me, “Agnus Dei” (40 Plays).
A few years ago I was asked to score a couple of pieces for a stage production of Amadeus. A side effect of the project was that I began thinking about Salieri and the very poor light in which that play and film portray him, and how poorly represented his works have been in modern times. Research suggests the bulk if not the whole of the negative portrayals are based on myth and rumor and are heavily contradicted by what facts survive from the era. It’s hard to think poorly of a man whose students included (among others) Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt! All the more so when the surviving letters of Mozart and his father which air their complaints against him sound like simple, sometimes petty, frustrations looking for a scapegoat.
Not long after, I encountered a printed edition of Salieri’s Mass no. 1 in D (“Hofkapellmeistermesse”), the version scored for organ and SATB choir (I understand there is a fuller version with orchestral accompaniment, but I have so far not seen it). Searching at the time, I found no evidence the work had ever been recorded (far more recently, I have heard a performance by Chœur Arsys Bourgogne with the Ensemble Stradivaria), so I decided to attempt a recording myself.
Those who know many of my works have likely observed by now that, in whatever style or genre, they are almost exclusively in minor keys and modalities. It is simply what sounds most pleasing to me. Playing through the various parts and voices of the mass on a piano to get a feel for it, I recognized quite easily that the D major was a bit jarring to my personal taste, so I conceived of doing a new arrangement. I decided to begin with the shortest movement in the Mass, the opening “Kyrie”, and rescore it for piano and strings, and in the process to transpose it from D major to B♭ minor and so set to work.
Mildly satisfied, I decided to try also the “Sanctus” movement as being roughly the same size. By the time I had finished, and previewed the two pieces on a site I used at the time, there had been enough feedback to suggest doing the whole mass, which was eventually completed in early October of 2008. Recently, while going through some older items I ran across the recording and thought, tonight, I would share a piece from it here. This, then, is the closing movement of the mass, “Agnus Dei”.