Missa Brevis (Fine, Vivian)
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Eric Barlett, David Finckel, Michael Finckel, Maxine Neuman, cellos
CRI-New World Records, used with permission
|Work Title||Missa Brevis|
|Year/Date of Composition||1972|
|First Performance||1973-04-15, Finch College Concert Hall, New York City
|Average Duration||20 1/2 minutes|
|Instrumentation||4 cellos and taped voice|
The composition is Fine’s spiritual statement. She selected texts, sometimes just a word, from various Mass traditions. Five of the ten movements, such as ‘Preludium,’ ‘Lacrymosa’, and ‘Dies Irae,’ are textless, and Fine portrays the meaning through the celli’s gestures and textures. Sometimes they are fused in vertical textures–sounding like modernistic organ music as in ‘Preludium,’ or resembling singers as in ‘lacrymosa’s madrigal-like setting. Fine did not succumb to the temptation of having the tape part be repetitious canons or obvious manipulations of material. As in her acoustic music, each line’s counterpoint contributes its own statement.
- —Heidi Von Gunden, liner notes to “Vivian Fine,” CRI American Masters CD 692
…haunting…a stunning musical achievement….The Missa Brevis is a curious, intensely personalized collage of both the Latin Mass and Hebrew sacred service elements. The brilliant and demanding use of cellos in the opening Praeludium and throughout the piece covering an enormous tessitura and frequently employing harmonics, produces an amazing resemblance to the standard string quartet. The Kyrie, a reverent, whispered breathing of the name of the Lord, leads into the two Omni sections, both of which employ the more intensely coloristic qualities of the cello, coupled with a vocal strand which is persisitently serene and ethereal. A mad, frenzied swirling of notes at the end of the fourth movement ushers in the intensely tragic Lacrymosa, complete with morunful descents of sobbing minor second intervals. In the sixth movement David and Sibyl are engaged in an eerie Twilight Zone sort of dialogue, haunted by ghostly quivering harmonics, and a voice floating like a sould lost in deep space. the Dies Irae briefly epitomizes the violent outburst of an angry God towards a fallen mankind, but the Eli section, while obviously not Christ’s scriptural quotation spoiken from the cross, seems to reflect the less complex poignancy of David conversing with the Lord in Psalm 22. Finally, the Sanctus, austerely written for cellos alone, allows for a prayerful and yet somehow frustratingly tentative Omein (Amen) to conclude this brooding and tragic lament.
- —Dale Shepfer, American Record Guide, October, 1982
[Fine] writes…elegant and inventive works….The ten-part mass…left an impression of distant times and cool cathedrals.
- —Donal Henahan, New York Times, April 17, 1973
...comforting as a saintly touch [and] just as beautiful….moving and almost hypnotic, like the best vocal pieces of Crumb and Berio.
- —Paul Hertelendy, Oakland Tribune, March 10 and 17, 1974
…lovely…The collage of voice tracks…and cello accompaniment creates a haunting piece that leaves a lasting impression.
- —John Ditsky, Fanfare, 1982
…a most original work…a moving statement.
- —Robert Commanday, San Francisco Chronicle,October 24, 1982