The Missa Salisburgensis à 53 voci is, perhaps, the most large-scale piece of extant sacred Baroque music, an archetypical work of the Colossal Baroque. The author of this work is anonymous, however, recent studies of the work suggest that is almost certainly the work of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. Until recently, this Mass has been considered to have been a composition of Orazio Benevoli, or, more likely, Andreas Hofer, Biber's close contemporary and associate. The attribution to Biber is now universally accepted. The sole manuscript source narrowly escaped being used by a greengrocer to wrap vegetables for sale in the 19th century.[1] The work is scored for very large forces and is polychoral in structure.


The work is scored thus:

  • Choro I: SSAATTBB in concerto* & in cappella*, Organo
  • Choro II: 2 Violini, 4 Viole
  • Choro III: 4 Flauti, 2 Oboi, 2 Clarini* (the oboe parts may have been added later; both parts appear to have been simply copied from the Flauto I and Flauto II lines, and there are no oboe solos in the entire Mass)
  • Choro IV: 2 Cornetti, 3 Tromboni (each of the cornetto parts are almost certainly intended to be played on the Cornettino)
  • Choro V: SSAATTBB in concerto & in cappella
  • Choro VI: 2 Violini, 4 Viole
  • Loco I: 4 Trombettæ, Timpani
  • Loco II: 4 Trombettæ, Timpani
  • Organo e Basso continuo

*Note: in concerto refers to the vocal soloists and in cappella refers to vocal tuttis where extra singers join the soloists in the vocal lines. When the cappella choir is employed, the vocal lines are less complex than the solo parts for the voices in concerto. All of the viole lines are in C clefs and it is unclear whether the composer required instruments from the violin family, i.e. "violas da braccio" or viols, i.e. violas da gamba on these lines. The four "Flauti" lines require two descant (soprano), treble (alto), and tenor recorders. The "Trombettæ" are natural trumpets in C. The two "Clarini" are soloistic trumpet parts, composed predominantly for the highest octave of the natural trumpet.

Styles and compositional techniques

The Missa Salisburgensis is a polychoral composition which takes advantage of the multiple organs and various locations available for groups of singers and musicians to perform in Salzburg Cathedral, probably for the 1682 celebrations marking the 1100th anniversary of the founding of the Archbishopric of Salzburg. The vocal parts feature in concerto (soloists) and in cappella (the full choir) parts across the sixteen vocal lines. However, several times in the Mass, the composer "collapses" all the voices into simple four part harmony (SATB) and uses some of the instrumental groups, the cornetto and trombone choir, in particular, to play in unison with the human voices. The work is in C major throughout - necessitated by the used of ten clarino trumpets in C. All the instruments have solo sections except the two oboes, which always play in unison with the first and second flauti (recorders). The work is stylistically similar to Biber's Vesperæ à 32 voci, and the Te Deum Laudamus à 23 voci of Andreas Hofer.

The appendix of the score, housed in Salzburg's Carolino Augusteum Museum, contains the equally scored hymn Plaudite tympana, that accompanies the mass.



  • A Catalog [sic!] of Music for the Cornett by Bruce Dickey and Michael Collver; Indiana University Press 1996 ISBN 0253209749
  • Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich, Vienna: Universal Edition, 1894-1938 Volume 20
  • The King's Music edition (1997).
  • Missa Salisburgensis, large facsimile of the manuscript in the Library of the Museum Carolino Augusteum, Salzburg, (Salzburg : Anton Pustet, 1969). Introduction by Dr. L. Feininger, contains some now obsolete scholarship.
  • There is an account of the Missa Salisburgensis mixup by Ernst Hintermaier in several Austrian Musicological Journals in the 1970s, (in German).
  • Orazio Benevoli Opera Omnia, ed. L. Feininger, Monumenta liturgiae Polychoralis Sanctae Ecclesiae Romane, (Rome,1966-).

External links

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