A blessing for the liturgy

Janós Czifra, cathedral choir master

Cathedral music in Salzburg has been given a unique opportunity thanks to the reconstruction of the original situation with the pillar galleries in the dome of the cathedral. It is once again possible to perform the works written by old Salzburg masters for two organs and several choirs. Since the interest in historical music has grown tremendously, every modern day church musician is delighted to play Mozart’s church music pieces in the original performance venue.

The division of roles among individual instruments has a long tradition, but in the post-conciliar liturgical interpretation, which has given the congregation a participatory role of celebration, it is has gained a new meaning. For example, the large organ plays solo during some climaxes or accompanies the large choir in the west gallery, in some cases with a large orchestra, while the front galleries are occupied by small ensembles and individual instruments. One of the organs in the dome accompanies the singing of the congregation[A1] , the opposite organ accompanies the precentor and the choir. The performers are thus integrated into the congregation as intended in the liturgy constitution of the Second Vatican Council. 

The model in the north-eastern pillar served primarily to give all participants an acoustic preview for several months prior to the new construction being completed. Given the height of the current dome galleries, the presence of acoustics throughout the entire cathedral was surprising and all those in favour of a reconstruction were impressed with the particular acoustic advantages of the newly designed room. Many services throughout the church year can be accompanied by sophisticated musical arrangements with a variety of participants, even with smaller groups. 

When applying historical experience, reformations in the liturgy and the role of the congregation must be taken into consideration. The altar is placed in the middle of the congregation, while the longitudinal orientation has been changed in favour of a more circular formation. This means that an ensemble in the new gallery is not just a chamber choir concert, but instead it gives the impression of being a member of the community joining the celebration.

It will certainly take some time until musicians and composers are able to integrate the new possibilities in daily practice. The history of church music in this city and in the cathedral has had numerous great role models who had the ability to harmonise all artistic media with the architecture of room. Today, we can only hope that the reconstruction of the original situation promotes the practice of church music and likewise contributes to the praise of God. 


+ The function of the new transept organs

+ Playing Music like Mozart Did

+ The harmony of the organs with the architecture