Franz Schubert's Mass in E flat major D. 950 is an uncontested masterpiece
of Viennese sacred music. Composed in 1828, the year of Schubert's death,
it reaches a depth and a grandeur equaled in his sacred works perhaps only
by the A flat major Mass. Did premonitions of his fatal illness and death
stir him to pour his soul into this work? In any event, it breaks away from
the rather perfunctory quality of his earlier masses. The tragic tones,
austere contrapuntal textures and expressive, dramatic choral writing are
nothing less than profoundly gripping. The unusually large wind section
without flutes recalls Mozart's Requiem, which was the last composition
written by Mozart before his death.
The Vienna State Opera Chorus's All Saints' Day concert has become an
institution in Vienna. Although the superbly homogeneous and subtly shading
chorus plays the most important role throughout this concert, the orchestra
also unfolds its warm and colorful and, at times, forceful personality. The
concert in which this work was recorded took place on All Saints' Day 1986
under the musical direction of Claudio Abbado.