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Motet Notes

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: "Ave Verum Corpus"


If you have been living on Mars for the last six months you might have missed the fact that this year we celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Why is this celebration important to us? Any excuse to play Mozart is a good one, but it is a very good thing to occasionally stop and think what these cultural giants mean to us. Mozart’s religious music is actually the least important part of his output. His relations to the church were troubled, and unlike Bach he lived in a milieu where the profoundest ideas of the time were not practiced in church. At the same time there are remarkable, profound church works which will never be forgotten.

In the last few months of his life, Mozart was involved in the composition of the Magic Flute and La Clemenza di Tito. These two very different works were to dominate his last year until embarking upon the unfinished Requiem. On June 17 of 1791, his last year, Mozart took a break to compose the profound and heavenly Ave Verum Corpus for chorus and strings. This amazing little work is in his most ethereal last manner. Hushed, never going above the softest dynamics, it gives us a picture of an otherworldly peace unlike almost no other work.

©Craig Smith