Thursday, February 21, 2013

W.A. Mozart between the lines


From: Coronation Mass in C-major (K317)
Rome, St. Peter in Vatican
Herbert von Karajan conducts The Vienna Philarmonic and The Vienna Singverein
Soprano: Kathleen Battle
Altus: Trudeliese Schmidt
Tenor: Gösta Winbergh
Bass: Ferruccio Furlanetto

I suppose Mozart himself introduced the repetitions, no need for a librettist here. There is a subtle difference between saying "who takes away sins" and instead saying "who takes away sins, sins of the world". It distances the narrator further from the sins and adds a bit of side to the statement, a space where sarcasm could easily fit. If you think about each of the repetitions in that sort of way, you might imagine you can glimpse some thoughts originating from the composer rather than from the working text.

In the transition to the repetitions of "give us peace", there is a complete stop after the last "who take away sins". Then, and I don't know but I presume this is from the instructions of the composer, there is an "aaaah" before "give us peace", which is so exquisitely beautiful. It follows the "a" at the end of "peccata". But if you think about it in this other way, it's really saying "Ah give us peace!" To me that's like a Dublinesque "Would you ever give us peace", "Give my head peace!". "F.f.s give us peace" is perhaps too far along that line but you see, no?

There is one line, only one I can spot, where the words are "Dona nobis, nobis, pacem", "Give us, US, peace". It's the line Kathleen Battle sings right after the first line the bass sings, right before the others join in, which gives it another "come on!" sort of feeling as well. While all the other repetitions might be for purely musical justification, though that still doesn't exclude meaning, but this one seems to have none. It is slipped in where it might easily have been omitted.

The ending is thunderingly loud, which does not fit with a sort of meek supplication. It might be either anguished or perhaps angry. I wonder if anything has been written about that? So, I have spaced the words the way I think I hear them. Note: the subtitles in the video don't show the repetitions at all.


Lamb of God, Lamb of God,
who takes away sins,
sins of the world,
have mercy, have mercy on us,
have mercy on us,
have mercy, have mercy
on us.

Lamb of God, Lamb of God,
who takes away sins,
sins of the world,
have mercy, have mercy on us,
have mercy on us,
have mercy, have mercy
on us.

Lamb of God, Lamb of God,
who takes away sins,
sins of the world,

Lamb of God who takes away sins,

Ah
give us peace.

Give us peace.

(Bass)
Give us peace.

(Soprano)
Give us, to us, peace.

(Soprano, Bass, Alto, fugue)
Give us peace.
Give us peace.
Give us peace.
Give us peace.

(Choir and all, in fugue)
Give us peace.
Give us peace.
Give us peace.
Give us peace.
Give us peace.
Give us peace.
Give us peace.
Give us peace.
(lost count!)

Give us -
give us -
give us peace!
Give!
Give!
Give us peace!
Give us peace!

(Lost count, but you see? And that is the end of the entire Coronation Mass, "Give Us Peace!!!", not once but drummed out many times with ever more power.)

This is the most sublime performance by the conductor and Kathleen Battle, especially, who makes it seem effortless. At times you wonder does she breathe at all.