Comparison to Mass in C

The C Major Mass was commissioned by Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy (II) to commemorate the name day of his wife, Marie von Liechtenstein. Beethoven’s motivation for writing it, then, was less related to his own religious feeling. Because of this, the style of this mass was similar to that of Haydn’s masses. In fact, this commission was an annual Esterhazy custom fulfilled on six prior occasions by Haydn. The Mass in C, therefore, is not highly creative and is written in a static form. Even some melodies have been more suggestive of Mozart or Gluck than Beethoven.

Nevertheless, Beethoven put enough of his own style into his C Major Mass that he occasionally deviated from conformity to strict conventions. After the first performance of the Mass, the Prince reportedly said, "My dear Beethoven, what have you written there!", evidently in a condescending tone. Beethoven immediately became irritated by this, and he left the Prince’s court on the same day of the performance. The score was then dedicated to Prince Ferdinand Kinsky instead.

Like the Missa Solemnis, the C Major Mass was divided into five movements, and it utilized SATB soloists, a SATB chorus, and a full orchestra.

In the Kyrie, Beethoven uses a sonata form. The first Kyrie is in tonic C major, and its theme is the exposition. The Christe changes to the mediant E and functions and the development. The final Kyrie reverts to tonic FC and recapitulates the theme of the first Kyrie.

In the Gloria, two Allegro sections surround a slower section in a different key. This movement ends fugally with "Cum sancto spiritu in Gloria Dei patris, amen.", which is the customary ending of the Gloria. One can contrast this ending with the Missa Solemnis, where shouts of "Gloria!" instead of "Amen" conclude the section. Inserted here is a clip of the Gloria.

The Credo consists of three sections, the Allegro con brio, the Adagio, and the Allegro ma non troppo. This movement also ends with a fast and lively fugue, which follows the same pattern followed by Haydn.

In the Sanctus and Benedictus, each unit ends with "Osanna in excelsis!", which utilizes the same fugato. Like the Missa Solemnis, the Sanctus and Benedictus are treated somewhat independently, though they are included within the same movement.

The Agnus Dei perhaps illustrates the biggest difference between the Missa Solemnis and the C Major Mass. In the C Major Mass, Beethoven does use the three conventional calls to the Lamb of God, the first two ending with "miserere nobis" and the last ending with "dona nobis pacem". Supposedly, it was the custom in the Viennese Mass for the first sections to be in a minor key and for the last to end in the tonic major with a brighter tempo. Beethoven follows this convention in his C Major Mass, but as previously discussed, completely changed the format of the text and the music in his Missa Solemnis.

Beethoven unifies the C Major Mass by using the same music at the beginning of the Kyrie and the ending of the Agnus Dei. Even the orchestration is the same; only the words in the texts differ.
Agnus Dei

With all of the similarities between Beethoven’s and Haydn’s masses, it is obvious that Beethoven’s C Major Mass was supposed to be in the traditional style of the mass. On the other hand, the Missa Solemnis was written as much for himself as for anyone else, so he integrated his soul into the heart of the Missa Solemnis, giving it a religious signficance far deeper than that of the C Major Mass.

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