When Boris de Schloezer was writing the peroration to his monograph on Stravinsky (published in Paris in 1929), he could not resist trying to peep into the future.
`What ought we still to expect from Stravinsky, who is today in the prime of life and the full flowering of his genius? What will his next work be? In what new direction will he set out -- to our pleasure and our surprise? Logically after Apollo Musagetes he ought to give us a Mass: but our logic is not necessarily his.'
Schloezer's prophecy was made shortly after Stravinsky had rejoined the Russian Orthodox Church in 1926; but in the event the direction taken by his music after Oedipus Rex and Apollo led, not to a Mass, but to the semi-dramatised Symphony of Psalms. It was not until 1942 or 1943 when by chance he came across some Masses by Mozart in a second-hand music store in Los Angeles that the idea of writing such a work himself began to take root. In his Expositions he writes: `As I played through these rococo-operatic sweets-of-sin, I knew I had to write a Mass of my own, but a real one.' What he meant by a `real one' was a Roman Catholic Mass that could be used liturgically, for the Orthodox Church proscribes musical instruments in its services and, as he explained in his Expositions, he could `endure unaccompanied singing in only the most harmoniously primitive music.' In addition, he restricted the orchestra to ten instruments and four-part choir.
It was obvious that Stravinsky viewed Mozart's decorative style with distaste (Craft, Chr). In comparison, his Mass would be cold, severe, and lofty.
His views were expressed more fully in a conversation with Evelyn Waugh, as reported by Robert Craft.
`My Mass was not composed for concert performances but for use in the church. It is liturgical and almost without ornament. In making a musical setting of the Credo I wished only to preserve the text in a special way. One composes a march to facilitate marching men, so with my Credo I hope to provide an aid to the text. The Credo is the longest movement. There is much to believe.'
On another occasion he was reported as saying that he wanted to write `very cold music, absolutely cold, that will appeal directly to the spirit.'
(White, Stravinsky: The composer and his works and Walsh, The Music of Stravinsky)
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