Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Structural Outline of the Messa grande sinfonica

This page provides a detailed structural outline of the eight movements of Sorabji’s Messa grande sinfonica (1955-61; 1,001 pp.), which calls for eight vocal soloists (two each of SATB) and two choirs (SSATB). The multiple settings in the case of the Gloria (11), Credo (6), Sanctus (6), Pater noster (13), and Agnus Dei (3) help to understand why the work is so huge. The number of bars, for a total of 4,024, is given in parentheses at the end of the titles (see the paragraph at the end for more details about bar numbers).

In the “Setting” columns, the letters are used only for sorting purposes.

The edition by François Fabre, begun in December 2004 and published in 2017 (see the announcement of the page News from the Sorabji Archive for 21 November 2017), follows the page numbers of the manuscript without exception. Therefore, the page references below are valid for both manuscript and edition (but see the note at the end of the table for the Pater noster). The page numbers for each of the subsections also match. The edition also includes bar numbers appearing in boxes at the top of each bar (numbering starts anew with each movement); see the numbers in the listing of sections above.

Kyrie

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Section Pages Comments
Section Pages Comments
1 1-21 “Allegro maestoso”. Choirs I/II (Soloists are almost absent).
2 22-37 Begins and ends with an organ solo (the initial one is marked “Sereno”). Features several instances of writing in fourths. Choirs I/II (Soloists almost absent).
3 37-49 “Andante”. Choirs I/II (Soloists almost absent).
4 49-56 Soloists
5 56-61 Soloists, Choirs I/II
6 61-66 Choirs I/II
7 66-79 Fugue I on subject 1 (Choirs I/II)
8 80-88 Fugue II on subject 2 (Choirs I/II)
9 88-94 Fugue III on subject 3 (Choir I; Choir II accompanies with chords)
10 95-110 Fugue IV on subject 4 (Choir II, then Choir I, starting on p. 102)
11 110-27 “La Stretta” involving subjects 1 and 2 (Choirs I/II)
12 128-40 Coda (Soloists)

Gloria

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Setting Section Pages Variations Comments
Setting Section Pages Variations Comments
1a 1 141-66 1-13 “Moderato”. Tutti.
1b 2 166-71 14 “Aumentare passo a passo”. Woodwinds and brass only.
2a 3 172-86 15-20 Choirs I/II
2b 4 187-202 21-26 “Fortissimo sempre”. Orchestra alone.
3 5 202-19 27-32 Choirs I/II
4a 6a 220-30 Interlude beginning “Dolce e pianissimo” {applies to bars 220-49} “Dolce e pianissimo”. Soloists: S1.
4b 6b 231-39   “Lasciare scoperte le linee vocali”. Soloists: S1/2.
4c 6c 239-49   Soloists: SA
5a 7a 250-57 “Di nuovo pianissimo”. Soloists: T1.
5b 7b 259-70 Soloists: B1
6 8 271-81 Soloists: TB
7 9 282-95 “Rallentare dim. molto”. Soloists.
8a 10 296-305 “Fortissimo e molto Vivace”. Orchestra alone; “Rallentare passo a passo sino alla Passacaglia” (p. 301).
8b 11 305-9 33-34 (variation no. 35 missing); “Di nuovo la passacaglia” “Maestoso e pesante molto”. Orchestra alone.
9 12 309-18 36-38 Soloists and choir
10 13 318-27 39-42 “Subito molto crescendo”. Orchestra alone, beginning with a passage for organ solo.
11a 14 327-40 43-48 Soloists and choir
11b 15 340-42 49 “Fortissimo e pesante”. Orchestra alone.
11c 16 342-51   “Piano e dolce”. Tutti (“Amen”).

Credo

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Setting Section Pages Comments
Setting Section Pages Comments
1 1 352-75 “Andante. Tranquillo e pianissimo sempre”. Begins with the choir singing on the syllable “Ah!” as an accompaniment to the text sung by T1, joined by the other soloists at “Qui propter nos homines” (p. 362).
2a 2 375-95 “Con veemenza”. Choir.
2b 3 395-99 Orchestral interlude with important organ part
2c 4 399-405 Choir: “Qui cum Patre” ... “Amen”.
3a 5 406-11 “Tempo principale e piano”. Choir.
3b 6 411-40 Soloists (choir enters on p. 420); orchestral interlude, with important organ part (starting solo), following “et propter nostram salutem descendit de cœlis” (pp. 435-40).
3c 7 440-47 Soloists: S (“Et incarnatus est”).
3d 8 448-50 “Molto più vivo”. Orchestral interlude.
3e 9 450-75 Soloists: SA (“Et ascendit in cœlum”).
4a 10 476-98 Soloists: TB.
4b 11 499-509 “Scorrevole: Rapido”. Orchestral interlude (organ silent).
5 12 509-28 “Tempo principale”. Choir.
6 13 529-49 “Vivo et fortissimo”. Choir, with soloists entering on p. 547.

Offertorium

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Section Pages Comments
Section Pages Comments
1 550-77 “Andante, dolce et tranquillo”. Introductory section with important organ part.
2 578-79 Short organ solo
3 580-92 “Moderato”. Fugue on one subject involving the ten string parts successively, from highest to lowest.
4 592-97 Fugue (freer) for strings and woodwinds using the main form of the theme and its inversion (free interplay of voices)
5 597-600 “Più vivo”. Final crescendo involving the brass instruments.

Sanctus

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Setting Section Pages Comments
Setting Section Pages Comments
1 1 601-8 “Allegro grandioso”. Choir.
2a 2 608-20 “Tempo molto più moderato”. Soloists.
2b 3 620-24 “Più forte e più vivo”. Orchestral interlude.
3a 4 625-50 “Tempo molto più moderato come prima”. Soloists.
3b 5 650-66 “A tempo abbastanza vivace”. Orchestral interlude.
4 6 666-77 “Vivacissimo”. Organ cadenza.
5a 7 677-707 “Tempo principale come al principio”. Choir and soloists.
5b 8 707-16 “Brioso e fortissimo”. Orchestral interlude beginning with a short organ solo.
6 9 717-20 “Con somma forza e grandezza”. Choir and soloists (“Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth” only).

Pater noster

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Setting Section Pages Comments
Setting Section Pages Comments
1 1 721-26 “Molto moderato”. Soloists: B1.
2 2 726-31 Soloists: B2.
3 3 731-35 Soloists: T2.
4 4 736-40 Soloists: T1.
5 5 740-43 “Pochino più vivo”. Soloists: A2.
6 6 744-49 Soloists: A1.
7a 7 749-53 “Ral[lentare] al tempo principale”. Soloists: S2.
7b 8 753-55 “Affrettare molto e crescendo”. Orchestral interlude.
8a 9 756-60 “Di nuovo dolcemente. Tranquillo”. Soloists: S1.
8b 10 761 “Molto libero. Quasi cadenza”. Organ interlude.
8c 11 762-70 “Aumentare e crescendo”. Orchestral interlude.
9 12 771-81 Soloists I/II (antiphonal style)
10a 13 781-85 Soloists I/II (homophonic style)
10b 14 786-88 Orchestral interlude
11 15 788-94 Soloists I
12 16 794-99 “Pochino più vivo e forte”. Soloists II.
13a 17 800-807 Soloists I/II
13b 18 808-16 “Fortissimo”. Orchestral interlude with important organ part.
14 19 817-23 Choir I/II
15 20 824-30 “Tempo iniziale”. Choir I/II.

Some photocopies provided by the Sorabji Archive have a problem starting on p. 762, which repeats the organ interlude on p. 761 (“Molto Libero: Quasi Cadenza”). Page numbering is off by one until p. 775, as it appears in those copies (actual p. 774); the actual p. 775 (which has time signatures of 4/2 and 5/2) is missing from these copies, and correct numbering resumes with p. 776. The page numbers given here correspond to the correct sequence.

Agnus Dei

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Setting Section Pages Comments
Setting Section Pages Comments
0 1 831-41 “Molto Moderato”. Orchestral introduction (strings only until p. 839).
1a 2 841-45 Choir (without the invocation “dona nobis pacem”)
1b 3 845-50 “Pianissimo”. Orchestral interlude.
2a 4 850-73 Choir (including the invocation “dona nobis pacem”); “Quasi Stretto” (pp. 868-73).
2b 5 873-914 “Tempo iniziale”. Orchestral interlude in the form of a passacaglia with forty-nine variations.
3 6 914-36 “Molto tranquillo”. Soloists and choir à bouches fermées (including the invocation “dona nobis pacem”); choir without accompaniment (pp. 933-35).

Amen

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Section Pages Comments
Section Pages Comments
1 937-46 “Andante”. Orchestral introduction recalling the three opening bars of the Kyrie (“Come al principio del Kyrie”).
2 947-58 Choirs I/II
3 958-73 “Pianissimo”. Soloists.
4 974-76 “Vivo”. Orchestral interlude.
5 976-85 “Rallentare al tempo principale”. Choirs I/II, Soloists.
6 986-1001 “Pianissimo. Molto andante quasi Adagietto”. Choir and soloists. Final crescendo on a B pedal, ending on a B major chord (with added notes).
Last modified: 2021-05-21
© Marc-André Roberge 2021
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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