expressions of belief; Handel, writing for an English audience, set his work in English, and the connection to a creed is somewhat muted. The latter portion of a typical Te Deum also borrows from psalm verses. Handel had just been through a three-months-long illness—possibly a stroke, since it affected his speech and cognition— but clearly was back in his element when he dashed off this work; it was performed just ten days after he started composing. These pieces for the King’s homecoming were kept secret; it appears that using them to celebrate the victory was Handel’s own idea. However, while his Te Deum was apparently intended for a grand performance in a large space, such as St. Paul’s cathedral, its initial performance on July 27, 1743 was instead given in the decidedly cramped Chapel Royal.

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