Missa Brevis for Mixed Chorus, Piano, Organ, and Timpani
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The Missa Brevis is a choral work for mixed chorus (divisi) accompanied by piano, organ, and timpani. The term Missa Brevis (Latin: short mass) was first used during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in which all the movements of the Mass Ordinary were short. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the term was used chiefly as a setting for just the Kyrie and the Gloria of the Mass Ordinary which was intended for services in the Lutheran church. This composition, Missa Brevis, departs from both of these traditions, and instead of a setting of the Ordinary, here the text is that of the Sequenza (Dies Irae, Tuba Mirum, and Mors Stupebit) from the Requiem Mass. Numerous inspirations were used in developing this work. The first and foremost inspiration came from the thirteenth-century chant of the original prayer of the Dies Irae. The opening motive uses the Dies Irae and serves as a source of unity (cyclic treatment) in each of the three movements. The second inspiration came from the grandiosity of the Requiems of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Giuseppe Verdi. The operatic treatment of the Latin text they used in their corresponding works served as a dramatic inspiration for the Missa Brevis. Another inspiration came from the music dramas of Richard Wagner, particularly his use of leitmotifs. One such example of this is the cyclic treatment of the motives giving the entire composition a sense of unity. The first movement, Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), greets the listener with a Gregorian chant-like melody at a steady Larghetto until a spirited Allegro section (mm. 36-52) details the true nature of the text. In the second movement, Tuba Mirum (The Trumpet Sounds), the mixed chorus is accompanied by the organ alone. In this movement, the music displays the versatility of the organ by using a variety of organ stops which were registered by the organist. The final movement, Mors Stupebit (Death is Stunned), returns to the piano, organ, and timpani accompaniment as it was used in the first movement. The text in the Missa Brevis is set with great consideration throughout the work. Each individual movement details the serious nature of the text that describes the last days of judgment and seeks prayers for mercy. The first four stanzas of the prayer are used in this work with dramatic effect interpolated into each movement. The composition comes to a dramatic closing with a joyful amen. The text used in the Missa Brevis appears in Appendix A with its literal translation.