Also known as Vesperae solennes de Dominica (Solemn Vespers for Sunday), this work was written in accordance with strictures imposed by Salzburg Archbishop Colloredo, strictures Mozart was not particularly fond of, as they bleached church music of operatic styles and brought it largely into conformity with Neapolitan models. But the versatile Mozart could produce masterworks under the most unfavorable conditions, as he did here. The work is scored for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists and choir and chamber ensemble.
Vesperae de Dominica is made up of five Psalm settings and a concluding Magnificat, each movement lasting around four minutes. The opening Dixit Dominus (The Lord Spoke; in C major) imparts a sense of seraphic glee in its energetic character and features some finely imagined contrapuntal vocal writing. The ensuing Confitebor (I will confess; E minor) is troubled in its darker manner, with moderately lively pacing and a feeling of urgency permeating the music. This is one of the more profound movements in this work, and features brilliantly conceived exchanges between the soloists and choir, exchanges that ratchet up the sense of tension.
Beatus Vir (Blessed is the man; B flat major) is bright and lively, again featuring imaginative contrapuntal writing for the soloists and choir. Here the music is joyous and offers needed contrast to the angst predominant in the preceding movement. The Laudate pueri (Praise the Lord, servants; F major) that follows is deliberate in its pacing and more neutral in its emotional temperament, while still imparting a glorious and devotional feeling. In the latter half the music takes on a somewhat tender and consoling character.
Laudate Dominum (Praise the Lord; A major) is mostly relaxed and conveys an elegant manner in the challenging and colorful soprano solo part that dominates this movement. While this music does not have the character of an aria, it nevertheless might well be viewed as being somewhat at odds with Archbishop Colloredo's church music constraints. The glorious Magnificat (Give praise; C major) concludes the work in a most uplifting fashion. Here the music exudes joy and at times mixes a beautifully angelic sense with a jaunty, almost unbuttoned confidence.