Mass in D major ("The Luzany Mass"), Op. 86, B153, B175
Burghauser catalogue number
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, Luzany
orchestral version: 11 March 1893, London
organ version: soloists: Zdenka Hlavkova, Anna Dvorakova, Rudolf Huml (?), Otakar Schwenda (?), organ: Josef Klicka, Hlahol of Plzen, conductor Antonin Dvorak
orchestral version: soloists: Clara Samnell, Marian McKenzie, Edwin Houghton, Andrew Black, Crystal Palace Choir and Orchestra, conductor August Manns
organ version: R. Carl, 1963, Saarbrücken
orchestral version: Novello, Ewer & Co. 1893, London
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.
Dvorak’s Mass in D major was instigated by leading architect and patron of the arts Josef Hlavka, later the founder and first president of the Czech Academy of Sciences. In 1886 Hlavka had a new chapel built at his summer residence, a castle in Luzany in Western Bohemia. When the chapel was to be consecrated the following year, he asked his friend Dvorak to write a new mass for the occasion. Dvorak, who thought very highly of Hlavka, was glad to oblige and wrote a mass for solos, choir and organ. He completed the work within three months.
Given the purpose for which the mass was written, and conscious of the fact that it would be performed by semi-professionals, Dvorak opted for a simple form and clearly arranged choral parts. The Luzany 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 Dvorak 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.
Dvorak wrote the mass largely at his summer residence in Vysoka, 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 Dvorak: 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 Dvorak’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. Dvorak conducted the work himself, the soprano part was sung by Hlavka’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 Plzen on 15 April 1888, also conducted by Dvorak. The composer offered the mass to his publisher Simrock, but the latter did not show much interest, thus Dvorak turned to the English firm Novello, who accepted the work and paid Dvorak 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, Dvorak 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 Antonin Dvorak to Josef Hlavka:
“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 Antonin Dvorak’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 Dvorak.”