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    Detail from Henry Ossawa Tanner's painting of the Annunciation to Mary.

    And He Was Made Man

    The Annunciation as Interpreted by Mozart

    By Marianne Wright

    May 11, 2016

    The Plough Music Series is a regular selection of music intended to lift the heart to God. It is not a playlist of background music: each installment focuses on a single piece worth pausing to enjoy.

    Mozart wrote his C Minor mass in 1782 and 1783 as a wedding gift to his wife Constanze, and it was she who sang the soprano aria “Et incarnatus est” at the premiere of the mass in October of that year in the church of St Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg. Among the many glories of Mozart’s music, this piece is uniquely and sublimely beautiful; Pope Francis told a Jesuit magazine in 2013 that, “The ‘Et incarnatus est’ from his Mass in C minor is matchless, it lifts you to God.”

    It starts quietly as a soprano solo reflectively introduces history’s most tremendous event: Et incarnatus est. And he was made incarnate. As the music progresses, the voice soars and is joined and adorned by a trio of woodwinds – evoking the soul aspiring to God – in harmonies that are increasingly exultant yet always expressive of simplicity and wonder.

    Et incarnàtus est
    de Spìritu Sancto,
    ex Marìa Vìrgine,
    et homo factus est.

    And he was made incarnate
    of the Holy Spirit
    by the virgin Mary,
    and was made man.

    If there is a more luminous recording than that made by Sylvia McNair under John Eliot Gardiner’s direction in 1988, I have yet to find it.

    Contributed By MarianneWright Marianne Wright

    Marianne Wright, a member of the Bruderhof, lives in southeastern New York with her husband and five children.

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