Messa a quattro voci (senza Gloria)

Category Choral and Vocal Music

Per coro misto (SATB) a cappella/For mixed choir (SATB) a cappella


  1. Kyrie: Allegro ben moderato
  2. Credo: Allegro giusto
  3. Sanctus: Moderatamento mosso
  4. Benedictus: Molto sostenuto
  5. Agnus Dei: Appena mosso, espressivo

Durata/Duration: 12'0"

See Also
Sheet Music

Descrizione/Description (from the preface to the sheet music/dalla prefazione alla musica da spartito)

The catalogue of Nino Rota's works includes only a few titles for a cappella chorus: the five early motets (1931-1932) and the Audi Judex, a motet dating from 1964. The Mass for Four Voices is certainly the most stylistically elaborated work that the Maestro wrote for these forces. It is important to remember that Nino Rota was always interested in early music, starting with his thesis on Gioseffo Zarlino with which he earned his degree in literature at the Universita Statale di Milano in the 1930s.

We do not know the occasion for which the Mass was written, but an analysis of the dates of composition of the various pieces compared with the formal structure of the composition allow us to offer a hypothesis. The Mass was composed in 1962: a year in which, for the Roman Rite, the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year, fell on December 2nd. It is interesting to recall that October 11th of the same year marked the solemn opening of the Vatican Council II, in the course of which (among other matters) several fundamental changes regarding the use of music in the liturgy were approved. In any case, tradition and practice have always recommended, both prior to and following the Council, a sparing use of music during the liturgies for Advent. In particular, the harmonium replaced the organ which was used exclusively to accompany the singing of the assembly. Furthermore, the first Sunday in Advent marked the beginning of a strongly characterized liturgical period; for this reason the celebrations (especially in Basilicas in which there was an active Cappella Musicale or "musical chapel") called for the performance of a cappella works, in order to underline the climate of waiting that attends upon Christmas. It should be noted that the Gloria, present in the festive liturgy, was omitted in accordance with the rules that were also in force during Lent; for this reason, Rota did not complete his composition.

Nino Rota began composing the Messa a 4 voci on November 13, 1962, and completed it on the 19th of the same month. So if we take into consideration the apocryphal revisions of the sources, we may plausibly hypothesize that the first performance may have taken place on Sunday, December 2nd, 1962, the first Sunday of Advent. Considering that Nino Rota had been living in Rome for years, and that his liturgical music was performed in the Vatican, thanks in part to the friendship and esteem for the Maestro manifested by Cardinal Paolo Marella (Prefect of the Congregation of Saint Peter's Basilica), it is probable that the Mass was performed for the first time in the Vatican itself by the Cappella Giulia conducted by Armando Renzi.

We may further hypothesize that Rota's reworking of the Credo is later than the rest of the work, perhaps carried out on the occasion of subsequent performances (which are not however documented), given that the autograph corrections of this piece also include several apocryphal sections present in the other sources.

The composer was subsequently to reuse the music of the Kyrie from the present Mass in his Sacra Rappresentazione (musical mystery play) La vita di Maria (1970), adapting it to fit the opening phrase of the Gloria: "Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis".

The present edition represents a synthesis of the four known sources, and follows the version of the work which may reasonably be held to have been viewed as definitive by Rota himself. In those instances where no definite decision regarding the composer's final preference was possible, I have followed the manuscript version/All indications within parentheses are those of the editor, with the exceptions of the tempo indication at bar 22 and of the fermata at bar 31 of the Sanctus which appear in parentheses in all the sources. In order to facilitate performance, word extensions and bar numbers have been added.

Daniele Ferrari,
Milan, April 2017

(English translation: David Steven Tabbat)

Date 1962
Publisher Schott Music