This work was written in 1960 and first performed in that year by Westminster Cathedral Choir under Francis Cameron.
As with many other 20th century works with this title, Missa Brevis here implies no more than a Mass of modest proportions with organ accompaniment. The vocal scoring, for instance, never expands beyond four-part. This simplicity of texture, however, combined with the conservative dimensions belies a consummate musical technique and affinity with the text. The style is based upon imitative polyphony which serves both to give the work a generally contemplative nature and also to highlight the more assertive homophonic passages. Of special interest is the Sanctus which, particularly at ‘Pleni sunt coeli’, employs the rather more dissonant, fourth-dominated harmony with which Berkeley was experimenting at the time.
© James Rushton, 1982