Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Landmarks (2)

Mozart Mauerische Trauermusik K477.

As a musical thought experiment, suspend a few beliefs and disbeliefs for a moment and consider Mozart's Freemasonary as a serious religious alternative. The Masonic musical works then uniquely present a Christian sacred repertoire that is neither Catholic nor Protestant. Aside from the texts, what distinguishes this repertoire from other sacred musics, in particular from Mozart's Catholic works?

Two things come to mind: the importance of the wind ensemble, especially the clarinets/bassett horns, and the dynamic shape of the pieces. The wind ensemble represents at once a public form of music-making independent from both court and chapel and the triumph of technical innovation in instrument design with the emergence of the clarinets. The Masses and the Requiem are climactic, perhaps teleological, pieces that inevitably become something larger in the course of a movement. But the Masonic pieces are anti-dramatic (yes, even the Queen of the Night), striking balances rather than climaxes, and often come close to stasis, daring to be simple, clear, yet paradoxically and inevitably, more mysterious.

I think that there is a real tension in late Mozart between an increasingly archaic-baroque catholicism and the classicism of the Masonic works. The "Jupiter" Symphony, a symphony of baroque instrumentation (without clarinets), closing with the finest classical era fugue and possessed by an enlightened transparency, is perhaps the best signal that the composer had found useful resolution to this tension.

1 comment:

M. L. Place Badarak said...

I stumbled upon this interesting thought as I was preparing a lecture for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, which was performing K477: It occurred to me that the what Mozart found in his Masonic brotherhood was recognition and camaraderie for his craft, where he could be "artist" rather than "servant" - it was an earlyday ASCAP or SEAMUS?