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Ave Verum Corpus

March 28, 2021

Ave Verum Corpus has often been described as one of the few perfect pieces of music ever written. It is a mere three minutes long and simple in musical structure but ranks among Mozart’s best works. Ave Verum Corpus (Hail, True Body), (K. 618), is a motet (a short piece of sacred choral music, typically polyphonic and unaccompanied) in D major composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791.

Mozart composed the motet in 1791 in the middle of writing his opera Die Zauberflöte. He wrote it while visiting his wife Constanze, who was pregnant with their sixth child and staying in the spa Baden bei Wien. Mozart set the 14th century Eucharistic hymn in Latin, Ave Verum Corpus, to music to be used in the Baden church. He wrote the motet for Anton Stoll, a friend of his and of Joseph Haydn. Stoll was the musical director of the parish St. Stephan, Baden. The setting was composed to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi; the autograph is dated 17 June 1791. (The Feast of Corpus Christi falls on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday, and in 1791 was observed on May 25.) The composition is only forty-six bars long and is scored for SATB choir (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), string instruments, and organ. Mozart’s manuscript contains minimal directions, with only a single sotto voce marking at the beginning.

The motet was composed less than six months before Mozart’s death. While Mozart’s Requiem is a full, dramatic composition, the motet expresses the Eucharistic thoughts with simple means, suited for the church choir in a small town which was its intended use. Little would Mozart suspect that his simple work would be featured by virtually every international choir two hundred years later.

I have included the following video that features the Vienna Boys Choir with the musical notation for melody. As this piece was composed for use by church members, it does not take an accomplished singer to handle the melody. Give it a try yourself; you will be pleasantly surprised.

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From → Art, Austria, Music, Writing

  1. Really beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of our favorites when I used to sing with our church choir. I was just at GP Cox’s blog and I saw your father was a concert conductor with the Vienna Philharmonic. I used to listen to them on New Year’s Eve concert. My husband’s grandfather, Gustav Kobbe, was an opera critic for the NY Herald Tribune and was the author of “Kobbe Book of Opera”. I wonder if you have heard of his name.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for reblogging!

    Liked by 1 person

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  1. Ave Verum Corpus – Broadsides – A collection of bits and pieces

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