Angels Making Music. Around 1510
Matthias Grünewald
from the Isenheim Altar
(Colmar, Alsace, France:  Unterlinden Museum)



In order to gain some impression of the influences on the first traces of sacred music, we do not have to go as far back as to the time of "Beethoven's" ancient Egyptian temple inscriptions.  However, a brief look at the music of antiquity prior to the arrival of Christianity might be helpful.  As Hugh M. Miller writes in his  History of Music (p. 3), the sources for the music of this period are not extensive, since, other than the recording systems used by ancient Greek culture, no other systems of musical recording have been preserved that can still be understood, today.  Nevertheless, Miller also refers to ancient Egyptian music that, in his opinion, had a considerable influence on ancient Greek music and on the music theory of the 7th, pre-Christian century, and which was mainly responsible for the development of the harp and of lyre-type instruments.   

To ancient Hebrew music, Miller ascribes great importance on account of ancient Hebrew religious rituals that found expression in monophonic psalm music and in antiphonal choir music (in which one choir or group of singers answers another group of singers).  Moreover, Miller ascribes to ancient Hebrew music a great influence over early Christian music, particularly monophonic choir music.  

"Da die gesamte Musik des Mittelalters im Banne der altgriechischen Musiktheorie steht, ja manche Eigentümlichkeiten selbst unserer heutigen Musik sich nur durch Zurückgehen auf die antike Theorie vollständig  erklären lassen, so ist ein Überlick  über das griechische Tonartensystem als Grundlage für die Darstellung der Musik des Mittelalters unentbehrlich" (what is expressed here is that all of medieval music was influenced by ancient-Greek music theory and that even some peculiarities of today's music can only be fully understood by looking back at ancient-Greek music theory, and that an overview of the entire system of ancient-Greek modes is vital as a basis for the presentation of the music of the Middle Ages). 

This is what the German musicologist Hugo Riemann wrote in his "Kleines Handbuch der Musikgeschichte", while Miller writes:

"The music of the Greeks is the most important in all antiquity for several reasons. (1)  Greek theory had a marked influence upon theory in the Middle Ages.  . .  .  (2)  Throughout history there have been recurrences of Greek ideals in music as, for example, the revival of Greek tragedy in the late 16th century which gave rise to opera. (3)  The doctrine of ethos has been manifest in various ways" (p. 4).

These statements might lead us to conclude that both ancient-Greek music as well as ancient Hebrew music were of considerable importance to the development of Christian sacred music.   Those who want to explore this topic further can do so by following this link to our  Brief Look at ancient, pre-Christian Music.



However, what role did music play in the rituals of early Christianity? 

As Grove reports,

"It can be said that there was singing at the very first Mass.  Matthew and Mark conclude their descriptions of the Last Supper with the same words:  'While singing a hymn they went out to the Mount of Olives.'  If, as the three Synoptic Gospels indicate, the Last Supper took place on the eve of Passover, this 'hymn' might have been the Hallel (Psalms cxiii-cxviii)" (Grove 16, p. 59).

Grove stresses the importance of the fact that the mass had its origins in an ancient Hebrew ceremonial meal and refers to the first description of the Christian celebration of the Holy Eucharist by Justin the Martyr who died at about 165 A.D.  By this time, Grove writes, this celebration was no longer held in the evening, but on Sunday morning. Grove ascribes this change to the report of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11, 17-34, where he, among other things, admonished the abuse of the celebration of the Eucharist as a common meal for the feeding of the hungry.  Let us take a look at the report by Grove from the First Apology, 67: 

"And on the day named for the sun there is an assembly in one place for all who live in the towns and in the country; and the memoirs of the Apostles and the writings of the Prophets are read as long as time permits.  Then, when the reader has finished, he who presides speaks, giving admonishment and exhortation to imitate those noble deeds.  Then we all stand together and offer prayers.  An when, as we said above, we are finished with the prayers, bread is brought and wine and water, and he who presides likewise offers prayers and thanksgiving according to his ability, and the people give their assent by exclaiming Amen.  And there takes place the distribution to each and the partaking of that over which thanksgiving has been said" (Grove 16,  p. 59).

Grove is of the opinion that this exact description might lead us to conclude that the basic form of the celebration of the Christian Eucharist of the 4th century, A.D., was already in place, here, with the exception of the dismissal of the non-baptized before the beginning of the actual celebration, thus at the end of the Fore-Mass.  Grove further points out that Justin's description of the Fore-Mass posed a great deal of problems to liturgical researchers and to musicologists, since traditionally, it had been assumed that it had been adopted 'en bloc' from Hebrew liturgy.  However, according to Grove, the more current research indicates that later Hebrew synagogue liturgy had not even been fully developed, at that time, so that the early Christians could not have adopted it in this form.  However, as Grove also states, the possibility does exist that already during Justin's time, psalms were sung during the Fore-Mass.  

As Riemann points out, in early Christian music, the ancient Greek and Roman musical principle of vowel measuring was replaced by that of vowel weighting.  With respect to this, he writes:  

"Die ersten Aufweisungen des die alten prosodischen Gesetze verleugnenden Akzentuationsprinzips erfolgten an syrischen Hymnen-Dichtungen Ephräms (306-373), weiter an griechischen des Gregor von Nazians (329-390), des Syneius, und an lateinischen des Hilarius von Poitiers (315-66) und des Ambrosius von Mailand (333-397)" (Riemann: 28-29; --

-- Riemann writes here that the first samples of hymnal compositions that no longer followed the ancient prosodic laws were those of the Syrian Ephraem (306-373), of Gregor of Nazianz (329-390), of Syneius in the East and those of Hilarius of Poitiers (315-366) and of Ambrosius of Milan (333-397) in the West,

whereby he also points out that the hymns of Abrosius, besides their new accentuation, still followed the old concept of vowel measuring and that, due to this duality, they were very widely spread.  

Riemann further explains that, in comparison to the predominance of text over melody in ancient-Greek vocal music, early Christian plainsong developed a greater independence of melody whereby melody formed the firm basis to which text had to adapt.  

This development from Justin the Martyr to the above-noted church patriarchs took place during the profound political changes that occurred due to Christianity's becoming the Roman state religion.  With respect to the effect of this on liturgy, Grove comments:  

"No doubt one of the factors involved is the increasingly public and ceremonial character of the liturgy during the period after the emancipation of Christianity under Constantine in 313; it was a liturgy, moreover, conducted within the acoustical ambience of great stone basilicas as opposed to the house churches of earlier centuries" (Grove 16, p. 59).

With respect to the practiced liturgy, Grove further refers to monophonic psalm chant and then describes the character of Western liturgy at the beginning of the fifth century, as follows: 

"Broadly speaking, by the turn of the 5th century, as Christian antiquity was drawing to a close, the Western Mass (or at least its African-Italian manifestation) had the following general aspect.  The service opened abruptly with a greeting from the celebrant and the readings followed . . . immediately (the introductory items of introit psalm, Kyrie, Gloria and collect were not yet present).  There was generally only one reading before the Gospel, the so-called Apostle (our Epistle), taken frequently from the epistles of Paul and less often from the Acts of the Apostles or the Old Testament.  A psalm was chanted either before or after the Epistle by a lector; this psalm was frequently responded to by the congregation with melodious refrains, including alleluia refrains during Paschaltide, and it may also have been declaimed without refrains, particularly on penitential occasions.

The Gospel, the recitation of which would eventually come to be surrounded with great ceremony, was already preceded by a procession with lighted tapers.  After the Gospel the celebrant preached a homily based on one of the readings (including sometimes the psalm), and there followed then the prayers of the catechumens and the catechumens' dismissal.  The prayers of the faithful ensued and the bringing of the eucharistic elements, not yet accompanied, apparently, by an offertory psalm.  The celebrant began the Eucharistic Prayer over the elements by exchanging a series of greetings with the congregation.  This prayer, which was chanted aloud, and the exchange of greetings was already very close to its early medieval form.  The prefatory portion of the prayer concluded with the singing by all of the Sanctus, and the entire prayer ended with a solemn congregational 'Amen'.  Levy (1958-62) has argued persuasively that the melody of the Sanctus, and indeed of the entire eucharistic dialogue between clergy and faithful, is closely related to that of the early medieval Western sources (the Sanctus is the familiar one of the Requiem Mass).  After the Eucharistic Prayer there followed the 'Pax', the Fraction of the consecrated bread, the Pater noster, and finally the distribution of the sacred elements to all in attendance, during which a psalm -- usually Psalm xxxiii (Revised Standard Version: xxxiv) -- was sung responsorially with 'Taste and see' as refrain" (Grove:  16, p. 60).

We shall discuss important aspects of the recording of liturgical plainsong in the attachment page to the next section.  With respect to pictures of the above-noted church patriarchs, we refer you to our following  Separate Page on early Christian plainsong. 



Grove (p. 60) refers to the death of St. Augustine in the year 430 A.D., during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals, as the end of patristic literature and as the beginning of the long era without documentation with respect to the further development of church music during the end of the age of migration and of the demise of the Roman empire.  

As a slow new beginning could, perhaps, be seen the new organization of liturgical chant by Pope Gregor the Great during the sixth century, A.D., as mentioned by both Miller (p. 10) and by Grove (p. 60), while there is again little known about further development up to the so-called  Ordo Romanus I.

With respect to the liturgy of Ordo Romanus I (from about 700 A.D. on) Grove (p. 60-62) reports as follows: 

"There is very little information about the development of the Roman Mass until the appearance of the celebrated Ordo Romanus I, which describes in detail the Pontifical Mass of about 700. This service is of great importance because it became the model for the manner in which Mass was celebrated over much of Latin Christendom; moreover, virtually all the principal prayers, readings and chants of the mature medieval Mass are already present in it.

The pope celebrated Mass each day at a different one of the so-called stational churches, of which there were about 30 at the turn of the 8th century.  He arrived at the church with his retinue and vested in the secretarium, a sort of sacristy near the entrance.  During his procession through the nave of the church to the altar, the introit psalm was chanted by the Schola Cantorum, preceded by the singing of the Proper introit antiphon.  On arrival at the altar the pope bowed before it in prayer, extended a greeting of peace to the clergy and then nodded to the Schola to curtail the chanting of the psalm and to go to the concluding Gloria Patri and repetition of the antiphon.  There followed the singing of the Kyrie eleison by the Schola, and the Gloria in excelsis, intoned by the pope, and finally the declamation by the pope of the collect, a Proper oration that brought the introductory rites of the Mass to a close.

After the pope and clergy seated themselves in the apse behind the altar, a subdeacon mounted the steps of the ambo to recite the Epistle.  Next a cantor, with 'cantorium' in hand, mounted the ambo and chanted the 'responsum' or gradual, no longer the complete responsorial psalm of patristic times, but rather an elaborate response followed by an equally elaborate verse and a repetition of the response.  A second cantor followed with either the alleluia, or tract, depending on the liturgical occasion.  . . .  This portion of the service came to a climax with the chanting of the Gospel by the deacon; the deacon, holding the Gospel book, was led to the ambo by two acolytes with candles and two subdeacons with censers.

There is no mention of a homily in Ordo Romanus I, nor indeed in the other ordines romani, an omission that occasions some surprise.  A number of other omissions at this point in the Pontifical Mass are, by contrast, altogether expected.  There was no Credo, because this chant of the Ordinary made its way into the Roman Mass only in the 11th century.  Neither were there prayers of the catechumens, dismissal of the catechumens nor prayers of the faithful.  These rites were no longer observed in the Roman Mass; the non-baptized were now admitted to the eucharistic portion of the Mass, while the prayers of the Fore-Mass had been moved to the introductory portion of the service, where they took the form of the Kyrie eleison, still a litany at the end of the 7th century.  The absence of prayers from their traditional place in the Mass was marked by the vestigial 'Oremus', uttered by the celebrant at the beginning of the offertory.

The Proper chant called the offertory, which consisted of an initial chant of moderate melodic elaboration (referred to neither as a response nor as an antiphon in the sources) followed by two or three verses, was sung while a complex series of ritual acts were performed; among these were the reception by the pope of the gifts (including wine and leavened bread), the washing of the pope's hands, the preparation of the gifts by the clergy, and prayers said by the pope over the gifts.  At the conclusion of these ceremonies the pope nodded to the Schola to complete the singing of the offertory, and he began his own chanting of the Preface with a series of greetings beginning 'Dominus vobiscum'.  The preface concluded with the clergy singing the Sanctus, presumably in the simple ancient tone mentioned above.  After the Sanctus, which now included its second portion, 'Benedictus qui venit' (Matthew xxi, 9), the pope began the Canon with the words 'Te igitur'.  The Canon, which by the end of the 8th century would be read in silence, was at the time of Ordo Romanus I recited in a subdued tone rather than being chanted aloud as it had been in the early Church.  And it was not interrupted by the elevation of the host or chalice, acts of eucharistic adoration that would not be introduced until the 13th century.  The Canon concluded with the words 'per omina saecula saeculorum' and the response 'Amen'.

The introductory communion rites of the early 8th century followed a different order from those of the early Church; the Pater noster came first, followed by the 'Pax' and finally the Fraction.  During the Fraction the Agnus Dei was sung; it had been introduced under Pope Sergius I (687-701).  Communion was distributed to the clergy in hierarchical order and then to the laity, first to the men and then the women, who occupied different sides of the church (in the following centuries there would be a sharp decline in the frequency of lay Communion).  During the distribution the Schola sang the communion chant, which was much like the introit in external aspect, consisting of a psalm with Proper antiphon.  And as with the introit the pope nodded to the Schola to cease the singing of the psalm and to conclude with the Gloria Patri and antiphon when the distribution was completed.  After the communion the celebrant recited the oration called the post-communion, then announced 'Ite missa est' (to which the response was 'Deo gratias') and returned in procession with attendant clergy to the secretarium" (Grove: 15, p. 60-61). 

As Grove further reports, the Frankish Carolingian rulers had adopted this form of the Roman Mass, so that, from about the beginning of the 9th century, A.D. on, only this liturgy was practiced by continental and Western European Christians of that time.  

Before we move on to the discussion of the development of early polyphonic music at the end of the 9th century, A.D., we want to refer you to our  Sub-Page to this section which offers you information to these topics:  

1.  To the recording of music (Riemann, p. 33-34) and to the three different methods by which choir leaders were conveying their commands to their choirs, namely by passing on information verbally, followed by hand signs given by the choir leader, the so-called cheironomy, and later the so-called Neume system of music notation.   

2.  To the Church Modes;

3.  To the Ordinary Mass and to the Proper Pass and to the chronological history of the development of the parts of the Ordinary Mass.  




Riemann (p. 41-42) is of the opinion that the development of the store of melodies of church music during the first millennium of Christianity was very impersonal in its character, and that in spite of the work of various church patriarchs such as Ephraem, Syneius or Ambrosius.   Particularly due to this impersonal nature of the development, Riemann holds that this store of melodies grew rather naturally out of Hebrew liturgy in form of re-shaping and imitation of all kind, without the input of individuals.   

Perhaps, targeted questions as to the influence of the social and political situation of early Christians before their emancipation, thus during the time of their persecution, and after their emancipation, thus after the introduction of Christianity as Roman 'state religion' and the changes that brought with it, along with the impact on the development of church music, might provide different approaches to the discussion of this topic.  

As Riemann further reports, personalities became only more prominent when efforts were made to preserve the store of melodies by means of more precise notation and through their theoretic consideration.



With respect to the development of the development in the West, Riemann refers to the following innovators and innovations: 

1.  the Benedictine monc Hucbald  of St. Amand near Tournai (840-930 or 932) and his attempts at supplementing the Neume system of musical notation with a more precise recording of the melody; in order to do so, Riemann (p. 42) reports that Hucbald referred back to the ancient-Greek musical notation system, but that he also invented new symbols that were closely related to the new church modes.  As Riemann further reports, he also already used lines in order to show the progression of melody and, by doing so, became the most important forerunner of Guido d' Arezzo;   

2.  Odo von Clugny (died  942) who wrote a "Tonarius" and several other theoretical treatises on music; however, Riemann also notes that he was mostly responsible for the introduction of the use of letters of the Latin alphabet to signify musical notes, by reconciling it with the ancient-Greek two-octave-system.  As Riemann further points out, this was one of the most important steps on which Guido d'Arezzo was able to build his reform of the Neume notation system;  

3.  the Benedictine monk Guido d'Arezzo (born 995, died 1050), educated at the Abbey of St. Maur des  Fossées, who was active in Ferrara and Arezzo and, towards the end of his life, at the Kamalduensian Abbey of Avellano, and to his combining of the Neume notation system with the alphabetical system.  As Riemann reports, Guido d'Arezzo did so by inserting the Neumes into a linear system, the lines and spaces in between of which were accorded certain tone values by means of pre-ascribed keys.  As Riemann (p. 48) further reports, this stroke of genius on the part of Guido, which received the approval of Pope John XIX in 1026, prevented a further decline of church music and melody and also formed the basis for our modern notation system;

4.  a further improvement of the notation system that was introduced around 1200, the so-called 'mensural' notation system whereby note symbols were accorded different values on a permanent basis by showing them in slightly different forms.  On the basis of this, also rhythm could be recorded, in addition to the flow of the melody.  



Riemann (p. 46) writes that Western tropes developed out of the Greek church, namely in form of freely invented songs that were interspersed in-between the actual main chants that were based on bible texts.  He ascribes the first 'Western' tropes to the (Swiss) St. Gallen monk Tuotilo (died 915).  With respect to this he writes that, at first, the tropes were mainly a strong extension of the liturgical text by means of the interspersing of freely-invented texts, but in such a manner, that in its totality, the integrity of the text was preserved, so that only single lines, or even single words, were moved apart by these insertions and became the beginnings or ends of lines or longer sentences.  . .  .  

With respect to the development of the sequences, Riemann (p. 47) writes that  Notker Balbulus (died 912), also of St. Gallen, added texts to the lengthy ornamentations of the Alleluja, on average one vowel per tone.    He describes Notker's sequences as actually merely a special form of the so-called tropes, the rich ornamentations of liturgical texts and often also of the melodies by free additions.  As Riemann further comments, in his view, sequences are thus not strophic chants such as hymns, and also do not have a constantly same line length and also do not employ the rhyme.  With respect to a sequence that was still sung during the first part of the 20th century, Riemann refers to the Easter sequence 'Victimae paschali laudes' by Wipo (1024-1060).

Riemann concludes this topic by pointing out that the sequences became extremely popular, yet retained their subordinate liturgical role, so that the core of liturgy, the old chorale, remained untouched.  He also points out that, during the 12th to the 16th centuries, they were in use for the glamorous ornamentation of the festivities in honor of specific saints, whereby complete sets of liturgical texts were re-written.  Only the Concilium of Trent that was held from 1545-1563 finally did away with them, concludes Riemann. 



Miller (p. 21) calls early polyphony  'the most significant innovation in the entire history of music' the first beginnings of which go back to the late Carolingian period and the early Middle Ages.   

Various kinds of early polyphony, continues Miller, are grouped together under the term organum.  However, at the outset, terms such as  organum, discant and diaphony were used interchangeably. 

As Miller (p. 21) reports, Organum emerged in the 9th century when plainsong melody was sung simultaneously in two parts, a fourth or fifth apart.   Therefore, both parts were not independent from each other, as the organum moved in parallel motion, so that rhythm and melody stayed together. 

Miller (p. 22) describes the chronological development of the organum as follows: 

1.  The strict, simple organum is the simplest variant, according to Miller.  It was practiced in the manner described above and was based on a monophonic melody, the so-called vox principalis, whereby the same melody in the second voice is described as vox organalis.

2.   The composite organum:  In this variant, the vox principalis was doubled an octave below or the vox organalis was doubled an octave higher, whereby, as Miller writes, voices were simply added and the strict parallel motion was retained. 

3.  The free organum:  in this variant, melodic independence began to develop in such a manner that the two-part organum was begun in unison; after that, the  vox ogranalis remained stationary and the vox principalis moved until the interval of a fourth was reached.  As Miller writes, from then on, both voices moved in parallel motion until before the end of the melody, where they, in the so-called occursus, re-united in unison.  Miller describes this variant as the one that Guido d'Arezzo preferred.

4.  The organum purum:  As Miller writes, the free organum lent independence to polyphony.  The next step, so Miller, was that of rhythmic independence in the organum purum, in the so-called sustained-tone style.  Here, every tone of the plainsong melody was sustained or 'held' (from which we can derive the term 'tenor'), while he reports added counterpoint as having moved in free melismatic style.   Perhaps, so Miller, the tenor part was played by an instrument.   

5.  The Gymel:  Miller describes this as the practice of singing a given melody in thirds that was called  gymel or cantus gemellus.  This practice, continues Miller, appears to have had no direct connection to ecclesiastical organum developments and may, actually, have existed prior to it and may probably have been of Welsh or Irish origin. 

With respect to the early organum, Grove (p. 66) refers to the 'School of Notre Dame', while, with respect to its further development outside of Paris, Grove (p. 67) refers to the polyphony of Worchester, to the 'Codex Las Huelgas' in Spain and to a broader application of organums in Northern Italy and Germany, however, somewhat later, namely in the 14th and 15th century.  



With respect to a further development of medieval music, Miller (p. 24-26) refers to Ars antiqua that emerged in France during the 12th century and names the School of Notre Dame in Paris, but also contributions from St. Martial in Limoges and from Chartres. 

With respect to the main characteristics of this music, Miller points out that in it, for the first time, complete melodic and rhythmic independence had been reached, in which all intervals were used in various combinations, while the harmony of the time was characterized by frequent sharp and dissonant contrasts.  As Miller further reports, in Ars antiqua, the tempus perfectum was almost exclusively applied and the holding on to the rhythmic mode often led to monotony.  While two-part polyphony was still practiced, three-voice polyphony prevailed.  In the  hoquetus, the melodic line was often interrupted, and that sometimes also in alternation.   

As some important terms of this style of music, Miller (p. 25), on the one hand, refers to the Clausula that emerged at the beginning of the 13th century and in which short melisma from plainsong were used for the cantus firmus tenor and in which all parts moved in a more or less unified rhythm and in which the same text was used for all parts, while in the organum, an entire plainsong served as basis for the cantus firmus.   As third term, he refers to the Paris motet, the lowest part of which, the tenor, is described by Miller as a plainsong broken up into one of the rhythmic modes, which was usually the slower-moving spondeus.  As a fourth term, Miller refers to a less important form of Ars antiqua, the rondel  or rondellus, a polyphonic form that used the principle of exchange, whereby various melodic motifs or phrases were exchanged between two or more parts or voices.  

An important representative of this form of music, according to Miller, is Leonin who was connected to the School of Notre Dame, and his successor Perotin who worked in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, but also Franco of Cologne and Pierre de la Croix, both of whom worked during the late 13th and early 14th centuries.   Miller refers to the Codex of Montpellier as the most extensive collection of 13th-century motets.  



With respect to the further development of liturgy, Grove (p. 63-64) reports that at the time of the transition between the demise of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Carolingian Empire during the 8th century A.D., the Latin Mass had reached its classical medieval form and that subsequently, it underwent a period of accumulation in which the basic structure was extensively elaborated on, followed by attempts of to once again curtail this elaboration and to return to earlier forms of the mass.   

With respect to 'elaborations', Grove refers to additions at the beginning and at the end of the mass, while musical elaborations occurred in all parts of the mass and mainly consisted of tropes that were added to the chants of the Ordinary Mass and the Proper Mass, whereby all chants of the Ordinary Mass, with the exception of the Credo, were subject to regular troping, while in the Ordinary Mass, the introit was most often troped and the gradual less often.  In the Proper Mass, Grove writes, the Alleluja received special treatment, whereby several additions were accumulated after the verse, including tropes, sequentiae, which Grove describes as long melismatic extensions of the original jubilus, and, of course, sequences.  

As Grove further reports, separate, independent chants were also added to the mass, as, for example, antiphons before the Gospel and after the Agnus Dei, such as the antiphon Asperges me with Psalm I throughout the 'ordinary' church year and the antiphon Vidi aquam with Psalm CXVII during Paschal Time.  As Grove points out, these additions have found their climax during the 11th and 12th centuries.   Grove assumes that the mass of this time must have been a splendid spectacle, whereby the liturgy was also enriched by the literary contributions of the most talented citizens of Europe, and was also executed by them, and also by monks and canons who had been familiar with these chants from childhood on. However, continues Grove, this overburdened liturgy was doomed to collapse under its own weight, since it consumed all the strength of all of those who executed it and hardly left them any time to keep up with the other developments of their time in this rapidly changing medieval society.   

The first attempts at reform against this 'Benedictine splendor' reportedly went out from the 12th-century Cistercians who wanted to return to the purity of early Benedictine years.  However, as Grove reports, it was only the reform by the Papal Curia of the 13th century that aimed that had any long-term effect.  The reformed Curial liturgy, writes Grove, was then taken up by the Franciscans who spread it throughout Europe.  

Those of you who want to find out more about the topics briefly touched on here, can do so by clicking on the following link.





As Hugo Riemann (p. 67) reports, at the beginning of the 14th century, in Florence, there emerged a new style of music,  Ars Nova, that spread from there to France, the Netherlands, Spain and England and also noted that, in all likelihood, it was of secular origin.  

Miller (p. 27) describes this century as a time of great literary activity, particularly in Italy, where poets such as Petrarca, Dante und Boccaccio worked, but also in England, where Chaucer worked, while on the political stage, on the one hand, the One Hundred Year War was fought between England and France (1337 - 1453), and, on the other hand, from 1378 to 1418, the papacy was represented by two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon.   Grove (p. 67) reports with respect to this that the French pope Clement V transferred the Papal seat from Rome to Avignon, which led to the "Papal Conflicts" of this period.  

While Miller (p. 27) points out that Italy and France were leading in the new style of music, Ars Nova, he also describes the characteristics of this music by mentioning that it prevailed in Western music, that it introduced new polyphonic forms, and, for the first time, very often used imitation and canon, that it developed a new rhythmic freedom, in which the so-called 'tempus imperfectum' dominated over the 'tempus perfectum', that it saw the vanishing of strict adherence of rhythmic modes, that, particularly in Italy, compositions for two voices prevailed and that the melodic style of this music could be described as more 'florid' and that the harmonic style was characterized by a more frequent use of thirds and by a more daring treatment of dissonances and by less parallelism. 

As important proponents of this style, Miller, with respect to France, refers to Philippe de Vitry, a theoretician and composer who wrote a work with the title 'Ars Nova' that concerned itself with the expansion of musical notation systems and to Guillaume de Machaut whom we shall still refer to here with respect to the mass compositions of this century. 

With respect to Italian proponents, Miller refers to  Francesco Ludini, a blind  organist, while Riemann (p. 68) also mentions Jacopo da Bologna, Laurentius de Florentia, Paulus de Florentia, Girardellus de Florentia, Petrus de Florentia, Andreas de Florentia, Donatus de Florentia, Bartolinus de Padua, Nicolaus de Peruga and Vincentius de Ariminio.

As forms of the French Ars Nova, Miller mentions the Isorhythmic Motet and the ballad, as Italian forms mainly the madrigal, the caccia and the ballata.  

With respect to the music notation of this time, Miller (p. 60) points out that, from about 1300 to 1450, there prevailed a great complexity with respect to it and that in various centers different rules prevailed. As before, Miller reports, black notes represented the tempus perfectus and red notes the tempuc imperfectus and the relationship between longa and brevis was called modus, that between semibreve and minim prolatio.   Therefore, each mensural relationship was either perfect or imperfect.   

After this look at general aspects of Ars Nova, we should take a look at the mass compositions of this time.   


With respect to this, Grove (p. 67) first points out that the polyphonic church music predominantly continued to develop in Avignon which, due to Pope Clement V, became an important center of the time.  The earliest works of this style, writes Miller, coincided with the establishment of the Papal seat in Avignon.

However, these attempts were criticized by Pope John XXII in his Decree 'Docta sanctorum patrum'.  He particularly critisized the use of minime, the Hoquetus, non-Latin texts, upper voices and other characteristics.  He recommended the use of a polyphony that accompanied plainsong with simple consonances.   As Grove reports, the immediate effect of this Decree is not known.  However, from the middle of the 14th century on, one can find a rich polyphonic church music literature.  

As  sources with respect to this, Grove names, on the one hand, the Apt choirbook that, around 1400, contained about ten Kyries, nine Glorias, ten Credos, four Sanctus and one Agnus, whereby twenty-one of these compositions only contained text for the upper voices; on the other hand, it names twelve Ars Nova manuscript fragments from the old Kingdom of Aragon that bordered on Avignon.  According to Grove, these fragments contained about 40 compositions for Ordinary Mass, of which 23 were composed in the discant style.  As Grove points out, the French mass repertoire was very widespread and very often, one could not find the composers of these works.  However, Grove names five composers that worked for the Avignong Curia:  Perrinet, Tailhandier, Tapissier, Sortes and Peliso.

The Italian mass compositions of this time, Grove writes, were also very strongly influenced by the French tradition.  As main composers Grove names Philippus de Caserta who worked in Avignon, Antonio Zacara da Teramo and Matteo da Perugia, who were connected to the Papal Curia in Bologna. 

With respect to complete Masses in the Ars Nova style, Grove refers to the following works:  

1.   The MASS OF TOURNAIS that consists of six Ordinary Mass movements, in which the last is a Motet in the Ars Nova style, while the Credo has three further sources, of which two can also be found in earlier records of Spanish origin, while the Gloria also exists in a further recording in F.  Only the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus, reports Grove, are unique and all of 'Frankish' origin.  Obviously, between the movements, there exists no musical relationship besides that that all, with the exception of the final Motet, feature three voices;

2.   The four-voice MESSE DE NOSTRE DAME by Guillaume de Machaut that was probably composed in the early 1360s and that is more unified and, as first mass that was composed in one piece by a composer, is of great importance.  Grove concedes that Machaut might have known some pieces of the MASS OF TOURNAIS, since his Gloria and his Credo show similar text-less interludes and since they are held in the simultaneous style.  As Grove further reports, the other four pieces of Machaut's mass are held in the motet style, while, however, all voices carry the same text. The tenor of the Kyrie, writes Grove, is based on the Vatican Kyrie IV, the Sanctus and the Agnus are identical to the Vatican Mass XVII, and the Ite to Sanctus VIII.  The Gloria and the Credo, continues Grove, have obviously no vocal basis, although they are stylistically related.  

3.   The MASSES OF BARCELONA AND TOULOUSE, continues Grove, share the same Credo, which, in  Apt and Barcelona, is ascribed to  Sortes.  The MASS OF TOULOUSE, that, as Grove reports, is written down on the empty pages of a monophonic mass book, has three voices and no Gloria; the Kyrie and the Sanctus are held in the motet style and appear to be motivically related.    The Credo appears to be related to the Ite that begins with a phrase that is similar to that of the Credo.  Both of these pieces and the Agnus are held in the discant style.  Thee MASS OF BARCELONA has no Ite and is in three voices, with the exception of the four-voice Agnus.  Only the unique Kyrie and the Agnus, Grove writes, are somewhat musically related.  The remaining pieces contrast each other strongly and have obviously been chosen deliberately.

After this look at the mass literature of the 14th century, we want to turn our attention to the further development of polyphony during the 15th century. 




With respect to this, Miller (p. 30) writes, that, during the 15th century, the further development shifted from France and Italy to the Netherlands.  With respect to this, he refers to two schools, namely to the School of Burgundy of the first half of the century and to the Flemish school of the second part of the century.   

Generally, Miller describes the 15th century as a time of transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance age, with the slow erosion of feudalism and the rise of the bourgeoisie and with the rise of France and England as new national powers.  

As far as the arts are concerned, Miller writes, in painting, this was the time of Leonardo da Vinci, Van Eyck and Raphael, while, to music, the Court of Burgundy with Philip the Good (1419-1467) and Charles the Bold (1467-1477) were of great importance.  The development of movable type that also occurred during this century, Miller continues, was not yet of importance to music, but only during the 16th century.  With respect to musical notation, Miller notes, during the 15th century, white instead of black notes were used, while almost all other aspects of musical notation did not experience any changes.  He also points out that  during the 15th century only tempus and the prolatio relationship were in use.   




As main characteristics of the so-called Burgundian School, Miller (p. 3-31) names the prevailing three-voice-polyphony, the concentration of the interest in melody and rhythm on the upper voice and to the facts that the melodic interval of a third became the main characteristic of the melodic style in general, that harmony was characterized by many incomplete triads without thirds, but that open fifth and octaves were not used in parallel motion.   However, as Miller further points out, parallelism was not employed in parts of polyphonic compositions in the devices that became known as fauxbourdon and English discant.  

As most important representatives of the Burgundian School, Miller names Guillaume Dufay (1400-1474) and Gilles Binchois (1400-1460), while he also refers to important English composers such as  Roy Henry (Henry V, King of England), Cooke, Pycard, Dumett, Lionel Power and Dunstable.  Of these, Miller writes, Power and Dunstable were known in Europe and stood in direct contact with the Burgundian School. 



Miller  (p. 31) describes the Flemish School as the more important Netherlands school since the techniques of polyphony that its composers introduced and established would become of importance to the entire music style of the 16th century.  This is also confirmed by Riemann (p. 86).  

As Miller continues, the following characteristics have developed with respect to the music of this school:  

1.    The predominance of four-voice polyphony; 
2.    More equality of parts; 
3.    The addition of a bass part, giving to the music a lower register; 
4.    More sonority and more complete triads; 
5.    Sections that use the so-called 'chordal style' or 'familiar style' and alternate with rhythmically more
        independent sections;       
6.    Technical mastery of counterpoint, however, not at the cost of art;
       Applied techniques: canon, imitation, augmentation (increasing the time value of each note),
       inversion (the theme is turned upside down);
7.    Frequency of the duet style in the late 15th century, particularly in the motets of Josquin
       (consisting of passages, in which, at the same time, only two voices are used); 
8.    The disappearance of the so-called fauxbourdon and of the 7-6-1 cadence;
9.    In general, the Flemish composers achieved great expressive beauty. 

Riemann (p. 86) points out that the School of Ockeghem re-introduced the pure vocal movement that had been pre-empted by the Florentine Ars Nova and that the collaboration between instruments and voices either discontinued, altogether or that it took on quite different forms.

Miller (p. 32) names as the most important composers of the Flemish School of the 15th century Jean Ockeghem (died. 1495), Jacob Obrecht (died 1505), Josquin Desprez (died 1521), Pierre de la Rue (1460-1518), Jean Mouton (died 1522) and Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517).



Grove (p. 68) points out that John Ciconia was probably an important link between the single mass movements of the 14th century and the Renaissance mass cycle.  While a complete mass cycle from his pen is not known, there are, however, a few connected Gloria-Credo movements in one style that sometimes reflect the music of Avignon.   Such 'movement pairs', Grove continues, also exist in the music of Antonia Zacara da Teramos.  According to Grove, Ciconia's works also include movements in the responsorial style, in which the entire choir alternates with a duo of the same voice level, a technique that has been taken up by other composers and that perhaps reflects the setup of some choirs, including that of the chapel of Pope Martin V.  

Grove also refers to the English OLD HALL MANUSCRIPT of the early 15th century that was probably written for the chapel of the brother of Henry V., the Duke of Clarence.  121 of the 147 pieces contained in it, Grove writes, are movements for the Ordinary Mass, grouped in types:  40 Gloria, 335 Credo, 27 Sanctus und 19 Agnus movements.  In these works, Grove reports, the influence of continental music is very strong, however, with the exception of Pycard and Antonio Zacara da Teramo, all other composers that contributed to this collection were probably English, including Roy Henry and the main composer of the collection, Leonel Power.

Power and Dunstaple, Grove continues, were the first composers that gave unity to a mass by applying a single cantus firmus tenor in all movements.  According to Grove this can be seen in Powers' mass Alma Redemptoris mater and in Dunstaple's mass Da gaudiorium premia and in his Gloria-Credo pair Jesu Christe Fili Dei and in some other works of questionable authorship, namely in the masses Rex seculorum and Sine nomine.  None of these cantus firmus melodies, Grove writes, stems from the Ordinary Mass, and with respect to this these works might refer to the broad use of non-liturgical melodies in the cantus firmus masses of the Renaissance.  However, as Grove also points out, in non-English music, the technique of unification by means of the use of the cantus firmus does not appear before the 1440's.   

With respect to continental sources, particularly the Codexes of Trent, Grove continues, there are several samples of apparently paired mass movements by Dunstaple, Binchois and others, that would, however, hardly be considered pairs, had they not been found in one manuscript.  

With respect to actual continental sources and works, Grove refers to works of Northern-Italian origin of the years 1420-35, including cycles by Arnold de Lantins, Johannes Reson, Guillaume Du Fay, Estienne Grossin, Johannes de Lymburgia and Reginaldus Libert.  While these, as Grove reports, are grouped together loosely, they still show enough of a relationship that confirms that they were planned cycles.  In contrast to this, continues Grove, this thought could not take hold in the 190 works of the Aosta Codex of the 1430's, since among them, there can at least be found 129 mass movements for the Ordinary Mass, however, without a cyclic relationship.  Rather, Grove writes, the composers of the circle of DuFay appear to have concentrated on cyclic works for  the Proper Mass. . . .  Grove continues by mentioning that, suddenly, English masses appeared in Northern Italy, and among them also the anonymous mass Caput; its influence, so Grove, was probably the decisive one in the development of the connected mass cycle of the next 150 years.  

As Grove (p. 69) further reports, the development of the mass after 1450 mainly took place on the continent in the works of DuFay and his most important successors, but very likely it had received its impetus from English musicians, whereby Grove once more refers to the anonymous mass Caput that, earlier, had been attributed to DuFay.  In addition to the direct imitation of 'Caput' masses by Ockeghem and Obrecht, its style is reflected in a great number of continental masses of the 1450's and 1460', as, for example, in Domart's mass Spiritus almus and in the anonymous German mass Gross Sehnen.

As Grove further reports, of the seven complete masses by DuFay, two are certainly early works that might have been composed before or around 1430.   DuFay's further mass cycles, such as his stylistically rich mass for St. Anthony of Padua, were probably written twenty years later.  The mass 'Se la face ay pale', that probably goes back to the early 1440's, is one of the earliest masses that is based on a secular model (in this case on a ballad by DuFay that probably goes back to the 1430's).   His mass 'L'homme armé' is, as Grove writes, certainly one of the first of more than two dozens of masses that are based on this famous melody that have been composed in a period of more than 150 years.  As Grove points out,  DuFay's later works include two tenor masses that are based on Marian antiphons.  Grove also points out that the few masses that can be attributed to DuFay with certainty show a great variety of cantus firmus techniques and with respect to this they are representative of the style that was applied in the mass composition of the 15th century.  What is important with respect to the masses of DuFay and other composers of the next generation, Grove writes, is the use of a contrasting mensurations for the subdivisions of the five primary movements of the Ordinary Mass.  

In conclusion, Grove still refers to the chanson as melody source for the masses of Ockeghem and his contemporaries, to the importance of the emergence of the competing application of the same melody for the development of the mass, and to the greatest flowering in the development of the mass during the late 15th century in the works of Obrecht and Josquin.  According to Grove, Obrecht composed at least 27 masses, and that, during a period of 30 years, Obrecht's masses spanned the bridge between Ockeghem and the mature Josquin, whose masses are based on traditional and original sources.  As further composers of the time, Grove names  Bedyngham, Le Rouge and Barbignant.




As Miller (p. 36) writes, in the 16th century, polyphony began to really blossom and reached heights that would never be surpassed.   Due to this, this century is also referred to as "The Golden Age of Polyphony".  

In his look at the general historical background of the time, Miller points out that European politics were dominated by Karl V and Philip II of the Holy Roman Empire.  The prevailing philosophy was that of humanism, that moved away from medieval theology and turned towards man's worldly interests.  According to Miller, the spirit of humanism and of Renaissance was most clearly expressed in art and literature.  Particularly in painting, some of the greatest artists were at work:  Leonardo da Vinci (died 1519), Michelangelo, Titian, Dürer, Holbein.  As great names in literature, Miller mentions Machiavelli (Italy), Rabelais, Montaigne and Ronsard (France) as well as Shakespeare, Spencer, Bacon und Ben Jonson (England).  In the field of science, Copernicus and Galileo were leading.  As Miller further reports, 16th-century religion was dominated by Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, of which Protestantism had the greatest influence on sacred music.  

As general tendencies and factors that had an influence on music, Miller (p. 36) lists:  

1.    Vocal polyphony that reached the height of its perfection in the 16th century; 
2.    Secular music that greatly increased in importance;
3.    The fostering of sacred music by the Catholic church and of secular music by the nobility;
4.    The development of an independent style of music in the late 16th century; 
5.    The prevalence of modality in both sacred and secular music; 
6.    Music printing, which contributed considerably to the dissemination of musical literature in all of Europe; as first
       print, Miller mentions a collection of vocal polyphony of the 15th century by Ottaviano Petrucci in 1501; 
7.    To Italy's taking the leadership from the Flemish school, while France and England also became important.

With respect to the music notation of the 16th century, Miller (p. 63) reports that, up to the middle of the 16th century, choir-books were used and that, after that, they were replaced by part books, which meant one book per part.   Towards the end of the 16th century, for instrumental music, scores were used again, and, as one of the first printed scores, Miller mentions the Madrigal collection by Cyprien de Rore (1577).

With respect to the sacred polyphony of the Catholic church, Miller writes that in it, during the 16th century, a unified style prevailed and that due to the broad influence of the Flemish School whose masters had spread their technique all across the continent.  As Miller writes, this does not apply to the sacred music of the Reformation that he discusses separately and that we, within this context, might be able to set aside.  

As general characteristics of Catholic sacred polyphony, Miller mentions: 

1.    The complete mastery of counterpoint, with melodic and rhythmic freedom of voice parts,
       together with a beautiful, euphonic overall structure;  
2.    The prevalence of tranquility of mood in liturgical music; due to the
       spiritual atmosphere of the music, that does not attract attention to itself, 16th-century
       polyphony was ideal vehicle for worship;
3.    The number of voice parts ranged from four to eight or even more,
       whereby five parts were most often used;
4.    Frequent use of the fugal and chorals styles in one composition;
5.    The complete triad as basis for harmony; 
6.    A generally strict treatment of dissonance, characteristic for sacred polyphony;  
7.    Diatonic modality was still prevailing, but already notable tendencies of a feeling for major and minor;
8.    The beginning of the use of chromaticism;
9.    The complete disappearance of old effects such as parallelism;
10.  The probable 'a capella' composition of liturgical music during the Renaissance, (thus for voices alone,
        without instrumental accompaniment);  at least, Miller writes, there was no separate instrumental
        accompaniment, although instruments were likely used to double voice parts or to occasionally carry
        voice parts by themselves.  In general, instruments played a more important part in secular music
        than in sacred music.

As forms of sacred music, Miller mentions the mass and the motet.  A very brief description of the most important mass types can be found at the German web site  Kirchenmusik in Benediktbeuern:

"Der erste Typus war die Parodiemesse, bei der der Komponist eigene oder auch fremde mehrstimmige Kompositionen geistlichen oder weltlichen Inhalts nochmals bearbeitete und ihnen gegebenenfalls einen neuen geistlichen Text unterlegte. An zweiter Stelle folgte ein Messtyp auf der Grundlage eines liturgischen Cantus firmus oder einer weltliche Melodie, die mit einem neuen Text versehen und mehrstimmig umkomponiert wurde. Diese Art wird Chanson- oder Cantus firmus-Messe genannt. Und schließlich folgte die frei komponierte Messe ohne Vorlage" (cited on January 25, 2004 from: ; --

Here, the first described type is that of the parody mass in which the composer treated his own or also other polyphonic compositions of either sacred or secular content and, if needed, added a sacred text to them; the second type mentioned is that based on the liturgical cantus firmus or on a secular melody, to which was added a new text that was rendered polyphonically.  This type of mass is described here as a Chanson or Cantus firmus mass; the third type mentioned is that of the freely composed mass without a prior source).

As Miller reports, in spite of the universality of sacred music during Renaissance, there also emerged various schools: 


As Miller writes, Flemish composers held important musical posts in all of Europe, whereby the most important Flemish composer of the 16th century was Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594), who, in addition to Palestrina, made the most important contribution to Catholic sacred music.  With respect to this, Grove (p. 75) reports that Orlando di Lasso left behind about 60 masses that were based on a variety of sources, from German songs to motets from his own pen or from that of other composers to Madrigals by Arcadelt, Palestrina, Roe and others, to chansons of French and Netherlands maters such as  Sandrin, Gombert und Clemens.  As Grove points out, his masses reflect his familiarity with all styles and genres of his time.  In their style, they are different from the masses of Palestrina, however, in part -- particularly his shorter masses -- in their own way, they served the aims of Counter-Reformation, with their combination of clear text declamation and short, uncomplicated counterpoint.  

As other important Flemish composers, Miller names Philippe de Monte (1521-1603) and Clemens non Papa (1510 - 1558).


Of course, Miller writes, the musicians who worked in Rome under the direct influence of the church comprise the most important school of Catholic sacred music of the time.  This school, Miller reports, continued the a-capella tradition, while other composers were subject to other influences, such as, for example, that of the emerging opera.    As most important representative of this school, Miller names  Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525 - 1594) whose complete mastery of his art turned him into a synonym of polyphony.  Perhaps it might be interesting to read Palestrina's own thoughts on the topic of sacred music:

"Our wisest mortals have decided that music should give zest to divine worship, so that those whom pious devotion to religious practice has led to the temple might remain there to delight in voices blending in harmony.  If they take great pains to compose beautiful music for profane songs, they should devote at least as much thought to sacred song, nay, even more than to mere worldly matters" (/Excerpt from Palestrina's dedication of the First Book of Motets to Cardinal Carpi, 1563, in:  Composers On Music, Eight Centuries of Writings, Second Edition.  Josiah Fisk, Editor.  Boston:  1997, Northeastern University Press, p. 8).  

As further composers of this school, Miller names Ingegneri (1545-15792), Namino (1545-1607), and F. Anerio (1560-1614), whose style showed a heightened chromaticism.  

With respect to the Counter-Reformation activities of the council of Trent, Grove (p. 74) writes that in 1562, the council issued a prohibition against all 'tempting and impure' melodies for church use and that it was the aim of Counter-Reformation to see mass texts set to music as clearly and as audibly as possible.  In this context, Grove reports, Cardinal Carlo Borromeo examined masses that Rome had commissioned, himself.  Grove also points out that Palestrina's masses, of which that with the title Missa Papae Marcelli is particularly relevant, best suited these requirements.  His 104 masses turned him into the most fruitful mass composer of the 16th century.  In spite of the purity of his style, his masses achieved a variety of musical expression that made him really 'the' composer of sacred music of this century.  .


As Miller (p. 39) reports, the contributions of the Spanish school are those of the composers Cristobal Morales (1500-1553) and Tomas Ludovico da Victoria (1540-1611), that were important enough in order to describe them as the 'Spanish' school.  Their styles were essentially those of the above-noted Roman school, were, however,  somewhat more expressive, what might remind us of the paintings of El Greco.


Miller (p. 39) calls the style of the Venetian school as perhaps the most remarkable one.  Two particular contributions set it apart from the styles of other schools: 

1.    The Venetians made extensive use of polychoric music and of antiphonal effects that were achieved by the use of various choirs in various parts of the same church; 

2.    the music of the Venetians excelled though its magnificence and that, in part, on account of the polyphonic technique it had developed and due to its strong harmonies and rich textures.  

As most important composers of this school Miller names Adrian Willaert, a composer who died in 1562,  Andrea Gabrieli (1510 - 1586) and his nephew, Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612).


As Miller (p. 39) reports, also in England a great and extensive literature of Catholic Church music was created, and that in spite of the religious conflicts and in spite of the emergence of the Anglican church.  Many good masses, continues Miller, were written by English composers.  Moreover, the Anglican church retained most of the customs of the Catholic church.  In its music, this church applied a modified polyphonic style, but with English texts. 

As Miller writes, the most important composers of the English school were Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) who composed Anglican and Catholic sacred music and William Byrd (1543 - 1623), the greatest English composer of the 16th century, who also wrote Catholic and Anglican sacred music, although he remained a Catholic.  With respect to William Byrd, Grove (p. 75) points out that Byrd's three masses that very likely were written in the 1590's, do not have to hide behind the greatest masses of his time.  In them one can not find any evidence of Byrd's possible contact with the continental technique of the imitation mass.  His masses, Grove continues, were written for three, four and five parts and thus offer 'teaching samples' for each of these part arrangements.  


As Miller (p. 40) reports, in the 16th century, in Germany, Catholic sacred music, due to the Reformation, did not particularly flourish.  Therefore, one can actually not speak of a German school of sacred polyphony.   As the only German composer he names  Jacobus Gallus (Handl, 1550-1591) and the Swiss composer Ludwig Senfl (1492 - 1555) who wrote good Catholic and Protestant church music.  In comparison to this, Grove also refers to the international master Henricus Isaac, a Dutchman by birth who lived in Italy for a long time and who also worked as court composer of Emperor Maximilian and who had a great influence on the development of the German mass.  His mass, Missa carminum is based on German folksongs.  His numerous other masses include a group of works that were published in 1506, containing four masses that are based on chansons.  However, as Grove writes, he also made more important contributions to the Proper Mass than to the Ordinary Mass. 

While our Links Page to this section offers you links for your further reading and listening pleasure, we want to move on to taking a look at the church music of the Baroque era. 




In his discussion, Miller (p. 67) first refers to the history of this time.  Quite rightly he notes that in Germany, the first half of of the 17th century was dominated by the religious and political strife of the Thirty Year War  (1618-1648), while the second half of this century was dominated by the court of Louis XIV (1643-1715) in Versailles.  As important names in science, he lists Newton, Harvey, Galileo and Leibnitz, and with respect to philosophy, Descartes, Pascal and Spinoza.  In the field of literature, with respect to England, he refers to Milton, Dryden, Defoe, Addison, Swift, Pope and Samuel Johnson, and with respect to France to Racine and Moliere, while, as important painters, he lists Rubens, Van Dyck, El Greco und Velasquez.

He explains that the origin of the Baroque era is to be found in the Catholic Counter-Reformation in Italy, that wanted to impress the world and to re-establish the influence of the Catholic church.  From this striving, namely to impress the world, arose a form of art that evoked  'a certain spirit of theatricalism, of grandiose concepts, and . . . a rather heavy elaboration of design and magnificence of effect'.  This spirit and this style, Miller continues, spread all across Europe.  In general, Miller also describes music in this sense, with its grandiose productions, its spectacular music, its contrast and its general magnificence.  

During the Baroque era, Miller reports, the share of sacred music as compared to secular music continued to decrease, while, due to the fostering by the European nobility, instrumental music gained in comparison to vocal music so that, during this era, both genres were approximately represented equally.  As Miller further reports, during this time, there also developed a new, independent style.   While, as Miller continues, only during the 19th century, specific national musical styles were deliberately furthered, one can already discern certain national styles during the Baroque era that, however, developed out of themselves.   As important characteristic of Baroque music, Miller names its dramatic element that had an extraordinary effect on the development of opera, the oratorio and the cantata.   During the 17th century, monophony regained importance, while it, nevertheless, was not able to do away with polyphony, just yet, particularly since the latter reached a new zenith through  Johann Sebastian Bach.  With respect to the modes or keys, Miller notes that major and minor replaced the old church modes, although the influence of the latter could still be felt during the Baroque era.  With respect to harmony Miller reports that in the Baroque era, the attention of musicians and composers was directed at chord structure and chord progression, for the first time, where the harmonic or vertical approach overshadowed the contrapuntal or horizontal approach of the Renaissance age. This, Miller continues, led to experiments with harmony and brought forth an increased harmonic color and, what is more important according to Miller than all else, it broke down modality.      As Miller writes, the characteristic importance of harmony in the Baroque period was reflected in a whole new device, the figured bass.  He describes it as a kind of 'musical shorthand', in which chords were noted by setting numbers beneath the bass-part of a key instrument.  Clarification of the formal structure and clearer formal concepts, Miller continues, characterized Baroque music in comparison to Renaissance music.  Moreover, new forms were developed  such as the dance suite, the solo sonata, the trio sonata, the solo concerto, the  Concerto Grosso, the overture and the Arioso, and the accompanied song for solo voice.  The recitative, an invention of the 17th century, should also be mentioned here, Miller infers.  He then refers to the the great vocal forms of the Baroque era:  the opera, the oratorio and the cantata.   All three of them made use of the new ideas of the time: of dramatic declamation in the recitative, of the accompanied song for solo voice (in the arias and ariosos) and of chorus and orchestra.   

As most important composers of the time, Miller, with respect to Italy, names Claudio Montiverdi (1567-1643), who composed madrigals and operas,  Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), the main representative of Neapolitan opera, Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), who wrote cembalo sonatas,  Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) and Antonio Vivaldi (c. 1680-1743), who both wrote chamber music and concerto music for strings; with respect to England, he names Henry Purcell (1658-1695), who wrote good dramatic music and instrumental music, and with respect to Germany, Miller names Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630) as well as Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654), who wrote keyboard music, Heinrich Schütz (1585 - 1672), who wrote choral music, cantatas, oratorios and passion music, Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667), who wrote key borad music, Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), who wrote choral music in the Renaissance and Baroque styles, tDietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) and Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), the immediate forerunners of Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as Bach (1685-1750) und George Frideric Handel (1685-1759, who, however, due to his training in Italy and through his work in England is a special case, whereby Bach was mainly active in church music and in instrumental music and Handel in the genres of opera and the oratorio. 


Miller (p. 86-88) first points out that, prior to 1600, church music was mainly comprised of vocal music.   In contrast, during the Baroque era, the use of instruments increased steadily.  With respect to church music, one has to, as always, differentiate between religious music and liturgical music.   Miller then points out that all kinds of church music were influenced by the nuove musiche style that originated in Italy.  In general, the a capella style of the Renaissance area moved into the background.   In its stead, soloists, thoroughbass accompaniment and a great deal of independent material such as introductions, interludes, ritornellos, etc. were employed.  However, Miller continues, the a capella style of the Renaissance era was not given up, altogether.    Particularly the Roman school kept up the tradition of Palestrina into the 17th century.  The Sistine Chapel, Miller reports, was particularly strict in its adherence to the pious, non-dramatic style of church polyphony.  Miller then moves on to discussing the church music of various European countries:    


Although the Roman school kept up the old a capella  tradition, Miller writes, Italy was also the country in which the new musical style, nuove musiche, emerged.  As first important collection of church music, Miller names Viadana's Cento concerti ecclesiastici.  Miller then points out that most opera composers of the time, such as Carissimi, Monteverdi, Cavalli, Legrenzi, A. Scarlatti etc., also wrote church music, while Francesco Durante almost exclusively composed church music.  He also refers to Pergolesi's  Stabat Mater from about 1730, a cantata-like work with Latin text and calls it a 'fine example' of good Italian church music.  Another work by Orazio Benevoli, a 53! part mass from the year 1628 is, as Miller reports, a continuation and expansion of the Venetian technique and it represents the Baroque principle of the grandiose. 

Of course, Grove (p. 77-78) discusses Italian church music in more detail, particularly the mass compositions.  

With respect to Italian church music of the 17th century, Grove first points out that,  in the so-called prima pratica and seconda pratica, the duality of the style of the early 17th century found expression.  However, as Grove continues, this contrast was less strong in church  music than in the secular vocal music or in motets and psalm chants.   Grove ascribes this to the unchanged mass text and also to the fact that less masses were written for less than four parts.  In some cases, Grove reports,  the use of  prima pratica was a deliberate imitation of the stile antico gewesen, as, for example, in Monteverdi's six-part mass,  Missa da cappella of 1610, that was based on Gombert's Motet Il illo tempore and that was a strenuous undertaking.  According to Grove, intentional imitation of the old style can also be found in Carissimi's mass,  L'homme armé, both with respect to the choice of a popular melody of the 15th and 16th centuries as well as in the use of the cantus firmus.  In this respect Grove reports that the prima pratica or stile-antico masses were mainly written and used in Rome, where the influence of Palestrina and his pupils was the strongest.   As works of this kind, Grove names those of Anerio, G.M. Nanino and Soriano.  However, in these works one can also observe the emergence of an increasingly harmonious (musical) language.  A surprising characteristic of these works, as Grove continues, is the continued use of all parts or voices and the avoidance of contrasting textures.  This continued use of all voices or parts can also be found in Monteverdi's six-part mass  In illo tempore.  As advantages of the stile-antico mass, Grove names its natural unity that was retained by such 16th-century techniques as the parody of the use of a head motif in various parts.  Its naturalness and simplicity, as Grove points out, was of great advantage to the musician, since these masses could be performed in small churches, or, on special occasions, in larger churches.  The disadvantages of this style lay in its lack of expression and in its isolation from contemporary musical idioms.  

The survival of the polyphonic style in its simple form, as Grove writes, also contributed to the fact that less concert-style masses for only a few parts were written.  He names Viadana as the composer who used this style for the first time in his   Missa dominicalis (1607) for solo voice, a work that added continuo accompaniment to the solo voice.  However, this version of the style was not pursued further, Grove reports, since both the singing style and the solo voice were not suitable for its expansion.  What has proven as more suitable, Grove writes, were three-part to five-part masses such as, for example, those by Alessandro Grandi (1630), with little polyphonic thematic development.  As Grove reports, later examples such as Carissimi's  Missa a tre (1665-6), had more melodic solo phrases. . . .  The melody for masses with few parts was, as Grove reports, shaped by vowel-emphasized text development. . . . The organizational methods, Grove continues, were still those of the 16h century; thus, for example, Grandi used head-motifs, and in his mass that was based on the Continuo-Madrigal Tamo mia vita by Montiverdi of 1628, he is reported as having used parody. . . .  

Grove further reports that the 16th-century tendency of mass composition towards the use of two or more choirs was continued in the 17th century and developed further in two ways, namely through the use of spatially separated, identical scores and the combination of voices and instruments.  The first of these methods was strongly preferred in Rome, where polychoral music further used the method that had been introduced by Palestrina and Victoria.   For example, Grove reports, in 1616, the first mass by G.F. Anerio was sung by eight choirs that were positioned in eight of the fourteen galleries of the church of  Gesu; Grove further writes that, for example, in 1629, in St. Pietro, the Name Festival was celebrated with 12 choirs performing.  Also in Ugolini's mass Missa 'Quae est ista' most passages were written for all twelve voices, while other passages were written for three cantus voices, three alto voices, three tenor voices and three bass voices.  From the Rome of the later 17th century, the polychoral masses for up to four choirs by  Orazio Benevoli, Francesco Beretta and Carissimi have been preserved, all of which still used the idioms of the stile antico.  

While, as Grove (p. 78) reports, instruments in connection with voices were sometimes used in the churches of Rome during this time, their independent role in masses for two and more choirs was actually developed systematically and idiomatically in Northern Italy.  In this context, Grove refers to Gabrieli's Symphoniae sacrae of 1615, in which trombones and solo voices were used in addition to a Ripieno choir.  With respect to G.F. Capello's Missa ad votum of 1615, Grove points out that in it, one can already find at its beginning the tendency of all 17th century music, namely that of limiting the instrumental colors that are based on the tone of string instruments to relatively few.  Eccole Porta's Mass in G major for two violins, three trombones, continue and a five-part choir or a group of soloists from the year 1620 lends ornamented lines to the voices, while the instruments accompany them to less bright passages.  This mass, Grove reports, also shows a tendency towards the breaking-up of single movements in shorter sections, a technique that emerges more strongly in Grandi's mass for soloists with Ripieno choir and orchestra of 1630, in that the Crucifixus is described as a miniature aria for the solo tenor.   In Monteverdi's mass that was written on the occasion of the abating of the plague in Venice in the year 1630, the Gloria was subdivided in a sequence of duets that were grouped together through techniques of strophe variation and through massive contrapuntal choirs.  

In the Venetian tradition, Grove continues, it was customary to leave out one or more parts of the Ordinary Mass, and as a substitute, other parts were expanded on.  In addition, Grove writes, in this procedure, the left-out parts were replaced by instrumental music.   In this context, Grove points out that the larger-concept masses also showed problems as can bee seen at the example of Cavalli's  messa concertata of 1656 and at the works of Orazio Tarditi as well as those of Cazzati, since, for example, the ariosos became overly long when they were used in this context, while, on the other hand, the somewhat more muted cori did not show enough variety.  

With respect to the 18th century, Grove (p. 79) writes that the main influence on church music was exercised by the Neapolitan school, the exponents of which were mainly trained by the conservatories that, initially, were foundling homes.  There, musicians first were trained in church music and subsequently turned to the more profitable opera  and spread their music all across Europe.  Although the source of this style, Grove continues, was homogenous, the music that emerged out of it showed a great variety, and that particularly due to the fact that the composers of the Neapolitan school were active throughout the entire century and that they had taken part in the major developments of this time.  Therefore, as Grove states, one can not say that there exists an actual 'Neapolitan mass or cantata' style, but rather, a general, basic outlook that prevailed during the 18th century.   Most composers, Grove continues, studied the stile antico, although not all of them wrote entire masses in this style.    Alessandro Scarlatti, who, as Grove reports, wrote eight of his ten masses in the stile antico, showed in them a strict approach that left little room for expression; others, Grove continues, such as, for example, Franceso Durante, applied chromaticism and irregular harmonies even in works that he had initially described as written 'in Palestrina', such as, for example, the four-part mass in I-Nc 470.

However, Grove continues, the stile antico also permeates many masses that were written in the more general 'stilus mixtus.'  This mixture, Grove writes, arose out of the combination of three main elements:  of choirs in the stile antico with orchestral accompaniment of the voices, of choirs where the orchestra plays an important part in the formal organization, and of music for solo voices.  In order to incorporate these, the mass text was subdivided into smaller sections, as this was also done in certain 17th-century compositions, however, with the difference that, in the Neapolitan style, the sections were more independent from each other, and, as Grove further reports, many important mass compositions actually only consisted of the Kyrie and the Gloria.   Some pieces served structural purposes, Grove continues, such as the emerging fugues of the 'Amen' at the end of the Gloria and the Credo, while others applied the expressive manner to solemn moments such as the 'Crucifixus', as, for example, in Leo's ten-part mass.  The choirs with independent accompaniment, Grove writes, reflected the emergence of orchestral forms.   In these, the choir was mostly monophonic, with a vowel-emphasized declamation of the words, often in stereotypical, regular rhythms, thereby fulfilling the function of the recitative and strengthening the continuo harmonies; the most important thematic material was left to the orchestra, Grove reports.  At the beginning of the 18th century, so Grove, themes in concerto style were used, as in Alessandro Scarlatti's St. Cecilia Mass.  



Miller (p. 87) describes the French church music of this period 'rather superficial' and as having adapted to the new style.  As he further reports, many cantata-like works, called 'motets', were composed.  As most important French church music composers, Miller names Lully who adhered to the a capella style and Charpenter, Campra, Lalande and Rameau.   

Grove (p. 78) points out that the French church music of the first half of the 17th century adhered to a rather conservative style, and with respect to this, it appears that Orlando di Lasso rather than Palestrina was the 'source of inspiration'.  What one should also not forget, Grove continues, is the war between Catholics and Protestants that ended in 1628.  During this time, Grove reports, many choir leaders continued to compose in the stile antico.  As the most interesting of them, Grove names Guillaume Bouzignac, whose works include a mass in the traditional polyphonic style, a larger work for seven parts and a remarkable concerto-style work for two sopranos and organ. 

Towards the middle of the 17th century, Grove reports, French composers returned to composing more masses, while they still remained rather old-fashioned in doing so.  Works attributed to Boessett, in a manuscript that was copied in the 1650's, show more progressive tendencies, as Grove reports.   King Louis XIV's reign led to considerable musical progress.  As only French (church music) composer who worked outside of the Royal chapel, Grove names  Charpentier whose study under Carissimi had a great influence on his compositional style.  As Grove reports, he left behind some interesting works, such as a mass for four choirs in Roman style, with rich dissonances and chord-like harmony in the late madrigal style, and his best-known work, the Messe de minuit pour Noel  that had shaken off its Italian roots and, in its adaptation of Christmas folk tunes, its rhythms and its alternation between orchestral, choir and solo parts in opera and ballet music style, is very French, as Grove concludes.  



Miller (p. 87) reports that in Germany, the techniques of 'nuove musiche' were applied in various forms during the 17th century.  However, as Miller continues, German church music mainly profiled itself in the church cantata.  Since with respect to this, Miller mainly refers to Protestant church music, we might wish to turn to Grove for further information.   

In this context, Grove (p. 79) first points out that in Germany, the Italian style spread faster, and that through German musicians who had studied in Venice and through Italian musicians who worked in Germany.  Due to this, the stile antico was very prevalent in Southern Germany and Austria, even in the Lutheran North, as far as the Kyrie and Gloria were retained in the liturgy.    With respect to this, Grove refers to   Buxtehude and Rosenmüller who had mastered the Italian style, while, on the other hand, also not shying away from including expressive dissonances and contrasts in the texture and thereby moving closer to Palestrina.  As Grove reports,   German composers made extensive use of and expanded on the Venetian techniques of mixing of voices and instruments.  Since many renaissance instruments were retained, the Italian tendency towards monochromaticism was avoided and the expressive possibilities of the Venetian style fully taken advantage of.    As composers of the late 17th century, Grove names Schmelzer, Kerll and Biber, who brought this style to its zenith.  Very likely, as Grove reports, the famous  Missa salisburgensis in 53 parts was written by a composer of this time and not by Benevoli.  

With respect to 18th-century German church music, Grove (p. 80) reports that the Neapolitan style had great influence over it and over Austrian church music and that, surprisingly, the greatest work in the Neapolitan style was J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor, showing a tremendous mixture of styles.  This mass, as Grove writes, was actually just designed for the Kyrie and Gloria, while the other parts were composed separately or added from other existing works.  This, so Grove, might explain the variety of styles and of sources used.  Saxon custom, moreover, demanded that the choirs played a greater role in the mass than in many Neapolitan works.  In these choirs, as Grove writes, the stile antico was extensively applied, however, in an idiom that was adapted to the 18th century.  Also the choirs with instrumental accompaniment had improved on the Neapolitan source, particularly those in ritornello form that are much tighter than those of most Italian equivalents.  The solo music, Grove continues, is less operatic than in the Italian model.  Also the orchestration is very German with its use of a variety of wind instruments.

The Roman Catholic composers of Southern Germany, Grove reports, were thoroughly trained in the Italian style, particularly the leading composers at the Dresden court, such as Lotti and Hasse.  Fux in Vienna, Grove writes, preferred the strict compositional style, although his music is rhythmically and tonally very rigid in comparison to the 16th century models that he, undoubtedly, must have known.  In addition to a capella masses, he also wrote larger masses in which he used trombones and trumpets together with string instruments, and Grove describes their style as both adhering to tradition but also as Baroque.  Grove then refers to Haydn's Vienna teacher, Georg Reutter, whose masses, however, can not compare themselves with those of Hasse.  However, as Grove continues, it were the Viennese composers who slowly developed the Neapolitan style into a more integrated style, towards the middle of the 18th century.  



Also elsewhere in Europe, as Grove (p. 79) writes, Italian music prevailed and influenced composers, as, for example, at the Polish court.  He refers to composers such as  Marcin Mielczweksi who wrote in the stile antico and to Bartolomieu Pekiel who also wrote in this style, while his  Missa 'La Lombardesca' came close to a grand-style Italian mass of the middle of the 17th century.  Also in Bohemia, the situation was similar, where, in 1602,  Krystof Harant z Polzic a Bezdruzic  used Marenzio's Madrigal Dolorosi martir  as material for a parody mass and where Adam Vaclav Michnaz Otradovic wrote in the concerto style and, in 1654, wrote a mass with ostinato bass (Sacra et litaniae).  In Spain, Grove continues, church music adhered to the Roman stile, so that the stile antico prevailed there well into the 17th century with composers such as   Clavijo del Castillo, Mateo Romero, Joan Paul Pujol and Sebastian Lopes de Velasco.


Here, Miller refers to Anglican church music and to the adaptation of the main ideas of  'nuove musiche'.  As most important composers he names John Blow and Henry Purcell.  Grove does not discuss England with respect to the church music of the 17th and 18th centuries.  

While our Links Page to this section offers you access to listening samples, short biographies, and in the case of J.C. Bach, to the most important German research facilities, we want to turn our attention to the church music of the second half of the 18th century, up to Beethoven.  





If we want to take a brief look at the development of church music from 1750 to Beethoven, we should, first, also take a look at the general development of music from Baroque to Rococo and the Viennese classicism.  

With respect to the general historical background of this time, Miller (p. 113) writes that it was shaped by the Seven-Year War  (1756-1763) between England and Prussia on the one side and Austria and France on the other side which also led to war in India and America (the French and Indian Wars), by the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and finally by the French Revolution.   In the field of philosophy, the rationalism of the works of Immanuel Kant and the enlightenment spirit of the works of Voltaire and Rousseau prevailed.  With respect to the term Rococo, Miller writes that it described a florid style of ornamentation that found expression not only in decoration, but also in architecture, literature and music.   

With respect to the general characteristics of the music, Miller points out that it could be called objective, emotionally restrained, ennobled, but also somewhat superficial.  In general, the 'classical' style prevailed more in instrumental music than in opera or in other dramatic forms. 

With respect to the form of the music, Miller points out that the musical structure of this time became more simplified and that, out of it, the modern sonata form developed.  

With respect to the melodic style, Miller writes that a new kind of melody was developed that had an individual and compact character and was often folk-tune-like in its purity and clarity and that it replaced the long lines and figurations of Baroque polyphony.  

With respect to the homophonic style, Miller writes that in it, thematic material was accorded new importance and that it prevailed over the polyphonic style, while counterpoint was still used, but was of less importance that that contrapuntal forms were, in general, not practiced as much.  

With respect to harmony, Miller writes that it showed remarkable simplicity, so that there did not prevail as much harmonic complexity as in Bach's works and that, up to Beethoven's time, not much of development occurred with respect to harmony.  

One aspect of formal clarity, Miller reports, was the obvious clarity of musical phraseology in which phrases were, in general, shorter and more regular than in Baroque music.  

The basis of modern orchestration, Miller states, was laid in the classical period in which, moreover, instrument combinations were standardized.  In general, more attention was paid to instrumental color.  

A further important aspect of the characteristics of the music of the classical period are musical dynamics,  Miller continues, with its careful emphasis of loud and quiet passages.  With respect to this, Miller also refers to the use of crescendo and diminuendo.  


Miller (p. 130) describes the further development of church music during this period as 'least significant', even as 'inferior' and of a predominantly dramatic nature.  In many cases, Miller continues, it was written for the concert hall rather than for church.  As forms of church music, Miller names (1) the mass, with concerto-like compositions for the Ordinary Mass with orchestra, soloists and choirs, (2) the Requiem, (3) motets for choir, solo voices and instrumental accompaniment, (4) litanies, short choral pieces including responses, and (5) vespers for the last canonic hour.  As greatest composers of church music, Miller names Joseph Haydn (with 14 masses, 13 offertories, and various motets, Salve Reginas, Ave Reginas, etc.) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (with 15 masses, 4 litanies, 2 Vespers, a Requiem and various smaller works such as motets, offertories, etc.).  As further composers, Miller (p. 131) names Galuppi, Paisiello, Sarti and Cherubini.

Of course, with respect to a more detailed description of the development of church music during this time, Grove is very important.  With respect to the further development of the Catholic mass in the Viennese classical style, Grove (p. 80) points out that, around the middle of the 18th century, also in Vienna, the stile antico was still prevalent in the works of Reuter, Werner, Wagenseil, Albrechtsberger, Michael Haydn, Leopold Hofmann and Salieri, but also in the Missa 'Sunt bona mixta malis' by Joseph Haydn.  However, as Grove continues, the development of church music in Vienna was mainly influenced by the work of musicians at the Viennese court, namely the influential Kapellmeister J.J. Fux and his Venetian colleague, Antonio Caldara.  Of the three most important Austrian mass composers, Joseph and Michael Hadn were pupils of Reuter who was also Kapellmeister at the Viennese court.  His influence can be felt in works such as  Joseph Haydn's Missa 'Rorate coeli desuper' and Missa brevis and in Michael Haydn's Missa in honorem sanctissimae Trinitatis through an almost identical violin figuration for the solo parts and in rather flat choral passages.  

Mozart, as Grove reports, whose complete masses were all written in the period of 1768 - 1780, shows in his masses that he was very much influenced by opera and that he followed Neapolitan examples, as in K139/47 and in K66.  However, in the early 1770's, he concentrated on the Missa brevis, due to the reform activities of Archbishop Colloredo.  From this time, Grove states, stem his 'Credo' masses K 192/186f and K 257, in which he took up the Austrian tradition of according to the word 'credo' a musical figure through an entire passage.   Grove reports that he also introduced symphonic techniques, particularly in his Coronation Mass, K317, that contains an almost complete thematic repetition in the Gloria . .  . the Solo of the Agnus Dei, with its musical relationship to 'Dove sono' from  Le nozze di Figaro also appears to show that Mozart's musical expression in his church works and in his operas did not lie far apart.  

Both Mozart and Haydn, Grove continues, in the year prior to Emperor Joseph II's prohibition or ornamented church music, have written excellent church music.  Haydn's Missa Cellensis excels with its inventive treatment of the sonata principle in the choral music and with its concerto-style blending of the four soloists and the choir.  Mozart's unfinished c-Minor mass, K427/417a is, as Grove writes, a 'Neapolitan' mass, in which, however, the stile antico element is interpreted in Handelian choir music style.  

In 1796, Haydn, as Grove reports, returned to composing masses, and that in connection with his new obligations towards Prince Nicholas II of Esterhazy, and the six masses that he composed until 1802 are the greatest that he wrote.  All, so Grove, are 'solemn' masses for middle-size or larger orchestras and go far beyond the scope of  masses that have been written up to this time.  Although one can also find opera-like passages in these works, particularly in the 'Benedictus', these masses are mainly held in the symphonic style.  Three of the Kyries,  as Grove writes, have slow introductions that lead into Allegro movements, whereby that of the Theresien-Mass is close in style to his London symphonies, and in all works, the Sanctus is held in a similar style.   The Kyrie is often kept in a variation of the sonata form, such as in the Missa in tempore belli .  . .  Both in his Missa Sancti Bernardi von Offida  and in his Theresien-Mass, a similar pattern is combined with fugue-style textures, and in the Nelson mass, the musical form is very concerto-like, emphasized by a florid passage for the soprano soloist, while otherwise, the soloists are employed in early Baroque manner.  Other allusions to the Baroque style can be found in the fugues that end the Gloria and the Credo, although this contrapuntal style goes less back to Palestrina than to Fux.   In the longer movement, the orchestra holds the work(s) together, but one can also find allusions to the fast violin figurations of Reuter.  Also in the Nelson mass, as Grove continues, one can find dramatic elements as in his Missa in tempore belli, where trumpets and drums form the musical zenith of the Benedictus and the Agnus Dei, a custom that goes back in Austria to the Fux era.  Both in the Nelson mass as in the Missa in tempore belli, the influence of French revolutionary music can be heard.  Grove describes this influence as going back to Italian musicians who lived and worked in Paris, what would refer to a continuation of the Neapolitan style.  With Haydn's masses of the years 1796 - 1802, we have arrived in Beethoven's time and can now turn to the history of his  Missa solemnis.

Before we do that, we want to offer you an opportunity to take a look at our following page with Links to Listening samples and further information to the matters discussed here, and, in closing, we also want to offer you a chance to read E.T.A. Hoffmann's essay On old and New Church Music.


Copyright 2004:  Ingrid Schwaegermann, Edmonton, Alberta, Kanada.


Miller, Hugh M.  History of Music.  Third Edition.  New York:  1960.  Barnes & Noble, Inc.

Riemann, Hugo.  Kleines Handbuch der Musikgeschichte.  Leipzig: 1947.  Druck und Verlag von Breitkopf & Härtel.  

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Second Edition.  Edited by Stanley Sadie.  Vol. 16.  London: 2001, Macmillan Publishers Limited.