The term is applied to musical settings of the Ordinary of the Mass that are either (a) partial, such as when only the Kyrie and Gloria are set, or (b) concise, so that most or all of the sections can be sung in a short period of time.
The concise approach is found in the mostly syllabic settings of the 16th century, e.g. in Lassus' Missa venatorum (Hunters' Mass) and in the custom of "telescoping" (or simultaneous singing by different voices) in 18th-century masses.
Partial settings are seen in both the Roman and Lutheran traditions, where many works consist of the Kyrie and Gloria. Short Lutheran settings are often called simply "Missa" or "Messe," as opposed to "Missa tota," or complete Mass, and similar terminology is used for many Anglican Masses that omit, or rather leave to be spoken, the Creed.
A weekday Mass (when the Gloria and Credo are not said) is usually called Missa ferialis instead.
Johann Sebastian Bach and other Lutherans composed works called Missa consisting only of Kyrie in Greek and Gloria in Latin. These masses came to be called Missa brevis because they are shorter in words, the opposite being Missa tota (complete Mass).
The four masses are
- Missa in F major, BWV 233, scored for horns, oboes, bassoon, strings, SATB, basso continuo
- Missa in A major, BWV 234, scored for flute, strings, SATB, basso continuo
- Missa in G minor, BWV 235, scored for oboes, strings, SATB, basso continuo
- Missa in G major, BWV 236, scored for oboes, strings, SATB, basso continuo
- see also main article: Missa (Bach)
Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel wrote a Deutsche Messe on the words of Kyrie and Gloria in German.
Classical period Missa brevis
For composers of the classical period such as Mozart missa brevis meant "short in duration" – as opposed to "missa longa" (long mass), a term that Leopold Mozart used for his son's K. 262 – rendering the complete words of the liturgy. As the words were well known some composers had different voice parts recite simultaneously different sections of long texts. This is especially characteristic of Austrian masses in the Gloria and the Credo.
French Messe basse
A messe basse is simply a "Low Mass", which may be entirely spoken in a low voice to the accompaniment of music. It is the equivalent of the Deutsche Singmesse. Fauré's Messe basse is a famous example.
German and Austrian Romantic masses
Schubert's Deutsche Messe, D. 872, is based on German songs, set for 4-part-choir, to be sung during the recitation of the parts of the liturgy. The three Choral-Messen (Windhaager Messe, Kronstorfer Messe and Messe für den Gründonnerstag), which Bruckner composed between 1842 and 1844, were intended for the celebration of the Mass in the villages Windhaag and Kronstorf, where he was schoolteacher's assistant. The Missa canonica of Johannes Brahms is composed of Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei, reflecting the widespread practice of mixing settings.
Notable examples are by composers such as
- Johann Sebastian Bach, Missa in A major BWV 234, G major BWV 236, G minor BWV 235, F major BWV 233
- Richard Rodney Bennett
- Lennox Berkeley
- Leonard Bernstein, Missa Brevis
- Benjamin Britten
- Anton Bruckner, Windhaager Messe (WAB 25), Kronstorfer Messe (WAB 146), Messe für den Gründonnerstag (WAB 9)
- Jörg Duda
- Gabriel Fauré, Messe des pêcheurs de Villerville
- Lorenzo Ferrero, Missa Brevis for 5 voices and two synthesizers, 1975
- Joseph Haydn, Missa brevis in F, Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo, among others
- Michael Haydn
- Wilhelm Killmayer
- Douglas Knehans, Missa Brevis for SATB and organ, 2010
- Zoltán Kodály
- Frank Martin
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, K. 49, K. 65, K. 140, K. 192, K. 194, K. 220, K. 275
- Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
- Stephen Paulus
- Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (Missa San Emidio, which has a Kyrie and Gloria only)
- Gerhard Präsent, Missa minima, 2001
- Gioachino Rossini, Messa di Gloria, 1820
- William Walton
- Ralph Vaughan Williams, Cambridge Mass for SATB, double chorus & orchestra, 1899
- Vytautas Miškinis, Missa Brevis Pro pace