Music for Advent 2 — Sunday December 4, 2022

Missa brevis – Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960)

Kyrie: view video here

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Sanctus: view video here

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,

heaven and earth are full of thy glory.

Glory be to thee, O Lord most high.

Benedictus: view video here

Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

Hosanna in the highest.

Agnus Dei: view video here

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world: have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world: have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world: grant us thy peace.

Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960) is perhaps not the best-known 20th-century composer, but in his day he was regarded as the best teacher of composition in the United Kingdom and well known among other composers. Starting his career as a pupil of Kodály & Bartók at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, from 1922-25, he then travelled widely – sometimes as cellist on the Hamburg America line in the string quartet entertaining 1st class passengers, acquiring a taste for jazz – which he then taught at the Hoch Konservatorium in Frankfurt from 1927-1933.

This was the first academic study of jazz anywhere – and not to the Nazis’ liking. The course was closed in 1933, so he wandered again, settling in London in 1935. There he built a reputation as composer and teacher of composition, lecturing part time at Morley College from 1942 at the invitation of Michael Tippett. Seiber’s friendships and work associations embraced many soloists, including guitarists Julian Bream and John Williams, percussionist Jimmy Blades, and tenor Peter Pears.


Seiber’s Missa brevis, our setting of the Mass ordinary this morning, is an early work; he wrote it at the age of 19. It has a fine and extended Kyrie, followed by a striking Sanctus and a lyrically-unfolding Benedictus. Each movement is written in Seiber’s lean and very direct style.


Mátyás Seiber died tragically early and at the height of his powers, in an automobile accident, while on a conducting and lecture tour in South Africa.

Gerald Harder