Ludwig van Beethoven is the first name people think of when they are asked any question related to Classical music. His symphonies, piano sonatas, and choral works are still performed today, especially his symphonies. Beethoven’s symphonies are well known by all, a good example is his ‘knock-knock’ Symphony No. 5. The rhythmic pattern and minor third skip could be hummed and recognized by many. However, few people know of Beethoven’s masses, the Mass in C major Opus 86, and Mass in D, commonly known as Missa Solemnis, Opus 124. These two masses are significant because they were written in two different points in Beethoven’s life. The Mass in C was written in 1807 and was his first mass written in the traditional style (Solomon 205). The Missa Solemnis was written in 1818, and not finished until 1823 because Beethoven spent more time toying with it until he felt satisfied with it (Schauffler 381). Both masses were written around the same time as his renowned symphonies, No. 5, and No. 9, respectively. However, these two masses are not only significant because they were written in two different times of Beethoven’s life; they were also written in two different periods of music history. The Mass in C was written toward the late Classical period, which lasted from 1750 to 1820. The Missa Solemnis was written at the beginning of the Romantic period, which lasted from 1810 to 1914. Beethoven was at a shift in two different periods of music and he successfully made a career in both and by analyzing and comparing both masses, one can see the changes that Beethoven went through.
This research will be split into three sections, the Mass in C, the Mass in D, and then a comparison of both. Each beginning of each mass will contain the history, the content of the as a whole, and then each individual movement in the work. The third section will contain the analysis of both masses in the same order as the previous sections. It is worth noting that this paper is only a short glimpse into each mass and not a complete analysis.
The Mass in C major was commissioned by Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy in honor of his wife Princess Marie von Liechtenstein (Forbes 422). Unlike his contemporaries who found major work in the church, Beethoven was skilled at creating piano sonatas and string quartets that he did not have a need to go into the liturgical business. However, upon receiving the letter from Prince Esterhazy, Beethoven was eager to write the mass for the prince to gain his favor. He wrote back to the prince stating that he would “[He would] turn over the Mass to [the Prince] with much misgiving, as you are used to having the inimitable masterpieces of the great [Haydn] performed for you” (Schauffler 209). Beethoven may have been trying to ease the Prince’s expectations and as well as his own because Joseph Haydn was Beethoven’s teacher in Vienna, and Haydn had already written six masses for the Prince (Kerman and Tyson 44). When Beethoven replied to the letter on...