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Thread: The Order of Mass - the text, the music and YOUR reactions...

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    Default The Order of Mass - the text, the music and YOUR reactions...

    I thought this would be an interesting topic, given how so many composers have set the Order of Mass to music over the centuries.

    Do you have a favourite part of the text, generally speaking? What parts of the Order of Mass (below) do you think have been successfully set by composers? Give examples and discuss as you wish.

    1. Kyrie eleison ("Lord, have mercy")

    2. Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest")

    3. Credo ("I believe in one God"), the Nicene Creed

    4. Sanctus ("Holy, Holy, Holy"), the second part of which, beginning with the word "Benedictus" ("Blessed is he"), was often sung separately after the consecration, if the setting was long.

    5. Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God")

    Speaking of myself, I do tend to like the Gloria as set by various composers. Some I can think of are by Mozart in his Great Mass in C, Ariel Ramirez in his Misa Criolla and also Poulenc's and Vivaldi's settings of it in their stand alone Glorias.

    I also like creative settings of the texts, even when the feel of the music goes against the text a fair bit. An example is the Agnus Dei in Puccini's early Messa di Gloria, which speaks less to the traditionally obligatory angst and more to a kind of earthy joy.

    I must admit that at times I struggle with how composers set the Credo, but its less their fault and more an issue with the text being so long. What I do like about this part is when the resurrection is mentioned. A cliche used by many composers with this bit is in effect to suddenly turn up the light. You get out of the darkness, or at least the more churchy vibe for a moment. One example I like of this kind happens in Frank Martin's Mass for Double Choir. Martin creates such a magical moment here, out of the barest musical elements - its all in the voices, no accompaniment. Amazing stuff.

    What about you? Feel free to say what you think about this topic!
    Last edited by Sid James; Oct-15-2013 at 05:29.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid James
    I must admit that at times I struggle with how composers set the Credo, but its less their fault and more an issue with the text being so long. What I do like about this part is when the resurrection is mentioned. A cliche used by many composers with this bit is in effect to suddenly turn up the light. You get out of the darkness, or at least the more churchy vibe for a moment. One example I like of this kind happens in Frank Martin's Mass for Double Choir. Martin creates such a magical moment here, out of the barest musical elements - its all in the voices, no accompaniment. Amazing stuff.
    Stravinsky, in his own fashion, intentionally flouts all of these kinds of conventions by setting the entire Credo text syllabically, without much reflection of the meaning of the words. In his own words, his intentions were completely sincere, but it may come off as perverse to some.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL...tailpage#t=368

    (In case you miss them, the words "Et resurrexit" are at 8:17)

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    Senior Member Tristan's Avatar
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    The Gloria is also my favorite part of the Mass setting and I like to hear composers' renditions of it (Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass is probably my favorite, second would be Beethoven's Missa Solemnis), including whole works dedicated to just the Gloria, such as Poulenc's and Vivaldi's.

    I also enjoy settings of the Requiem mass. The Credo is difficult, though, I will agree. It is such a large body of text that it is often gone through quickly in musical works rarely with any lines expanded upon or repeated. I don't blame composers for doing that or for skipping it altogether, although of course I like as much musical setting as possible.

    It's interesting that the Benedictus is often separate; to me it is an integral part of the Sanctus, yet most composers treat it as a separate piece, often slow and long in comparison with a rapid joyous Sanctus (best example being Verdi's Sanctus from the Requiem).

    Haydn is probably my favorite composer for masses, followed by Schubert. But it's rare that I've met a mass setting I don't like, even if it's an acapalla baroque mass--those can be beautiful. I've even taken a stab at writing a mass myself.
    A way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tristan View Post
    It's interesting that the Benedictus is often separate; to me it is an integral part of the Sanctus, yet most composers treat it as a separate piece, often slow and long in comparison with a rapid joyous Sanctus (best example being Verdi's Sanctus from the Requiem).
    It depends on the mass, in a traditional (tridentine) high mass with choir, the benedictus would be sung after the consecration, much as we we have the mysterium fidei in the modern liturgy. See wiki. This is a case where older people have a major advantage because they know the old rite.

    Back to the OP - basically plain chant. The good old Missa de Angelis is excellent for congregational performance and in some places will be sung antiphonally.
    Last edited by Taggart; Oct-15-2013 at 08:16.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Senior Member Winterreisender's Avatar
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    The "Sanctus" from Berlioz's Requiem immediately comes to mind as one of my favourite Mass settings. This movement displays some elegant contrapuntal writing for the "Hosanna" section, made all the more effective by the wide range in pitch between the sopranos and basses, sometimes with little else in between. For me, that quite effectively depicts the sound of the congregation joining in with the angels, which is after all how the Sanctus is often introduced in Eucharistic services.
    Last edited by Winterreisender; Oct-15-2013 at 12:36.

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    Beethoven's Credo from his Missa Solemnis - wonderful movement.

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    Senior Member Eschbeg's Avatar
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    My favorite Kyrie is the one from Palestrina's Missa O Sacrum Convivium, for no particularly profound reason. I just think it's gorgeous. Here's the whole mass:


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    Thanks for all your responses. In particular to Mahlerian, I haven't heard Stravinsky's Mass for ages. It is indeed very restrained and kind of low on the thrills, but he did bring out the brass in the hosanna bit in Sanctus movement, it was a bit more animated there. I also liked the Kyrie, kind of reminded me of jazz a bit, that combination of old and new, like the Swingle Singers Bach album. It was interesting for me to hear this again after a long time (probably since the 1990's).

    I also will get to Eschbeg's Palestrina link at some point.

    In terms of the Requiem Mass, that can be included here too, but of course the text is different from the ordinary mass. Berlioz indeed comes to mind for his creative setting of it, the bit in the Hostias with the tuba and flutes being used simultaneously, a thing that struck me when I first heard this work only this year. He certainly wasn't one to do orchestration by the book, and here I'd imagine he deliberately pushed things to get this novel effect.
    Last edited by Sid James; Oct-17-2013 at 03:03.

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    I think the mass genre is wonderful because the words never change. Cantatas and oratorios are inspiring, but they require some effort to get the texts and try to follow the words in a foreign language. But once you know the mass text, you can listen to just about any one of them (there are always exceptions) and immediately know what they're singing.

    Personally, I like the Kyrie. The text is simple, so it doesn't get in the way of the music, and it invites contrast.

    The Kyrie of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is a great depiction of the human condition: The masses cry "Kyrie," but then everything drops out and one person stands alone with his/her individual plea for mercy. And the Kyrie of Bruckner's e minor mass sounds like a leap of faith, like a cry for mercy into a chasm, tentatively waiting for a response. And the Kyrie of Bach's B Minor Mass is unique: the opening is tentative, approaching the Father with extreme honor, bowing continuously, but the part which petitions Christ becomes much lighter, with two women playfully presenting their petition, like a young lady flirting with her fiance.

    It's also fortunate that although many forms of music have come and gone (as with the perrenial question, is the symphony dead), mass settings have been continuous since the Middle Ages.

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    Great topic! In my church the choir is extraordinary, and their voices are like prayer by proxy. We've had Schubert and Mozart masses recently and I'd almost wish they could sing the whole way through.

    Okay, I've gone off topic but I think when done with reverence, the music of the mass is intensely spiritual and profound, other-worldly. I'm not too pushed on composers having secular agendas or playing composers games with the mass - they should subject themselves to the holy!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    . . . their voices are like prayer by proxy.
    There have been times I've felt words are inadequate and have put on something like the Sanctus from Bach's B Minor Mass and let that speak for me.

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    Senior Member mstar's Avatar
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    I haven't heard many masses by the greats.... Do you see them "live," or a recording, or what? Is it the actual Mass where you hear them?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mstar View Post
    I haven't heard many masses by the greats.... Do you see them "live," or a recording, or what? Is it the actual Mass where you hear them?
    I listen to recordings. I have actual mass recordings, but I always seem to fast forward to the parts with music.

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    The Gloria Part from the Mass in B minor will remain as a unique treasure in the history of the religious music I think, I adore also masterworks from early rennaissance flemish composers like Dufay, Ockeghem, Oberchst and Josquin, but perhaps the most unusual holy effect on me is the beginning verse of Agnus Dei in Machaut's La Messe De Nostre Dame (The earliest complete Ordinary Mass composed by a single composer) with it's fully mediaval extraordinary complicated polyphony.
    Last edited by Il_Penseroso; Oct-19-2013 at 16:00.
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    Writing a Credo is not easy. I am rather fond of the Sanctus from the Mass for St Ceclias day by Gounod.

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