Mass

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Definition

The Mass is a sacred choral work traditionally using the five main sections of the Roman Catholic, Western Orthodox, Anglican or Lutheran Church liturgy.

Features of the Mass include Latin text and polyphonic texture. The first masses composed during the Rennaissance period would have been sung A cappella.

During the Baroque period composers like JS Bach extended the form by composing masses scored for both chorus and one or more solo voices with orchestral accompaniment which naturally led to works being of a larger scale.

In the Classical period, composers like Haydn and Mozart continued to develop the genre with solo voices taking on a more prominent role within compositions. The first example is Haydn's 'Kyrie' from 'Mass in Bb Major' - the writing for the group of soloists is cleverly matched against the chorus.

The opening of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, 'Kyrie' is very heavily scored for both Orchestra and largely homophonic writing for the chorus paving the way for a much lighter texture when the Soprano soloist begins.

In the 20th Century British composer Benjamin Britten wrote 'Missa Brevis in D' for a choir of treble voices accompanied by Pipe Organ. In this example listen to how Britten skilfully blends and resolves discords.

Examples


An example of Joseph Haydn's 'Kyrie' from Mass in Bb Major.


The opening of Mozart's Mass in C Minor.


'Missa Brevis in D' by Benjamin Britten accompanied by pipe organ.

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