Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus and Benedictus
Movement 5: Agnus Dei I & II
Movement 5b: Agnus Dei II
However, the influence of these slow-moving notes can be heard throughout the work, whether they are actually there or not, in the solid, slow-changing underlying chords. A casual listener to the Missa Et ecce terrae motus, confused at first by the teeming detail of the rhythmic patterns, may hear only some rather disappointing harmonies. Closer listening will reveal why Brumel chose to write in so many parts: he needed them to decorate his colossal harmonic pillars. In doing so he effectively abandoned polyphony in the sense of independent yet interrelated melodic lines, and resorted to sequences and figurations which were atypical of his time. The effect can even be akin to that of Islamic art: static, non-representational, tirelessly inventive in its use of abstract designs, which are intensified by their repetitive application. This style of writing is so effective that anyone who might be reminded of Tallis’s Spem in alium would be unable to conceive of the need for another twenty-eight parts.
The manuscript source for Brumel’s ‘Earthquake’ Mass (Munich Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Mus.MS1) was copied for a performance in about 1570 at the Bavarian court. The names of the thirty-three court singers are given against the nine lower parts (the boys are not named), amongst whom Lassus sang Tenor II. Unfortunately the last folios, which contain the Agnus Dei, have rotted, leaving holes in the voice-parts. Any editor of the piece is presented with the unusual task of trying to guess where the notes which he can read might fit, as they are placed on the page in individual parts rather than in score; then re-compose what is missing. This was done for Gimell by Francis Knights. A further Agnus Dei, on the Et ecce terrae motus chant and attributed to Brumel, survives in Copenhagen; but it is widely thought not to belong to the twelve-part Mass, since it is for six voices, which use different vocal ranges from those in the twelve-part setting. In addition its musical style differs in various important respects from that of the larger work, not least in quoting many more than the first seven notes of the chant. For these reasons it has been omitted here. The Mass is scored for three sopranos, one true alto, five wide-ranging tenors and three basses. The tessitura of all these parts (except perhaps that of the sopranos) is unpredictable to the point of eccentricity. Countertenor II, for example, has a range of two octaves and a tone, the widest vocal range I have ever met in renaissance music.
from notes by Thomas Phillips © 1992