commentary to opus 31

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Würzburger Dommesse (Würzburg Cathedral Mass) for Soprano and Baritone Solo, Choir, Congregation and large Orchestra, op. 31 (1967)
Reduced version for Soprano and Baritone Solo, Choir, Congregation, Strings and Organ, op. 31b (1969)

I. Herr, erbarme dich (Lord, have mercy)

II. Ehre sei Gott (Glory to God)

III. Glaubensbekenntnis (Creed)

IV. Heilig, heilig (Holy, holy)

V. Lamm Gottes (Lamb of God)


Frist performance: May 7, 1967 / Würzburg / Kiliansdom
Erika Rüggeberg / Theo Nicolai / Würzburger Domchor / Würzburger Domsingknaben / Städtisches Philharmonisches Orchester Würzburg / Franz Fleckenstein

Duration: 30 minutes

Publisher: manuscript

V. Lamm GottesGemeindeblatt der Uraufführung

For the Liturgy, there is another outstanding composition, the Würzburger Dommesse for the consecration of the reconstructed St. Kilian's Cathedral in May, 1967. It is a "full" mass, i.e. the Proper and Ordinary form a compositional unity. It is true that the Ordinary appeared titled "Cathedral Mass" as op. 31 and the Proper as op. 32 with the title taken from the opening words of the Introit, "Das Heil kommt dem Gerechten vom Herrn" ("Salvation comes to the righteous from the Lord"), but the individual sections are interpenetrated by a similar ground motion and can easily be identified as belonging together. Beyond this, although the German language is used, the form is conceived traditionally with the alternation of precentor and congregation in the manner of the Gregorian chants for the Proper. It is worth noting that a festival mass of this scale and significance was composed in the vernacular so soon after the publication of the Liturgical Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium" (1963) and the Sacred Music Directive "Musicam Sacram" (1967). On the one hand, it may reflect the progressive liturgical thinking of the composer; on the other hand, it may be a recognition of the fact that in the Diocese of Würzburg the vernacular in song had a very old and important traditional place in the so-called "Deutsche Messe" ("German Mass"), even on solemn Holy Days.

"Zum Einzug" ("Processional") alternates brilliant trumpets with woodwind, brass and strings in broad, hymn-like themes on a structure of sevenths to create a solemn Intrada, until the antiphonal response begins between the framing verse of the congregation and the Psalm verse of the solo baritone. Then comes the "Kyrie" ("Lord, have mercy"), again making use of broad, sweeping themes alternating with striking measures from the trumpets until the baritone twice intones "Lord, have mercy", a call repeated by precentor, boy's choir, congregation and finally the choir. The "Christ, have mercy" is sung three times by the solo soprano, the invocation gaining each time in extent and melodic intensity, followed by a similar rendition by precentor, congregation and choir as in the "Lord, have mercy". During this, the solo soprano rises in a vocalise up to a high c above a dense choral texture of towering triads. This intensification of the whole invocation in the third "Lord, have mercy" reaches a climax as the exalted entry of the two solo voices spreads to almost all other participating voices. One is tempted to say that in this structural development one can see the compositional response to the call of the Liturgical Constitution of the II Vatican Council regarding the distribution of roles for all active participants in the liturgy.
The "Glory to God " combines solo baritone, choir and congregation. The following intermediate songs or, better, responses to the readings provide in their choral structure once again a reminiscence of Gregorian chant, in which, just as in the Latin graduals, for example, the final syllable is often set as a huge melodic phrase. This is again the case in the choir settings of text sections. The "Alleliua" reaches in the course of its repetitions an eight-voice double-choir texture, to which is added the solo baritone with a short psalm verse.
In the "Creed", a chordal concept with baritone, choir and congregation again dominates, out of which "He took on flesh" stands out in its richer, partly canonic form.
"Holy" to "greatly praised" is sung in unison by precentor, boy's choir, choir and congregation, occasionally in canon as a genuine acclamation by the congregation with a few highlights from solo soprano and baritone. The "Lamb of God" is as usual divided into three for soloists, choir and congregation.

Franz A. Stein (in "Die Kirchenmusik Bertold Hummels", Tutzing, 1998)

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