Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus and Benedictus
Movement 4a: Sanctus
Movement 4b: Benedictus
Movement 5: Agnus Dei I & II
Movement 5a: Agnus Dei I
Movement 5b: Agnus Dei II
The most likely explanation for this general descriptive title ‘brevis’ is that no other came readily to hand. In other cases of a ‘free’ setting, ‘Sine nomine’ was common; but some of these, like the one which has recently been proved to be based on Josquin’s motet Benedicta es, are bigger pieces in terms of the number of voices employed, and perhaps a distinction between the titles ‘Sine nomine’ and ‘Brevis’ is implied. Not that anyone ever proposed the title ‘Missa Longa’. The idea that the word ‘brevis’ comes from the fact that every movement starts with a breve in the original notation is discounted since literally hundreds of works start with this note-value and it is hard to imagine anyone fixing on this detail as being worthy of comment.
The music has a strong character, confidently written, with the motif of the falling minor third, usually followed by upward movement by step, appearing very regularly. This happens not only at the beginning of most movements, but frequently during them, for instance in the remarkable sequence in all the parts to the word ‘Amen’ in the Credo. This interval alone goes some way to explain the unusually subtle cohesion which the Missa Brevis displays on close acquaintance, where a casual glance might judge it to be disparate. The music is for SATB, increasing to SSATB for the beautiful second Agnus Dei. The phrase at the beginning of the first Agnus – an ascending scale – is inverted at the beginning of the second, which rounds off the music in the most satisfying way.
from notes by Peter Phillips © 1986