Mass in D major ("The Lužany Mass"), Op. 86, B153, B175

Opus number


Burghauser catalogue number

153, 175

Date of composition

organ version: 26 March – 17 June 1887
orchestral version: 24 March – 15 June 1892

Premiere - date and place

organ version: 11 September 1887, Lužany
orchestral version: 11 March 1893, London

Premiere performer(s)

organ version: soloists: Zdenka Hlávková, Anna Dvořáková, Rudolf Huml (?), Otakar Schwenda (?), organ: Josef Klička, Hlahol of Plzeň, conductor Antonín Dvořák
orchestral version: soloists: Clara Samnell, Marian McKenzie, Edwin Houghton, Andrew Black, Crystal Palace Choir and Orchestra, conductor August Manns

First edition

organ version: R. Carl, 1963, Saarbrücken
orchestral version: Novello, Ewer & Co. 1893, London


Liturgical Latin


organ version: organ, mixed choir, soloists (soprano, contralto, tenor, bass)
orchestral version: 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, organ, violins, violas, cellos, double basses + mixed choir + soloists (soprano, contralto, tenor, bass)

Parts / movements

1. Kyrie (andante con moto)
2. Gloria (Allegro vivace)
3. Credo (Allegro ma non troppo)
4. Sanctus (allegro maestoso)
5. Benedictus (Lento)
6. Agnus Dei (Andant


approx. 40 min.

composition history

Dvořák’s Mass in D major was instigated by leading architect and patron of the arts Josef Hlávka, later the founder and first president of the Czech Academy of Sciences. In 1886 Hlávka had a new chapel built at his summer residence, a castle in Lužany in Western Bohemia. When the chapel was to be consecrated the following year, he asked his friend Dvořák to write a new mass for the occasion. Dvořák, who thought very highly of Hlávka, was glad to oblige and wrote a mass for solos, choir and organ. He completed the work within three months.

general characteristics

Given the purpose for which the mass was written, and conscious of the fact that it would be performed by semi-professionals, Dvořák opted for a simple form and clearly arranged choral parts. The Lužany chapel was quite small, so he also restricted the instrumentation, and wrote an accompaniment only for organ. Even with these modest means, however, the composer created an exquisite work rich in melodic and harmonic imagery, whose exceptional quality destined it for far greater things than a mere occasional piece. Particularly appealing is its evocation of old church modes combined with the most up-to-date approaches in harmony at that time, distinct elements which Dvořák uniquely brought together with unerring spontaneity. The work observes the form of the Catholic divine service with all the customary parts of the Ordinary of the Mass. The Latin text is more or less preserved in its traditional version, with the exception of a few places, where the composer made minor changes.

Dvořák wrote the mass largely at his summer residence in Vysoká, surrounded by the natural scenery he loved so much and, despite the fact that he had been commissioned to write it, he worked above all for his own enjoyment. This fact is echoed in the work’s simple intimacy, fervour and sincerity, without any trace of ostentation. The mass is pure Dvořák: it clearly reflects the composer’s humble faith, his natural humility in the face of a higher Order, and his true joy of life. The Mass in D major is one of the most eloquent testimonies of Dvořák’s relationship to humankind, to God and to nature.

premiere and publication

The consecration of the chapel, during which the mass was performed for the first time, took place on 11 September 1887. Dvořák conducted the work himself, the soprano part was sung by Hlávka’s wife Zdenka, and the alto part was performed by the composer’s wife Anna. The first public performance of the mass was held at the Municipal Theatre in Plzeň on 15 April 1888, also conducted by Dvořák. The composer offered the mass to his publisher Simrock, but the latter did not show much interest, thus Dvořák turned to the English firm Novello, who accepted the work and paid Dvořák a fee for it. Nevertheless, this publisher did not print the mass in its original version for organ. At the insistence of the company’s main representative, Alfred Littleton, Dvořák produced an orchestral version in 1892 which Novello published the very next year. The mass soon became extremely popular in England, it was frequently and positively reviewed, and performed both with its original Latin text and in an English translation. The original composition for organ was not published until 1963.

Letter from Antonín Dvořák to Josef Hlávka:
“I am pleased to announce that I have finished the work and that I am supremely pleased with the result. I think it will be a work that will fully suit its purpose. It could be called: faith, hope and love for God Almighty, and an expression of thanks for this great gift, for having been given the opportunity successfully to complete a work in praise of the Highest, and in honour of our art. Do not be surprised that I am so devout, but an artist who is not cannot achieve anything like this. Take the examples of Beethoven, Bach, Raphael and many others. I would also like to thank you for giving me the impulse to write a work of this genre, it would hardly have occurred to me otherwise; until now I had only written similar works of larger proportions with considerable means at my disposal.”

period press review

Musical Opinion, 1 December 1894:
“Numbered among the important musical productions of the past month is Antonín Dvořák’s Communion Service in D (Op. 86), a work of remarkable power and effect and fully worthy of the great reputation of its composer. All now are ready to lend a hearing ear to whatever the Bohemian master may have to say; and, although conscious that the reader will have formed an unusually high opinion of the service, I cannot refrain from saying that we have here a setting of the Credo that is calculated to create a deep and lasting impression. This is truly a magnificent piece of music, such as can only be written at rare intervals even by a Dvořák.”