Messe solennelle

In 1991 the autograph manuscript of Hector Berlioz’s “Messe solnnelle” Messe solennelle was rediscovered in St. Carolus Borromeus Church in Antwerp. The composer himself had indicated that he had destroyed the work. This represented a spectacular discovery for Berlioz research. In 1994 the mass was published as volume 23 of the New Berlioz Edition by Bärenreiter. In his memoirs, Berlioz wrote in detail about the composition. Augustin de Pons lent Berlioz 1,200 francs so that he could pay for the performance of the work:

“A little later, Monsieur Masson, choirmaster at the church of Saint-Roch, suggested that I write a festive mass which he would perform, he said, in his church on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the patron saint of choristers. We were to have an orchestra of a hundred selected musicians and an even larger choir; the vocal parts would be learnt within a month; preparing the parts would cost me nothing, as this work would be carried out at no charge and with care by the Saint-Roch choristers etc. etc. I therefore began working on my mass with enthusiasm, the style of which, with its unbalanced, and to some extent coincidental tone colours, was nothing other than a clumsy imitation of Lesueur’s style. When Lesueur had looked over my score, he, like most masters,  praised in particular those passages where I had most faithfully imitated his style.”

The first performance took place on 10 July 1825.