Robin Nelson on the Mozart and Mendelssohn works to be sung in Marlborough by the Swindon Choral Society
The Mozart Mass will follow a performance of the choral part of Mendelssohn's Hymn of Praise - a work not as often performed as the composer's Elijah, but, says Nelson: "It is full of nice juicy harmonies - it's lovely."
Robin Nelson, former head of music at the College and now living in Avebury and - incidentally - writing his highly entertaining musical memoirs for Marlborough News Online, has been Musical Director of the long-established Swindon Choral Society for the past twelve years.
The Society performs four times a year drawing on a membership of about 100 singers, who come from a wide area including Cirencester and Marlborough.
"I like", he tells Marlborough News Online, "doing really great pieces. Together over the years we've done Bach's St John Passion and his B Minor Mass, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis - and last year Dvorak's Requiem."
Next of their 'great pieces' may well be Handel's Solomon - which includes the much-loved instrumental passage 'The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba'.
For next month's performance, Robin Nelson will be mustering 90 voices of the Swindon Choral Society, the Oxford Sinfonia - a chamber-based group which specialises in Mozart's work - and four experienced soloists.
Both the Mozart - much of which is written for the chorus in eight parts - and the Mendelssohn call for two soprano soloists. He has persuaded Elizabeth Atherton and Elizabeth Donovan to join this performance. They both have wide experience in opera as well as oratorios and masses.
Elizabeth Atherton has sung many times with the Swindon Choral Society - most recently in Dvorak Requiem, which also featured tenor Alexander James Edwards who will be singing in the Mendelssohn-Mozart presentation. The bass soloist will be Alex Jones.
Some people, says Robin Nelson, think much of Mozart's early work is "not very profound", but then he composed three pieces that are both profound and very beautiful: the Requiem written on his deathbed and left unfinished, his Ave Verum Corpus setting of a fourteenth century hymn for the Eucharist, and his great C Minor Mass which is also an unfinished work.
This Mass - "Essentially it is", says Robin Nelson, "an incomplete masterpiece" - was written to show his doubting father how good his son was at writing on serious and great themes, and as a votive offering for his bride, Constanze - a singer in her own right and someone his father thought was unworthy of marriage to his genius of a son.
The Mass lacks an Agnus Dei: "It's so frustrating that it's incomplete." Some conductors choose to repeat the opening Kyrie to close the work.
The score for the Mendelssohn Hymn of Praise is huge. The work is known officially as the second of Mendelssohn's five symphonies - written for the Birmingham Triennial Festival and delivered three years late.
Its first 72 pages are scored for orchestra alone - a symphonic prelude in three parts. Robin Nelson and the Swindon Choral Society have chosen to perform only the choral part of the work, which is constructed on the lines of a Bach cantata.
Mendelssohn was, Robin Nelson explains, "besotted by Bach - and recognised what a towering genius he was." He was one of the first to revive interest in Bach's music, which, a hundred or so years after his death, had fallen out of fashion.
The Hymn of Praise shows clear influences of Bach - most obviously in the reworking of the Bach chorale Now thank we all our God. In a work of ten choral movements, another highpoint is the duet for two sopranos with chorus I waited for the Lord.
The Mendelssohn is sung in English and the Mass, of course, in Latin. Proceeds in excess of costs will go to the Marlborough Brandt Group.
The Swindon Choral Society is giving Marlborough a chance to hear two pieces of music - one a true masterpiece, the other a lovely piece by a follower of Bach.