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Ave Verum Corpus for chamber choir and string quartet

December 3, 2023: Brentano String Quartet; Antioch Chamber Ensemble

Mozart’s wife Constanze once declared that church music was his favorite genre and that if she wanted to give him a “special surprise” at a family festivity, she would “secretly arrange a performance of a new church composition by Michael or Joseph Haydn.” Mozart, whose tastes in church music were as conservative as his tastes in most other music were progressive, composed church music throughout his life. He had ample opportunities in his native Salzburg while he was in the service of the Archbishop Colloredo. Fewer occasions arose for him to compose church music after he moved to Vienna, though it was there that he produced the the glorious but incomplete Mass in C minor and Requiem, several other unfinished pieces, and the present Ave verum corpus.

Mozart composed this brief, exquisite motet in June 1791 for Anton Stoll, choirmaster of the local church in Baden where Constanze was taking a cure. The emotional profundity that he achieves through utmost simplicity is nothing short of genius.

Text and Translation

Ave verum corpus, natum

de Maria Virgine,

vere passum, immolatum

in cruce pro homine

cuius latus perforatum

fluxit aqua et sanguine:

esto nobis praegustatum

in mortis examine.

O Iesu dulcis, O Iesu pie,

O Iesu, fili Mariae.

Miserere mei. Amen.

Hail true body, born

of the Virgin Mary,

who having truly suffered, was sacrificed

on the cross for mankind,

whose pierced side

flowed water and blood:

May it be for us a foretaste

in the trial of death.

O sweet Jesus, O pious Jesus,

O Jesus, son of Mary,

have mercy on me. Amen.

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