For almost 40 years, it seemed that Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir would never reach the wider world.
The youngest of 10 children and son to a Calvinist minister, Martin saw the work as more of a contract with God and a showing of his deep faith than a piece of music to be released to a public audience. Only nearing the last decade of his life would the Swiss composer decide to share these harmonies with a public audience.
Originally written in the 1920s, Mass for Double Choir would not be performed until 1963, around which time Martin wrote, “I did not want it to be performed … I consider it as being a matter between God and myself. I felt then that an expression of religious feelings should remain secret and removed from public opinion.”
Recording their interpretation of Martin’s unaccompanied choral masterpiece in March, the Westminster Choir will share this work with Spoleto audiences as part of the group’s annual concert series. Interweaving additional works into the performance, Westminster director and conductor Dr. Joe Miller hopes that listeners will connect with a work so cherished by its composer.
“The Westminster Choir is certainly known for its performance of orchestral repertoire and having a great intensity of sound, a symphonic type of sound. The thing that is striking about the Martin is that it is written for double choir, so two choirs singing at the same time, and it has this incredible sonorous effect,” says Miller. “It is very exciting to listen to. I have always thought that the music is a really good match to the natural sound that the choir makes, so that’s the reason we chose to do it. I think it brings two really great elements together.”