commentary to opus 5a

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Missa brevis for mixed choir and eight woodwind, op. 5a (1951)

I. Kyrie

II. Gloria

III. Credo

IV. Sanctus

V. Agnus Dei


Première: October 12,1952, Donaueschingen, Katholische Stadtkirche
Freiburger Domchor / Bläser des Freiburger Philharmonischen Orchesters / Franz Stemmer

Winds: 2 Ob., (or Ob., Cor Angl.) , 2 Bssn., 2 Tpt. in C, 2 Trb.(evtl. Tuba)

Duration: 18 Minutes

Publisher: Schott Music
Score: ED 21285 / ISMN: 979-0-001-18036-8
Organ score ED 21285-1 / ISMN: 979-0-001-18037-5
Set of solo parts: ED 21285-11 / ISMN: 979-0-001-18038-2


Conventus Musicus CM 103

The Missa brevis for mixed choir and eight woodwind, op. 5, was written in 1951. It was at the Donauesching Festival of Contemporary Music in 1952 that the work received its world première. The Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie-Gloria-Credo-Sanctus-Agnus Dei) was composed using a modal technique drawing on elements of Gregorian chant and associated modes, taking medieval works as models. The Latin Mass text is set in a liturgically practicable way, compactly chiselled like a wood-carving. The austere diatonic sound of the "Missa brevis" results from the modal procedures in both vertical and horizontal planes. Ideally, the work should be performed during a liturgical celebration of the Mass.

Bertold Hummel



Musica Sacra 2/1992

Missa Brevis" ,op. 5, for choir and eight woodwind, Hummel has written an original and many-sided work. Traditional elements such as the intonation of the Gloria and Credo appear alongside a moderately modern musical language and an unconventional dance-like Gloria.


CVO 2/1953

For the first time, the Donauesching Festival of Contemporary Music has this year found a place for contemporary sacred music and included it in the official programme. Considering the openness with which efforts are made by church music to enter musically new land and its importance for music generally, this inclusion is long overdue. Let us hope that musica sacra nova has now gained a permanent place at the Donauesching music festival. It is no longer the case that the relations between church music and modern music are so completely broken down as in years past, and since church music is not tied to historical styles, it can glorify the liturgy in the language of our times as well. Every age has its own language, as the Popes in their utterances over church music have repeatedly reminded us. Thus Pope Pius XII pleads in his encyclical "Mediator Dei" (1947) for a healthy modernism and in so doing gives new validity to the Psalm text "Sing to the Lord a new song ".
The new work we are discussing here is the "Missa brevis" for mixed choir and eight woodwind, written in 1951 by Bertold Humrnel. The young Freiburg composer (born in 1925), pupil of Genzmer, has demonstrated here, apart from his great craftsmanship - including an unusual mastery of an idiosyncratic but never affected compositional technique - an astonishing maturity and independence in handling his material and has created a valid work in which contemporary musical syntax finds liturgical expression. The musical language, taking its melodic and thematic influence from Gregorian chant, is free of all dependence on traditional harmonic patterns and functionality; on the contrary, the formation of chords - as far as we can talk of chords in the normal sense here - results from independent factors, the horizontal and vertical lines pursue their own goals and are governed by the logic of voice leading rather than considerations of simultaneous sound perception. This ascetic strictness applies to the treatment of the text as well, which, in its elevated declamation in Gregorian style, leaves no room for attempts to expound details. In their claims to dominant positions in the total musical structure, the contestants homophony and polyphony insist separately on their rights. The tasks of the woodwind (2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones) have in the same way no intention of melting into a unified sound with the voices, as we are accustomed from Masses with instruments, but rather in their mixture-like sounds and episodes occasionally even appear to be without relationship to the whole complex, so that one might find the justification of their use not always completely clear. But this Mass, seen as a whole, is undoubtedly a conception which goes its own way in the liturgical field, a work in which the great talent and, implicitly, as it seems to us, the great potential of this young composer are clearly to be felt. We have proof of this already in his chamber music. Cathedral Choirmaster Professor Franz Stemmer is well known on the one hand for his keen sifting but on the other hand for his consistent commitment to recognising and helping up from its baptism valuable new musica sacra. With this new work, he has identified with the aims of the composer convincingly and out of genuine conviction. With his Cathedral Choir and woodwind of the Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra, he has conducted a première in the Catholic City Church, Donaueschingen, which, above all in terms of total concept, offered an uncommonly integrated and powerful interpretation. Immediately after the Donauesching première, Cathedral Choirmaster Professor Franz Stemmer arranged for the work to be performed in Freiburg Minster, where it met with very positive resonance.

Dr. M. Ganter

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