Works Chorus & Orchestra Missa Brevis (1988)

Program Note

In 1955, while in the midst of working on a musical version of Voltaire's Candide with the distinguished American playwright Lillian Hellman, Leonard Bernstein composed French and Latin choruses as incidental music to the play The Lark adapted by Miss Hellman from the original French version by Jean Anouilh. Since the drama was about the trial of Joan of Arc, Mr. Bernstein's music was deliberately evocative of the medieval era. In fact, the music was performed (on tape) by seven members of the New York Pro Musica Antiqua, a group specializing in pre-17th century music.

Robert Shaw attended one of the first performances and suggest to Mr. Bernstein that with some changes and additions the music would make an efffective Missa Brevis, or short mass. Thirty-three years later, in honor of Maestro Shaw's retirement as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Bernstein followed his colleague's suggestions. In so doing, the two men consummated a friendly association that began with Shaw's recording of Bernstein's On the Town in 1944.

© Jack Gottlieb

*Based on Latin choruses and Spring Song from "The Lark", 1955. ©1964, 1988
Performed by Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus.
℗1989 Telarc International Corporation. Telarc CD-80101

Related Works
The Lark (French and Latin choruses)


(1988) ca. 10 min
Based on the Latin Choruses and "Spring Song" from "The Lark" (1955)
World Premiere:
April 21, 1988. Atlanta, GA, United States | Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus / Robert Shaw, conductor
for a cappella mixed chorus (or octet of solo voices) and countertenor solo with incidental percussion

Purchasing Licensing Information

To perform Missa Brevis, contact Boosey & Hawkes. For general licensing inquiries, click here.

To purchase sheet music for Missa Brevis, please visit our store.


Bernstein dedicated Missa Brevis to friend and conductor Robert Shaw, pictured here first rehearsal with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians in an unused Atlanta school building on 10th Street, 1967
Courtesy of Georgia Public Broadcasting Courtesy of Georgia Public Broadcasting

BERNSTEIN: Missa Brevis (Baltimore Symphony, Alsop)
Naxos Music Naxos Music


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