The Messe Basse
(infelicitously named since, strictly speaking, a ‘Low Mass’ is one without music) had an even more complicated birth than the Requiem
. It was undertaken in 1881 as a joint endeavour by Fauré and André Messager (the latter best known perhaps for his ballet Les deux pigeons
and the opera Madame Chrysanthème
). Of the five movements (‘Kyrie’, ‘Gloria’, ‘Sanctus’, ‘O Salutaris’ and ‘Agnus Dei’), three (‘Gloria’, ‘Sanctus’, ‘Agnus Dei’) were by Fauré, the other two by Messager. The setting was for three-part female choir with soloists, accompanied by a harmonium and a solo violin, although shortly after the first performance it was orchestrated, mainly by Messager (Fauré scored the ‘Agnus Dei’). The final version, omitting Messager’s movements but with a new ‘Kyrie’ by Fauré and a ‘Benedictus’ based on part of the now-abandoned ‘Gloria’, was completed in December 1906. In this four-movement version the orchestral accompaniment was replaced by an organ. The music, entirely by Fauré, is technically undemanding and has a certain Gallic charm.
from notes by Wadham Sutton © 1989