Mario Lavista: Missa Brevis

Missa Brevis Ad Consolationis Dominam Nostram

Mario Lavista

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Mario Lavista composed his Missa brevis at the request of Carmen-Helena Téllez, Director of the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble and the Latin American Music Center at Indiana University. The idea originated during a casual encounter between the composer and the conductor at the Seventh Latin American Music Festival of Caracas in 1993. Mario Lavista customarily creates his works in collaboration with the intended performer to explore specific sonorities, so Carmen Téllez offered him the opportunity to work closely with her chorus.

Carmen-Helena Téllez then won a grant from the US-Mexico Fund for Culture to commission the mass and to fund the periods of residence of the composer with the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. The result is this setting of the Ordinary created in honor of Our Lady of Consolation. The Missa brevis was premiered on April 11, 1995, by the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble under Téllez's direction at the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington. Its second performance was programmed in July of 1996 during Crossroads of Traditions: the Second Inter-American Composition Workshop, produced by the Latin American Music Center in Bloomington.

Mario Lavista has acknowledged a life-long love for the works of Guillaume de Machaut and Josquin des Prez, and indeed their style and technique have been an inspiration for this piece. The Missa brevis employs a melodic cell which opens every movement like the head motive of motto masses, and also determines many structural elements and harmonic progressions. Canonic textures appear throughout the work, while frequent passages of imitations only half a beat apart create the effect of a hocket. The triple proportional canon in the first Kyrie is perhaps the most notable example. At the same time, Lavista masterfully distorts the perception of musical time through the manipulation of harmonic rhythm and the avoidance of predictable metric pulsations. Beyond its tribute to the Renaissance, the Missa brevis is a genuine reflection of Mario Lavista's personal style in its technical elegance, emotional intimacy and spiritual serenity.

The dedication of the mass to Our Lady of Consolation (ad Consolationis Dominam Nostram) prompted the decision to use chants from the Proper of masses in her honor to complement the polyphonic settings of the Ordinary. Selected antiphons from the Proper of the Mass to Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces were included in the première performance. The composer accepts both possibilities of execution, with and without the addition of plainchant, although the intonations before the Gloria and the Credo are required and are therefore quoted in the score. In fact, Lavista conceived his mass to be sung appropriately in an actual religious service.

The Missa brevis ad Consolationis Dominam Nostram is the first choral work by Lavista, but it already claims a place among the most important Latin American choral works of our time.

Carmen-Helena Téllez