Messe solennelle (Vierne)

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Messe solennelle
Mass by Louis Vierne
Paris 06 - St Sulpice organ 01 (square version).jpg
Great organ at Saint-Sulpice where the mass was first performed
KeyC-sharp minor
CatalogueOp. 16
FormMissa brevis
TextMass ordinary
Composed1899 (1899)
DedicationThéodore Dubois
Performed8 December 1901 (1901-12-08)
Published1900 (1900)
VocalSATB choir
Instrumental2 organs

Messe solennelle (Solemn Mass) in C-sharp minor, Op. 16, is a mass by the French composer Louis Vierne. He composed it in 1899, scored for choir and two organs. It was published in 1900, before it was first performed at Saint-Sulpice in Paris in December 1901. Although scored for two pipe organs, it was later adapted for a single organ, as most churches could not provide two such instruments.


In 1899, Vierne set the Latin text of the mass ordinary without the Credo, which makes it a formally a short mass or missa brevis.[1] He imagined a mass for orchestra, but Charles-Marie Widor, his teacher and organist at Saint-Sulpice in Paris advised him to employ organs, for practical reasons.[2] The mass was first performed at Saint-Sulpice in 1901, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December.[3] The church has a great organ (grand orgue) in its back built by François-Henri Clicquot which Aristide Cavaillé-Coll had reconstructed and improved in 1862.[4] The choir organ, in the choir, was built by Cavaillé-Coll in 1858.[5] Vierne planned the effect of sound from the far ends of the church. In the premiere, Widor played the main organ, while the composer, who was by then organist at Notre-Dame de Paris, played the choir organ.[3]

The mass was first published in 1900 by Pérégally & Fils in Paris,[1] dedicated to Théodore Dubois.[2] An arrangement for choir and one organ was made by Zsigmond Szathmáry, as the use of two organs is often not practical.[1] Another arrangement for one organ by Markus Frank Hollingshau was published by Dr. J. Butz.[6]

Structure and music[edit]

The mass is structured in five movements, omitting a Credo:[7] The choir is mostly four-part, SATB, but at times divided further. In the following table of the movements, the markings, keys and signatures are taken from the choral score, using the symbols for common time (4/4) and alla breve.[8][6]

No. Part Incipit Marking Key Time
I Kyrie Maestoso ma non troppo lento C-sharp minor common time
II Gloria Et in terra pax hominibus Risoluto A major cut time
Domine Deus Molto quasi doppio più lento F-sharp minor common time
Quoniam tu solus sanctus Tempo A major cut time
III Sanctus Maestoso ma non troppo lento E major common time
IV Benedictus Poco più vivo E major common time
V Agnus Dei Andante C-sharp minor 3/4

Vierne builds on models by his teacher Widor and of César Franck, but adds more development of themes and "imaginative expression".[7] He uses repeated rhythmic figures in the accompaniment. The Kyrie opens with "awesome solemnity", while the "mysterious antiphonal harmonies of the Benedictus" were new sounds in French church music, and the Agnus Dei ends, after antiphonal exchange between choir and great organ,[7] serenely in C-sharp major when praying "dona nobis pacem" (Grant us peace).[8]


Recordings of the work include a 2009 performance by the Chœur d'Oratorio de Paris at the location if the first performance, who integrate the mass in the music of a complete service, with Saint-Suplice organist Daniel Roth on the great organ and Éric Lebrun of Église Saint-Antoine-des-Quinze-Vingts on the choir organ. The liturgical chants are performed by the Chœur Gregorien de Paris. The recording has been called "musical and spiritual time-travel".[3]


  1. ^ a b c "Messe solennelle / op. 16". Carus. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Messe solennelle cis-moll, op. 16" (in German). Diocese of Cologne. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Alderman, Matthew (22 December 2009). "CD Review: Louis Vierne, Messe Solennelle". New Liturgical Movement. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  4. ^ "The great organ / History". Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  5. ^ "The choir organ / History". Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Mess in cis-Moll / Messe solennelle en Ut # mineur op.16" (PDF). Dr. J. Butz. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Gammie, David (1997). "Messe solennelle, Op. 16". Hyperion. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  8. ^ a b Messe solennelle en ut# mineur. J. Hamelle & Cie.

External links[edit]