Ave verum corpus: influential Mozart score for the crucial Catholic chant
Ave verum corpus LP cover
Ave verum corpus is one of the best-known sacramental chants that originated in the Medieval period and has since been entrenched as the main element of the Holy Communion. Its short Latin text is composed of only eleven lines that immerse believers in meditation on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
Distinguished composers from different eras have set the text to music, with the most famous versions written by Josquin des Prez, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, William Byrd, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There are also instrumental compositions adapted from Mozart's motet Ave verum corpus by Franz Liszt and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Mozart's motet Ave verum corpus was written in 1791 Baden when the composer was visiting his wife Constanze who was undergoing rehabilitation at the spa Baden bei Wien to recover after a difficult pregnancy.
Listen to Mozart's Ave verum corpus performed by Sir Neville Marriner with Academy of St Martin in the Fields:
The piece was reportedly commissioned to be performed at the Feast of Corpus Christi by Mozart's friend Anton Stoll who was the musical director of the parish St. Stephan in Biden. Despite the very modest orchestration of Ave verum corpus—scored for a church choir, organ, and string ensemble in a small town—a number of musicologists tend to consider the motet one of Mozart's most beautiful works, as well as one of his best church compositions.