Missa Solemnis

Beethoven 101, Part 4: Missa Solemnis

Soon after the composition of the Emperor Concerto, Beethoven’s production began to decline. Most likely due to his increasing deafness, Beethoven has now passed the prime of his career. He soon became completely deaf, and many reported he even slipped into a slight madness.

Beethoven composed two settings of the Mass, his Mass in C and the Missa Solemnis. The Missa Solemnis was written around the same time as his famous Ninth Symphony and therefore did not garner the same attention following its premiere in 1824. While Beethoven was churning out the Missa Solemnis and his Ninth Symphony, the custody battle for his nephew remained a major challenge for the composer. He struggled financially and emotionally, and yet this is when we see the appearance of some of Beethoven’s greatest works.

The Missa Solemnis maintains a distinct difference compared to many of Beethoven’s previous works. When compared to many of his other works, the Solemnis changes its character throughout the piece. It is a complex mass and apparently Beethoven’s own character changed while he was composing the piece. He supposedly went through a almost religious transformation and would often be heard singing and stamping his feet while working on this piece.

The Missa Solemnis was written for the Archduke’s elevation to Cardinal and then to Archbishop. The work, however, was soon forgotten and today is severely underperformed. While Beethoven composed the work, he utilized his aristocratic connections to win custody of his nephew Karl, but ironically Beethoven himself was not entirely a fit guardian for the child. He spent his later years attempting to teach Karl music. He ultimately failed at this endeavor, and it is widely believed his experiences with Karl influenced his musical style during the final stages of his life.


Beethoven 101: Explore the Series

Beethoven 101, Part I: Beethoven’s Life

Beethoven 101, Part II: Sinfonia Eroica

Beethoven 101, Part III: Emperor Concerto

Beethoven 101, Part IV: Missa Solemnis