Music for Pentecost 20 – Sunday October 23 2022

Mass for three voices (Sanctus) – Antonio Lotti (1667-1740)

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Antonio Lotti exhibited something of a split musical personality while writing some of the most important music of his part of the Italian Baroque. In his church music, he was an archconservative, writing very learned, by-the-book counterpoint, yet managing to keep the results brilliant. But his music for the operatic stage was equally brilliant while highly dramatic and harmonically daring.

By 1683, when Antonio was a teenager, the family moved to Venice. Here Antonio studied with the important composer Legrenzi. Beginning as a countertenor at St Mark’s Basilica, he worked his way up through the musical ranks at St Mark’s: assistant to the second organist (1690), second organist (1692), first organist (1704), temporary primo maestro di cappella (1733), permanent primo maestro di cappella (1736). His final position gave him a good salary, free lodging, and a handsome coach and horses.

Lotti wrote 16 settings of the Mass ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei). These are nearly all a cappella works in the Roman Missa brevis style. One particular feature of Lotti’s ecclesiastico mass settings is that only one of the three Agnus Dei sentences is set. As the first two sentences are identical, this could mean that the music formed either the first or second verse, the remainder being sung to plainchant or simply omitted. Modern performing editions, such as the one used by our choir in church this Sunday, add the text underlay for dona nobis pacem.

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts.

Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

Gerald Harder