Zuszanna Domokos, The Vatican edition of Liszt’s Graner Messe

The Missa Solennis is a milestone in Liszt’s œuvre, the composer himself regarded it as one of his favorite and most important compositions throughout his lifetime. While Liszt was entitled to feel himself as the spiritual successor of Beethoven in the genres of sonata and symphony, in his Missa Solennis he followed the tradition of Beethoven’s grand mass, that is of the Missa Solemnis.
Liszt sent his mass as a present to Pope Pius IX in 1859, just after the publication of the score in the hope that his composition could be performed also in St. Peters Basilica. In St Peter’s Basilica however it was not allowed to perform orchestral masses. For the planned Vatican performance Salvatore Meluzzi, the maestro of the Cappella Giulia the choir of the Basilica, was requested to transcribe an organ version of the mass with accompaniment of cello and contrabass, according to demands of the place. Liszt and Meluzzi were personally acquainted in autumn 1861 in Rome, and Liszt entertained Meluzzi several times in his home as his guest. They performed at the same concert of church music in Rome, and met at the meetings of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia to decide the programs of concerts and jubilees of church music. Meluzzi had an important role also in creating the Italian reform of church music, according to which the organ was the only instrument allowed for accompaniment of the voices during the liturgy, and sometimes it could be followed by some string instruments.
Comparing Liszt’s original score with Meluzzi’s transcription we face two different traditions, two aesthetical aims: on the one hand the tradition of the Baroque and Classical feast mass with tableaus of orchestral colours, on the other the style of church music with very pure, simple accompaniment according to the reform ideas. The study highlights the musical differences between the original score and the organ transcription of the mass against the background of these two traditions, and tries to find the role of the transcription in the music literature.


Key words: Franz Liszt, Salvatore Meluzzi, sacred music, Liszt’s Graner Messe.


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