In our concert on 23 March at St Giles Cripplegate, we continue marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Zoltan Kodály, in a programme that also features a performance of Frank Martin’s choral masterpiece, his Mass for Double Choir.
Kodály’s Missa Brevis is a remarkable – if misnamed – work (the term more usually describes a Mass setting without the Credo). The work’s original inception was as a Mass for Organ only, written in 1942. Near the end of World War 2, Budapest suffered a huge assault by the Soviet army, and Kodály and his wife had to shelter in the basement of the Opera House. It is there that he wrote this choral setting, and it was in the cloakroom of this now-splendidly restored building that the chorus and soloists of the House gave its first performance, accompanied by a harmonium. It received its official premiere at the 1948 Three Choirs Festival in Worcester.
The JCS will also be singing Kodály’s setting for four-part chorus and organ of the Latin hymn Pange Lingua – Gavin Roberts will be our organist for the evening.
Our other major choral work in this concert is Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir (Messe pour Double Choeur). Martin was the son of a Calvinist minister and to please his father he first studied mathematics and physics, but soon gave his life entirely to music. The first four movements of the Mass for Double Choir were completed in 1922, the Agnus Dei being added four years later, but Martin did not allow the work to be performed until 1963. After its premiere, he explained why it had remained unseen and unheard for all those years: ‘I considered it to be a matter between God and myself’, he wrote. ‘I felt that a personal expression of religious belief should remain secret and hidden from public opinion’.
Both Mass settings represent these two composers at their finest.
For details of the concert venue and to book tickets, follow the link to our ‘Performances’ page.