The Three Versions of Mozart's Exsultate, jubilate

By Richard Hamilton Armstrong and Paul F. Zweifel.

The first composition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart which today still ranks as a masterpiece was the brilliant motet for soprano Exsultate, jubilate (K. 165).[1] It had its premier in Milano's Church of San Antonio on Jan. 17, 1773, when Mozart was a few days shy of his seventeenth birthday! Despite the fact that this short (ca. 14 minute) piece is not an opera, it is the only regularly-performed work which represents Mozart's early vocal music, Italian operatic style being one of the central factors of those works.[2] The early Italian operas are hardly ever heard today so Exsultate, even though it was written in Latin rather than Italian, stands as the only common example of that genre.

The term 'motet' is usually applied to a piece of Renaissance choral music rather than to a work such as Exsultate, but motet is what Mozart called this particular piece. As quoted both by Küster[3] and Münster,[4] Johann Jaochim Quantz wrote, in 1752, 'In Italy the name [motet] is applied at present time to a sacred Latin solo cantata that consists of two arias and two recitatives that closes with an Alleluia, and is sung by one of the best singers during the Mass after the Credo'. Quantz went on to say that '...a motet [does not resemble] a gay opera aria...[but] in general the introduction of more liveliness is permitted in the church music of the Catholics than that of the Protestants'. Küster also points out the similarities between Exsultate and J.S. Bach's solo cantata for soprano, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen.[5] He then explains how Mozart's aria form evolved into his instrumental concertos, a genre Mozart undertook only after having written Exsultate.[6] See also [7].

So devotees of Mozart's operas, of his sacred vocal music, as well as of his instrumental music will find grist for their musicological mills in this wonderful work. But even the dilettante will find the story of how not one but three Exsultate, jubilate came into existence to be a fascinating journey into mostly unexplored musical byways. The original version of Exsultate, which we shall call the 'Milano' version, is the one almost always heard, at least in the United States. The other two versions, which we shall call Salzburg 1 and Salzburg 2, are virtually unknown. In fact they do not appear in Mozart's complete works,[8] and in an informal survey of a dozen active American sopranos and mezzo sopranos who had frequently sung the Milano version the authors found that none knew of the existence of the Salzburg versions.[9]

So here is the story, insofar as it is known, of the genesis of the three Exsultate, as well as some comparative anatomy.

On December 13, 1769, when young Mozart was still a month and a half short of his fourteenth birthday, he set out from Salzburg on the first of his three trips to Italy, accompanied by his father Leopold.[10],[11] This trip, which was to last more than 15 months, was notable for a number of reasons, including Wolfgang's receiving the Order of the Golden Spur from Pope Clement XIV (entitling him to the title Ritter von...[or 'cavaliere'], which, however, he used for only a short time)[12] as well as his being inducted into the Accademiae filarmonicae of Bologna and Verona. It was also during this trip that Wolfgang reproduced from memory the Miserere of Gregorio Allegri which he heard on the Wednesday of Holy Week (April 11, 1770) in the Sistine Chapel. This work, which was in four or five parts with a final nine-part chorus, was supposed to be the exclusive property of the papal choir.[13]

But the most significant aspect of the trip, from a musical point of view, was the production in Milano of Mozart's first opera seria, Mitridate, re di Ponto (K. 87), on December 26. The opera was so well received, being repeated twenty times, that Mozart was given a contract for a second opera which was to be the Carnivale opera for the 1772-73 season. But for this contract, Exsultate would almost certainly never have been written.

Shortly after having arrived back in Salzburg from this first Italian trip, Mozart was ordered by Empress Maria Theresa to produce a work for the wedding of her son, Archduke Ferdinand, the wedding being scheduled for Milano during October of the same year (1771). So the two Mozarts returned to Milano in August; Mozart's wedding serenata teatrale, Ascanio in Alba (K. 111), was a huge success, even overshadowing the official wedding opera, Johann Adolf Hasse's Ruggiero.[14] It was thus with some feeling of satisfaction that the Mozarts returned to Salzburg on December 15 only to have disaster strike. The day after their arrival their laissez-faire patron, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg Sigismund Christoph von Scrattenbach, died. His successor, the infamous Hieronymus Colloredo, was elected on March 14, 1772.

Archbishop Colloredo was represented in the movie Amadeus as something of a monster, and this may have been the least inaccurate portrayal in the entire film.[15] He made it clear that the Mozarts, being his employees, were expected to spend virtually all of their time in Salzburg producing music. (That is, playing music in the court orchestra. Wolfgang's composing--except for some church music--was not considered to be part of his legitimate work load.)[16] Judging by the Archbishop's subsequent behaviour, it is quite clear that absent the contract for the Carnevale opera the Mozarts would never have been allowed to make the trip to Italy. The fact is, Colloredo never gave them leave to be away from court at all except for a brief trip to Vienna in 1773 and a command performance of La finta giardiniera in Munich in 1775--the command by the Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian Josef, could not be disobeyed, even by an Archbishop. (In 1777, when the Mozarts requested leave for another tour, the Archbishop peremptorily refused and actually discharged them both.[17] Upon petition, Leopold was reinstated, but Wolfgang set out on his ill-fated trip to Munich, Mannheim and Paris, accompanied by his mother, who sickened and died in Paris. Wolfgang returned to Salzburg in January 1779 before leaving for good in May of 1781. It was during this last period that Salzburg 1 and probably also Salzburg 2 came into being--cf. below.)

So (only) because of the contract for the Milano opera, Lucio Silla (K. 135), the Mozarts were able to undertake their third journey to Italy, arriving back in Milano in Nov. 4, 1772 (Wolfgang was now 16 years old). The castrato Venanzio Rauzzini sang the primo uomo role of Cecilio in the opera and, according to Leopold Mozart he 'sang like an angel'.[18] The opera premiered on December 26 with some success--it had twenty performances, like its predecessor Mitridate, but was not perceived as being of quite the same quality.[19] Blom[11] has written that Lucio Silla is a mediocre opera but "not without flashes of inspiration" and has suggested that the bad quality of this work was the reason that Mozart was not offered any more commissions in Italy after Lucio Silla.

After the premiere of Lucio Silla, Mozart père spent some time trying to find a position for his son in Italy, in particular in the service of Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany. However nothing came of his efforts, and reluctantly father and son returned to Salzburg in March (1773).

But sometime during the period between the premiere of Lucio Silla on Dec. 26 and Jan. 17, Wolfgang composed Exsultate, jubilate.[20] It was written for, and first performed by, the same Rauzzini mentioned above. The virtuosity of the piece and its florid coloratura style give us some idea today of the quality of Rauzzini's voice. Actually, Exsultate lies quite low in the soprano register, rising only to the A above the treble clef, but most sopranos today move the final cadence upward by an octave, which means the music reaches a high C (Ex. 1). (Strangely enough while mezzo sopranos often sing Exsultate, they customarily transpose it down a whole tone or more--from F to Eb or even D--rather than simply reverting to the original notes.)[21]The original date and authorship of the Exsultate text are unknown. The substandard quality of the Latin suggests a date even earlier than the first known mention of it, which is a Mottetto Canto solo Exsultate, Jubilate listed in the Munich court music in 1753. This work, by Giovanni Battista Porta, has been lost. Since Rauzzini had been the leading singer at the Munich court from 1766 until 1772, it is likely, if unprovable, that he provided Mozart with the text for a new musical setting.[22] Rauzzini, incidentally, was also a composer although his works seem not to be in the standard repertory today.[23]

Why was Exsultate written at this time? One reason, no doubt, was that Rauzzini was available to sing it; also, as we have noted above, Rauzzini (probably) had brought the words from Munich, perhaps with the hope that Mozart would set them to music which he could sing. But a more important reason, perhaps, was the musical ambience of Italy (and of Milano in particular), so different from that of Salzburg where, we recall, Mozart had to beg the Archbishop for permission to write his music. Mozart must have found it very refreshing to be in Milan instead of Salzburg. At that time, Italy was the center of the musical world. In Austria (even in Vienna) music was not yet an important part of the life of the country. (The famous Viennese musical times personified by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Strauss, etc. began only after the arrival there of Mozart [1781].)

This first version of Exsultate, jubilate is the Milano version; the two Salzburg versions were discovered in 1978 at the Stadtpfarrkirche St. Jakob in Wasserburg am Inn, Austria, a hamlet near Salzburg.[24] The author(s) of the Salzburg versions is (are) unknown.

The words of all three versions of Exsultate are reproduced below, along with their translations. (The three texts appear in the Bärenreiter vocal score referred to in Endnote 4. The Salzburg versions also differ from the Milano version in that in the former, Austrian flutes replace Italian oboes.)[25] It is easy to guess that Salzburg 1 was intended to be sung on Trinity Sunday and, in fact, Münster opines that it was first sung on May 30, 1779 (Trinity Sunday) at Mass in Trinity Church in Salzburg by castrato Francesco Ceccarelli. (The diary of Nannerl Mozart, Wolfgang's sister, mentions that her brother and father lunched that day at the presbytery next to the church.) Also, apparently it was transposed up a whole tone, to G Major, because the organ in the Trinity Church was tuned a tone higher than normal.[26] We can conclude that Ceccarelli did not alter the final cadence! (We can also conclude that Mozart was not playing the organ that day, as it would have been child's play for him to sight-transpose into the original key.) Salzburg 2 was clearly intended to be sung at Christmas, but it is not known when it was first sung if, indeed, it ever was.

We have already mentioned that Archbishop Colloredo was not happy to have Mozart composing music except for church services. This makes it possible to guess how the two Salzburg versions came into being. The Milano version is theologically sound, though perhaps vague, in its expressions of joy and praise.[27] Its text is liturgically appropriate for Nativity (as the analysis of the words, below, makes clear), and in its original church setting the obvious references to Christ's birth would not need to be spelled out. However, wanting a work suitable for a different season (Trinity) the Archbishop had new words written for the music (Salzburg 1). What is not so clear is why Salzburg 2, a Nativity piece, was written, since the Milano version was already a Nativity motet. Perhaps the Milano text was not sufficiently explicit for the Archbishop’s simplistic theology. Today, Exsultate is considered a concert piece, rather than a season-specific religious work like Messiah, but it is well to bear in mind that it is in essence a Nativity motet.

The first performance of Exsultate, on Sunday, Jan. 17 was not given during the Nativity season, which ends with Twelfth Night (the Feast of the Epiphany) on Jan. 6. January 17 is the feast day of St. Anthony the Abbot, the founder of monasticism, and this festival was doubtless celebrated with especial pomp in the church of San Antonio Abate in Milano, particularly since that year the feast fell on a Sunday. This church still stands today at Via San Antonio 5, not far from the Duomo, and in Mozart's time it was still associated with an order of clerks regular known as the Theatines (Teatini in Italian). The order, which was suppressed in 1798 by Napoleon, was originally a strict one born from the rigid reforms of the Counter Reformation, but even the strictest would have been happy to celebrate the feast of monasticism's founding father. Moreover, the Theatines had the particular mission of taking an active role in the community by preaching to the people and providing a decorous display of liturgical practice for their edification and inspiration.[28]

On this occasion, the vagueness of the Milano text's references, particularly in the first aria, allowed Mozart's piece to serve a very different feast day. Perhaps the bright dawn mentioned in the recitativo was interpreted against the background of Anthony's torments and temptations in the dark desert night. Although we have been unable so far to find further documentary description of this particular performance, another celebration on May 28th of the same year was described in a contemporary chronicle written by the priest Giambattista Borrani. His description tells us something of the Theatines' celebratory style:

28 May. At the Theatine Clerks Regular there was celebrated in their Church of San Antonio Abate a solemn feast for the Beatification of Paolo Burali of Arezzo, Bishop of Piacenza, then Cardinal of the Holy Church, and finally Archbishop of Naples. The church, the architecture and painting of which do not allow for [lighting] apparatus, was illuminated with 20 torches. Father Asti Teatino [= the Theatine] delivered the oration in praise of the Blessed man with lively images, with excellent style, and with an energetic power of expression. Vespers were solemnly sung by Monsignor Gallarati, Bishop of Pavos in Pontibus, who intoned the Te Deum, followed by selected music and a sinfonia.[29] One can imagine that the feast of St. Anthony would have occasioned something similar to this pomp, though it would have obviously been much less solemn, since it was a daytime High Mass and not a Vesper service. Moreover, this feast would have been very jubilant for the common people, as it marked the beginning of the Carnevale season in the popular calendar. The Exsultate, jubilate would have been the musical selection added to the liturgical program, and was probably given after the Credo as described above in the quotation from Quantz. It is certainly a sign of this feast's importance that two very popular visiting musicians were used to celebrate it.

The expenses for such celebrations were typically met by donations from noble families of Lombardy with ties to the Theatine fathers, and these nobles were no doubt also in attendance at the opera. This suggests an organic connection between the two musical worlds of Church and opera in this instance. Mozart and Rauzzini must have been in a terrible rush to prepare Exsultate for a presentation on Jan. 17 since Lucio Silla, which opened on Dec. 26, was given 'more than twenty times' [30] (which means it had probably just closed the night before). The piece had to be written and rehearsed at the same time that Rauzzini was singing in Lucio Silla; all this was done in a period of some three weeks.

We have no direct evidence for the audience at this performance, but it was likely to be large and socially rather mixed. In the popular mind, St. Anthony was a great healer and comforter, and as we mentioned, his feast was cause for particular excitement as it opened Carnivale. One can imagine the church filled with many types of people: shepherds and farmers seeking a blessing for their flocks (especially for their pigs, which St. Anthony himself had raised, whence he acquired the designation San Antonio 'del Porcello' in the Milanese dialect);[31] slandered women and young girls for whom St. Anthony was reputed to be the intercessor; and even the nobles who paid for such feasts (perhaps because a son or nephew had become a Theatine) and expected to see their money's worth. Though the Latin text was most likely unintelligible to the majority present, the mood and tone of the piece were unambiguously joyful. We are informed by Professor Simonetta Coppa, who has studied the church's artwork in detail, that much of the original organ is still there, and that the former rector was wont to say that Mozart himself had played on it. [32]

There are a number of fine recordings of Exsultate, jubilate available, and its status as a bravura piece is signalled by the fact that it appears either first or last in the order of music on most recordings. The Oiseau-Lyre cassette already mentioned in [23] is of particular interest in that it is the only available recording of Salzburg 1 of which we are aware. (There seem to be no recordings of Salzburg 2). Christopher Hogwood leads the Academy of Ancient Music and soprano Emma Kirkby, who sings in the original key and in a (presumably) authentic 18th century style, eschewing vibrato except for occasional ornamentation. Also, as one would expect in music conducted by Hogwood, the notes are sung as originally written, without the altered final cadence involving high C. Barbara Bonney provides another historical approach, this time for the Milano version, in her performance with the Concentus Musicus Wien (Teldec 4509-95985-2) under Nikolaus Harnoncourt. This recording conveys much better the sound of a church setting (given the reverberating acoustics of the unlisted venue) and features the harder textures of the Concentus' period instruments. The recitativo has only the organ as accompaniment without the lower strings, which reinforces again the church associations. While Bonney's performance is somewhat restrained in its ornamentation, she uses German pronunciation of the Latin, clearly inappropriate if she had hoped to capture the feeling of the piece as performed in Milan by an Italian artist and written by a youthful composer who was in love with Italy. This obviously raises the question of just what constitutes an historically accurate performance! She also could not resist singing the final cadence in its altered form. (Bonney gives virtually the same performance with the English Concert and Choir under Trevor Pinnock [Archiv 445 353-2]; note that the sound quality of this recording is superior to the Teldec version.)

A particularly splendid original instrument recording has John Eliot Gardner conducting Sylvia McNair with the English baroque soloists (Phillips 434 920-2). McNair, with her smooth legato and lovely voice, gives an excellent reading in true eighteenth-century style. (It is particularly interesting to observe the difference in her vibrato between the Handel pieces on the same CD (less) and Exsultate (more)—the Handel predates the Mozart by some 65 years.) While in Exsultate she uses somewhat more vibrato than does Kirkby, especially in the first aria, her presentation is in excellent accord with what one would guess to be authentic Mozart style. (In fact her scholarly approach in the comparison of the Handel and Mozart was eye-opening.) Regrettably, she does sing the altered final cadence. The orchestral playing on this CD is especially good, with a beautiful Mozartean sound from the horns and from the strings accompanying the recitativo.

The other four recordings we want to mention are all of the Milano version; all are in the original key and all introduce the altered cadence. The best, in our opinion, features Felicity Lott's silky smooth Mozartean voice on CD DCA 683; Lott is accompanied by the London Mozart players, conducted by Jane Glover. The recording was made in 1989 when Lott's voice was still fresh and vigorous. Cecilia Bartoli's London recording with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra (1994) under the direction of György Fischer (London 443 452-2) is typical Bartoli, with her characteristic melisma staccato, and is perhaps of a less reverential nature than one would expect in a religious piece of music. She does, pace Deirdre Palmour, sing in the original key even though she is a mezzo-soprano; she hits the high C with effortless ease. Then there is the EMI casette 4DS 538297 in which Kathleen Battle is accompanied by Andrè Previn and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1986). While beautifully sung, Battle's rendition is a bit too operatic for our taste, with heavy vibrato. The same could be said for the 1971 recording by the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis (Philips 412 873-2), featuring Kiri Te Kanawa with her athletic trills. However, one must also admit that a sacred piece born in the penumbra of opera, as this undoubtedly was, can justifiably be performed 'operatically'.

For a complete list of all known recordings, click here.

Milano Text


Exsultate, jubilate,

o vos animae beatae,

exsultate, jubilate,

dulcia cantica canendo;

cantui vestro respondendo

psallant aethera cum me.

Rejoice, resound with joy,

o you blessed souls,

rejoice, resound with joy,

singing sweet songs.

In response to your singing

let the heavens sing forth with me.[33]


Fulget amica dies,

jam fugere et nubila et procellae;

exortus est justis inexspectata quies.[34]

Undique obscura regnabat nox,

surgite tandem laeti qui timuistis adhuc,

et jucundi aurorae fortunatae [35]

frondes dextera plena et lilia date.

The friendly day shines forth,

both clouds and storms have fled now;

for the righteous there has arisen an unexpected calm.

Dark night reigned everywhere [before];

arise, happy at last, you who feared till now,

and joyful for this lucky dawn

give garlands and lilies with full right hand.

Save for a Vergilian reference in the last line [36], this text is thoroughly Christian, written in the loose poetic idiom of the psalmodic voice, though unlike the Vulgate Psalms it features certain recurring rhymes and alliterations(marked in bold). The words of the aria reflect the 'psalmodic imperative' to rejoice in the Lord, as most typically is expressed in Psalms 95-100, though it is found sporadically throughout the Psalter. There is a simple but solid sonority in particular with the words '[...] cantica canendo. / cantui [...]', where the figura etymologica plays on similarly derived words: 'singing songs. / to your singing'.

As for the recitativo text, Münster [4] takes the references to the dawn to be in relation to Mary, but this is clearly wrong. Traditional Advent and Nativity imagery for centuries associates the birth of Christ with the coming of the light (at the darkest time of the year), and this is reinforced in the liturgy by constant recourse to texts taken from Isaiah, the Gospels, and the Psalms. Of particular relevance for the text above is Isaiah 9:2: 'The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined' (KJV), which was often immediately followed in the Christmas liturgy by Isaiah 9:6, 'For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given', thus tying the coming of the light to the birth of the Child. The liturgy also draws on the Gospel of John, where Christ is 'the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world' (1:9).

So this 'new dawn' must be understood in terms of the coming of Christ, and this would be quite apparent against the backdrop of the Catholic liturgy of the Nativity. Mary has her important part in the Nativity, of course, and she too is praised in the liturgy, but often as a kind of afterthought to the main event of Christ's coming. Hence the plain but earnest aria text, which makes an appeal to the Virgin's consoling power.

Aria 2:

Tu virginum corona,

tu nobis pacem dona,

tu consolare affectus,

unde suspirat cor.

You, o crown of virgins,

grant us peace,

console our feelings,

from which our hearts sigh.


The Salzburg texts differ from the Milano text only in the first aria and the recitativo.

Salzburg 1:

Aria 1:

Exsultate, jubilate,

o vos animae beatae,

exsultate, jubilate,

Summa Trinitas revelatur

et ubique adoratur,

date gloriam, date illi gloriam.

Summa Trias adoratur,

date illi gloriam.

Rejoice, resound with joy,

o you blessed souls,

rejoice, resound with joy,

the Great Trinity is revealed

and everywhere adored;

give glory, give It glory.

The Great Triad is adored, give It glory.


Tandem advenit hora, qua Deum colimus in spiritu et veritate,

et nomen illius magnum in omni loco est.

Debitum jam illi sit sacrificium;

sed per Mariam accedamus in fide ad fontem gratiae,

ad thronum misericordiae,

ut magis acceptabile sit obsequium.

At last the hour has come when we worship God in spirit and in truth,

and His name is great in every place.

Now let the due sacrifice be made to Him;

but through Mary let us approach in faith the source of Grace,

the throne of Mercy,

so that our obedience [or service] may be more acceptable.

Salzburg 2:

Aria 1:

Exsultate, jubilate,

o vos animae beatae,

exsultate, jubilate,

Caro factus, factus homo ubique adoratur;

date gloriam, date illi gloriam.

Summa Trias adoratur,

date illi gloriam.

Rejoice, resound with joy,

o you blessed souls,

rejoice, resound with joy,

[He who was] made flesh, made man is everywhere adored;

Give glory, give Him glory.

The Great Triad is adored,

give It glory.

The recitativi of Salzburg 1 and Salzburg 2 are identical.

These texts greatly alter the character of the original Nativity piece. It is not unusual for there to be some mention of the Trinity in the Nativity liturgy, since each Person of the Trinity has a role in the miraculous birth. The roles of Father and Son are self-explanatory, and in Catholic theology the Holy Spirit is the impregnating agent during the Annunciation, and is commonly depicted in medieval paintings as a golden light entering through Mary's ear. But clearly the Trinity has been put unusually in the foreground here, and it is difficult to associate the Milano version's exuberance (so appropriate for Christmas, especially at the Missa in aurora) with the comparatively abstract adoration of the Trinity. Münster [4] indicates a connection between the manuscript copies and the Holy Trinity Church of Salzburg, so the reference may be parochial in the literal sense.

The words of the two Salzburg versions (where they differ from the Milano version) do not possess the lyric beauty of the original. They seem much more prosaic and pointedly doctrinal, as in the invocation of Mary in the recitativo, this time for Her intercessory power, instead of the humble plea for consolation in the moving second aria, for which the new recitativo text makes a heavy-handed transition. There is also a metrical awkwardness to the Salzburg versions. It doesn't even take a profound knowledge of the Latin language to perceive the much greater poetic beauty in the original: '...dulcia cantica canendo / cantui vestro respondendo / psallant aethera cum me' than Salzburg 1’s '...Summa Trinitas revelatur / et ubique adoratur, date illi gloriam / Summa Trias adoratur, date illi gloriam' which scans very awkwardly by comparison. (Not to mention Salzburg 2’s '...Caro factus, factus homo ubique adoratur / date gloriam, date illi gloriam/ Summa Trias adoratur, date illi gloriam'.)

If one attends carefully to the music in relation to the words, it is very clear that the Milano text is best suited to Mozart's composition. It cleverly highlights the words 'dulcia cantica canendo / cantui vestro respondendo', emphasising the rhyme between 'canendo' and 'respondendo' in violation of the syntactical grouping, which would rather link 'canendo' with what precedes it and 'respondendo' with what follows. By taking the two lines together, however, Mozart creates a literalizing musical effect of having the first 'singing' ('canendo') responded to in the rhyming 'respondendo'.(Cf. measures 36-52 of the vocal score, note [4].) 

Exsultate excerpt

The idea of musical 'response' is further underscored by the imitative texture of measures 40-43 where the voice sings 'respondendo', which is then echoed by the accompaniment; then the voice in turn responds to the accompaniment with another 'respondendo', creating an obvious effect of tone-painting. It seems the young Mozart was with this quick gesture showing off his cleverness at setting words to music. All of this is lost in the Salzburg versions with their jejune repetitions of 'revelatur' and 'adoratur'.

Proponents of the philosophy 'Prima la musica e poi le parole' might think this is an unimportant detail--if so, we invite them to listen to the relevant portions of the Emma Kirkby and Felicity Lott (or Sylvia McNair) recordings mentioned above and then reconsider. (An article in a recent Opera News discussed the importance of poetic words to the character of vocal music.)[37] The Salzburg texts are clearly not as compatible with the music as is the original version. This is not surprising to anyone familiar with foreign language opera translated into English; when text is fitted to already existing music, the results are generally inferior to works in which the music is fitted to the words. (An interesting commentary on this was made by John Addison [38] and by Astrid Lange-Kircheim [39].) For example, in order to fit the meter of the music the Greek word 'Trias' was substituted for the Latin 'Trinitas' in both Salzburg versions.[40]

Obviously, the 16-year old Mozart was not conversant with all of the theological ramifications of the Milano text when he created the music for Exsultate. Nonetheless, he wrote music which illuminated and even enhanced the spirituality of the text. How a sixteen-year old could create music of the beauty and elegance of this piece is difficult enough to comprehend. That he could match the music so perfectly to the text, playfully enhancing and amplifying its meaning, is mind-boggling, and a clear augury of the genius to be presented to the world in later years in such works as Le Nozze di Figaro, where the perfect matching of music with text is acknowledged by many musicologists today as virtual perfection. [41]


The authors are very happy to acknowledge useful criticism from Fr. M. Owen Lee. They also would like to dedicate this paper to him, Fr. Lee being the only person they know who is able to speak authoritatively on the three subjects entering into our study: music, classical languages and theology. Further, the second author wishes to thank Fr. Lee for almost thirty years of friendship, encouragement and advice.

The authors wish also to thank Prof. Giovanni Frosali and especially Giampiero Bianchi for their extraordinary efforts in researching the history of the Church of San Antonio Abate in Milano. We thank Prof. Stefano Paveri-Fontana for information regarding San Antonio 'del Porcello' and Prof. Astrid Lange-Kirchheim for a careful reading of the manuscript and for useful comments. Also, we are indebted to Prof. Geore Bent for information on St. Anthony’s Fire.

And special thanks to Kathleen Zweifel, who spent a whole day scouring the music shops of Vienna before she was able to find the music of all three versions, which we had been unable to locate anywhere in the U.S.


1. Hugh Ottaway, Mozart, Detroit, 1980, states 'Unless we include Bastien and Bastienne, this [Exsultate, jubilate] is Mozart's first classic', p. 53.

2. Konrad Küster, Mozart, a Musical Biography, Oxford, 1996, p.26.

3. Küster, Musical Biography, p. 26.

4. Robert Münster, 'Foreword' to W.A. Mozart Exsultate, jubilate Vocal Score, Bärenreiter BA 4897a, 1990. The conductor’s score as well as instrumental parts are available under the reference number BA 4897.

5. Maynard Solomon, Mozart, a Life, New York, 1995, p. 82, refers to Exsultate as a 'brilliant vocal concerto'.

6. Küster, Musical Biography, pp. 28-31.

7. Alfred Einstein, Mozart, New York, 1977, p. 382, goes into considerable detail: 'When Mozart gave himself up to Italian brilliance, a lack of seriousness, he did not forget his ...instrumental schooling... his brilliant [vocal] music is outspokenly symphonic...mixed with the concertante...[Exsultate, jubilate] is very well known, since ambitious (sic!) sopranos like to sing it. Except for the short recitative that introduces the middle movement, it is simply a miniature concerto, with an Allegro, an Andante and a Presto or Vivace, hardly inferior in brilliance or "tenderness" to a true instrumental concerto'.

8. W. A. Mozart, Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, Bärenreiter, Kassel, 1982. BA 4533, pp. 157-176. The orchestral parts given for this Milano version are Oboe I,II; Horn I,II (in F); Violin I,II; Viola I, II and continuo (intended to be played by organ, cello and/or bass).

9. Cliff Eisen, ‘The Mozarts' Salzburg Copyists: Aspects of Attribution, Chronology, Text, Style and Performance Practice’, in Mozart Studies, ed. Cliff Eisen, Oxford, 1991 p. 269, does refer to a 'revised version' of Exsultate. He also provides another reference to Münster's commentary: 'Mozarts Mottette Exsultate, jubilate. Auffindung einer abweichenden Zweitfassung'. Neue Zuercher Zeitung 9-10 June, 1979, pp. 67-8.

10. Küster, Musical Biography, Chaps. V, VI.

11. Eric Blom, Mozart, London, 1935, chap.5.

12. Blom, Mozart, p.54.

13. Edward Holmes, The Life of Mozart, New York, 1921, p.53 quotes Cardinal Pallavicini, in a conversation with Mozart after the service as saying: 'You are aware that the celebrated Miserere of this place is in such high esteem that the musicians of the chapel are forbidden, under pain of excommunication, to take any part of it away, copy it themselves or through another person'. See also Blom, Mozart, p. 52. Dyneley Hussey, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, New York, 1928, p. 52 states that after writing down the music, Mozart hid the music paper in his hat.

14. Küster, Musical Biography, p. 25.

15. Blom, Mozart, p. 63. However, Hussey, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, p. 64 claims 'Colloredo's name has been excessively blackened'.

16. Holmes, Life of Mozart, p. 65, says that Colloredo '...had not the least taste for music, and it was long before he could be brought to perceive that there was anything extraordinary in his young concert-master [Mozart]'. See also Blom, Mozart, p. 68.

17. Blom, Mozart, p. 68.

18. Blom, Mozart, p. 62; Küster, Musical Biography, p. 27.

19. Blom, Mozart, p. 62. However Hussey, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, p. 69, refers to Lucio Silla as a failure, specifically as '...a poor work with flashes of inspiration here and there' and cites this as the reason Mozart received no further commissions from the Italians.

20. Erich Schenk, Mozart and his Times, New York, 1959, p. 65, writes 'during this period Mozart composed prolifically; besides Exsultate he wrote the finale of the Symphony (D major, K. 163) begun in Salzburg (K. 161); four quartets (K. 157-60); a divertimento (K. 186); and the offertory Sub tuum praesidium'.

21. We are indebted to the brilliant young American mezzo-soprano Dierdre Palmour for this bit of gossip.

22. Münster, 'Foreword'. See also Blom, Mozart, p. 358.

23. Kathleen Kuzmik Hansell in The New Grove Dictionary of Music, Stanley Sadie, ed. London, 1980. Vol. 15, pp. 607-609. This biographical sketch of Rauzzini lists six operas, two attributed operas as well as pasticci, incidental music, cantatas, other vocal music as well as instrumental music. Much, but not all, of this work was written in Great Britain, to which he emigrated in 1774 living primarily in Bath. He was a distinguished vocal teacher, numbering among his pupils the famous Nancy Storace who created the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. Apparently Rauzzini came to Milano from Munich in 1772, having been forced to leave because of a sexual involvement with a noblewoman, thereby giving an added dimension to the term "castrato."

24. Münster, 'Foreword'.

25. Stanley Sadie, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Exsultate, Jubilate, Casette no. 411 832 4OH, Liner notes, 1984.

    26. Münster, 'Foreword'. 27. Michael Levy, The Life and Death of Mozart, London, 1971 p. 86, writes: '...the work is a tribute to Rauzzini's voice, which must have been lyrically sure in its ability to leap and trill--perhaps more like an instrument in timbre than what we think of as vocal. Yet the motet is not just a too-familiar Alleluia: between the final carolling burst of joy and the rightly joyful opening, comes a solemn, unmistakably religious Andante. The idiom should not disguise the seriousness, for otherwise much of Mozart's later religious music will--wrongly--appear profane. Just as virtuosity is used to express Giunia's emotions, so in the Exsultate, jubilate it serves an entirely devotional purpose; and perhaps in the very joy is a thank-offering for the success of Lucio Silla'. (The Giunia referred to here is the prima donna of Lucio Silla. Giunia and Cecilio are affianced lovers, threatened by the tyrant Lucio Silla.)

28. It is interesting that the church in which the first act of the opera Tosca takes place, Sant'Andrea della Valle (in Rome) was originally (and in the days of the opera, 1800) a Theatine church. See Susan Vandiver Nicassio, Tosca's Rome, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1999.

29. Biblioteca Ambrosiana, mss. correspondence of Giambattista Borrani, segnatura 1-42, vol. 32. This information was made available to us by the generous personal intervention of Giampiero Bianchi. Note the words 'do not allow for [lighting] apparatus' i.e. candelabra and the like (the original’s 'non permette apparato...', is somewhat ambiguous. Don Franco Carnevali, present-day superintendent of the church, has told Sig. Bianchi that the walls of the church were so richly decorated with tapestries, frescoes and paintings that such apparatus as candelabra attached to the wall would have posed a fire hazard. Presumably the positioning of torches was more flexible. Among the more important paintings dating from Mozart’s day are "The Birth of the Virgin" by Giovanni Ambrogio Figino and "Adoration of the Shepherds" by Ludovico Caracci. There is also a more recent statue of St. Anthony tending a pig. The interior of the church today is very much as it was in the time of Mozart except for water damage due to a leaking roof. A prayer card available in the church has a picture of St. Anthony surrounded by a group of domesticated animals, with a pig the closest. Beneath the picture is the caption "San Antonio, proteggaci da ogni invidia," i.e. St. Anthony protect us from every snare (or trap). Note also that Borrani's attention on Jan. 17th was taken up with a fire that occurred in the spindlemakers' workshop, which was serious enough to require the personal presence of Archduke Ferdinand. No mention is made of the celebration held in the church of San Antonio Abate.

30. Blom, Mozart, p. 62.

31. The following information was provided in part by Prof. Stefano Paveri-Fontana who cites these references: Guida d’Italia, Touring Club Italiano, ninth edition, 1985; Le Strade di Milano, Newton and Compton Editors, 1998; Piero Bergellini, Mille Santi al Giorno, Valecchi/Massimo, 1970; Grandi Dizionario Illustrati de Santi, publication of the Abbey of St. Augustine, Ramsgate, 1990; and Dizionario Enciclopedico "Treccani" 1970. The information on ergot poisoning was provided by Prof. George Bent. The church, today a national monument, was built in 1272 by the Antonian Brothers, although today only the belltower remains of the original construction. It was transferred to the Theatines in 1576 who operated a hospital in the vicinity for the treatment of "St. Anthony’s fire," a painful and sometimes fatal skin disease. (The hospital was closed at about the time the Theatines took over the church, perhaps because of the nearby presence of Ospedale Maggiore, still in use.) The treatment for St. Anthony’s fire was a salve made of pig fat, hence (perhaps) the appellation "San Antonio del Porcello." However there is no unanimity as to the origin of this name. It may also have come from the fact, as given in the text, that St. Anthony was considered to be the protector of (domesticated) animals in general, as indicated by the prayer card mentioned in Endnote [28]. In Le Strade di Milano, page 96 we read (translated from the Italian): "The custom of blessing the animals on the day dedicated to St. Anthony, Jan. 17, is still alive today, especially in Abruzzo. On that day, the Milanese came here (i.e. to the Church of St. Anthony) to receive a special blessing against illness. At that time in the piazza of the hospital, at the end of the street, a fair was held, which culminated in a procession of bakers who came to render homage to their patron saint (besides being the patron of bakers and animals, St. Anthony was also the protector against the dangers of fire)." One can only imagine the confusion, as bakers, pigs, cows, dogs and cats and possibly even firemen marched up and down the street, and perhaps in and out of the church at the same time that Exsultate, jubilate was being sung by Sig. Rauzzini! Other authors have suggested that the pig was a symbol of evil (which St. Anthony was therefore shown as overcoming); and others that it symbolized the privilege enjoyed by the monks of San Antonio to run a pig farm in the midst of the city. (One presumes that after killing the pig to process the fat into the medicine for St. Anthony’s fire, the monks ate the rest of the carcass.) There is a connection between St. Anthony’s being the patron saint of bakers and St. Anthony's fire since the disease is now known to be caused by ergot poisoning. Ergot is a fungus which grows in stored wheat which has been allowed to become damp, and the disease was particularly prevalent in the Middle Ages, when storage facilities tended to be inadequate. (One would suppose that bakers were particularly susceptible to it since they worked with wheat.) In fact, the disease was so prevalent in damper climates (such as northern Italy and France) that many hospitals were devoted exclusively, or almost exclusively, to its treatment, as for example the one operated by the Antonian Brothers in Milan and a similar hospital in Colmar, France. The famous Isenheim Altarpiece, now in the Musée d'Unterlinden in Colmar,  was originally in the church associated with this latter hospital; it was painted by Matthias Grünewald sometime in the 1510’s. This massive polyptych, which contains some 10 panels which open and close like a set of portals, is an extremely impressive and moving picture, in part because some of the images depict holy figures suffering from St. Anthony’s fire, something which would have been well understood by patients attending mass in the church. One sees the skin turned green and covered with painful sores. (The fact that the Antonian Brothers’ hospital in Milan was closed in the late 1500’s may correspond to the dying-out of the disease due to improvement in storage facilities; the few remaining cases could be transferred to the Ospedale Maggiore as noted above.)

32. This information was communicated to us by Professor Coppa through Giampiero Bianchi. For a detailed description of the chapel of St. Cajetan (San Gaetano Thiene, co-founder of the Theatines) in the church of San Antonio Abate, see Simonetta Coppa, 'La cappella di S. Gaetano nella chiesa teatina di S. Antonio a Milano' Regnum Dei XXXVI(1980), pp. 3-30.

33. Psallo means originally 'to play an instrument, specifically the psaltery (i.e. harp--Gr. psalterion)', but in the context of psalmody the word can be very vague; 'to sing a psalm', or just 'to sing'. Strangely, every English translation we have seen so far fails to render the jussive subjunctive psallant properly ('let the heavens sing'); most take it as a simple indicative ('the heavens sing with me'), which would be psallunt. It appears that aethera is taken here as a neuter plural, though it is a masculine word. The confusion stems from the Greek accusative form aethera, which might be mistaken for a neuter plural by a Latin literate (but Greekless) person. One finds this confusion in other religious texts. It is also worth noting the use of 'cum me' instead of the usual Latin 'mecum'; there can be no doubt that the open vowel of 'cum me' is preferable for musical purposes.

34. NOTE TO PERFORMERS: The text as given in the score edited by Münster, is cited thus as 'exortus est...quies' where good Latin would require 'exorta est', since 'quies' is feminine (as is clearly signalled in the adjacent adjective 'inexspectata'). An emendation here is tempting, and appears to have been undertaken in the Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke (Ref. 8). The syllabification is not altered either way, but 'exorta' at least corrects the most flagrant error in the text's grammar. 'Exorta' is found in the London Symphony Orchestra version in the CD liner notes as well as in the liner notes for the Felicity Lott, Sylvia McNair and Cecilia Bartoli recordings, and yet all three sopranos sing 'exortus'. This is ample proof that 'exortus' has taken firm root in the performance tradition, in spite of the new editions and Latin grammar itself. In historical terms, 'exortus' could very likely have been in the original text, given the other eccentricities in its Latin (which point toward an early date for the text). Those obsessed with historical accuracy can maintain it as a lectio difficilior.

35. The phrase 'jucundi aurorae fortunatae' is ambiguous, since the last two words can be in either the genitive or dative case. If they are dative, they are construed as indirect object: 'Give garlands and lilies with full right hand to the lucky dawn' (as some have translated it). But we have chosen to read them as 'genitive of origin' in keeping with Vulgate Latin tendencies, and construe the words with the adjective 'jucundi'--i.e., 'joyful on account of the lucky dawn'.

36. Aeneid 6.883: manibus date lilia plenis. In a Christian context, however, the lily acquires an additional Christological association. Dante already Christianized these lines in Purgatorio 30.19-21, where they apply to the advent of Beatrice (and, interestingly, the simultaneous disappearance of Vergil): 'Tutti dicean: Benedictus qui venis, / e fior gittando di sopra e dintorno, / Manibus o date lilia plenis'.

37. Roberta Hershenson, 'The Forgotten Word', Opera News 64, No. 1, (July 1999) pp. 16-19

38. J. Grout, A Short History of Opera, New York, 1947, p. 145. Grout quotes Addison as having written in the April l3, 1711 edition of the Spectator on the inadequacy of the translations of the Italian operas just then becoming popular in London: '...the soft Notes that were adapted to Pity in the Italian fell upon the word Rage in the English; and the angry Sounds that were turn'd to Rage in the Original, were made to express Pity in the Translation. It often happen'd likewise, that the finest Notes in the Air fell upon the most insignificant Words in the Sentence'.

39. A. Lange-Kirchheim (private communication) has written that the analysis presented here ‘shatters 19th century convictions as to the hierarchy among the arts with music coming first.’

40. Trias is the Greek word for 'Trinity'; Greek words often appear in Latin liturgical texts in haphazard fashion, but this instance is somewhat unusual.

41. Cf. Grout, Short History of Opera, p. 285: 'The secret is rather in the nature of music itself, in the form created by the extension of a melodic line in time, and in the simultaneous harmonic combinations, rhythms and colors of the supporting instruments--all of which somehow (given a composer like Mozart) convey to us just those things inexpressible in words yet infinitely important which make the difference between a lifeless figure and a living being. Take for example the Countess's "Porgi amor" [sic! should be a capital A, since the aria is an appeal to the God of love] or Cherubino's "Non so più" or "Voi che sapete": note how little words alone tell us about the person, and how much about the music'.