Sheet music

Musical contribution - June 2015

Ave verum KV 618 (W.A. Mozart 1756-1791)

Ave verum is a short hymn from the 14th century. The lyrics are attributed to Pope Innocent VI, and are based on a poem in a manuscript from the abbey on the island of Reichenau in Lake Constance. The poem has been put to music by a number of composers, but the most famous composition is perhaps the one by W.A. Mozart.

The brief piece contains only 46 measures, but whole books have been written about this ‘golden motet’. The story goes that Mozart wrote the piece in an afternoon as a token of gratitude to a friend in Baden bei Wien who had done him a favour. The original arrangement is for choir, organ and strings.

The oeuvre of the great virtuoso Franz Liszt - famous for his compositions such as “B.A.C.H.”, “Weinen, Klagen” and “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” - also includes several arrangements of the piece for choir and piano. This month’s musical highlight is one of these versions of Ave verum. Playing this hymn on the ‘German Romantic’ organ type gives the piece a strong emotional charge. When played on three manuals, many eight-foot registers and a expression pedal this piece will undoubtedly sound very different than when it was played on the organ in the parish church of Baden.

Musical regards,

André van Vliet