High Masses by Venčeslav Wratny


  • Aleš Nagode




Among the composers whose work carried out at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century in Slovenia fostered the advance of musical Classicism in Slovene church music it is Venčeslav Wratny who is in virtue of recent research increasingly coming to the foreground. According to scant factual information available so far V. Wratny was at least since 1783 active on the Slovene ethnic territory or in the centres on its fringes. To a much greater significance he is entitled by the extraordinary spread of his compositions in music collections throughout Slovenia, containing according to data available so far as many as twenty-seven church compositions and two secular ones. Among these there are six entirely preserved High Masses with large-scale scoring including also vocal and instrumental soloists. The compositions reveal a composer who was capable of fusing heterogenous stylistic elements into effective compositions. The basic features point to persistence in the tradition of the so-called Neapolitan style. Commonly found in his music is a feeling for what is popular, pastoral; the leading of voices in paralleles of the third and the sixth; the song melodies; and the frequent use of the diminished sixth chord serving to heighten the pathetic and tragic element. The design of the movements in a particular mass has in the forefront a musical form that captures the spirit of the entire movement or section. Noticeable is also the influence of Viennese composers, notably of Georg Reutter, Jr. Here mention must be made especially of the obviously stiff chordal quality of choral sections and the exuberant if thematically poor violin figuration. In places there are indications of relating the movement and mass cycle through re-iterating motivic fragments. The composer was also making use of some of the elements achieved in the development in his period, thus the use of originally instrumental forms (sonata movement, rondo) in church compositions. Occasionally we also come across a more contemporary design of the orchestral sound, where viola, wind instruments, and horns take over the role of middle parts thereby diminishing the role of basso continuo. Wratny's Masses are the work of a skillful and well versed composer who was, in spite of occasional formal schematizing and insufficient invention, capable of creating musically effective compositions.


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1. 12. 1996




How to Cite

Nagode, A. (1996). High Masses by Venčeslav Wratny. Musicological Annual, 32(1), 51-60. https://doi.org/10.4312/mz.32.1.51-60