9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


A Concerted Missa brevis for Solo Voice by Thomas Selle

Frederick K. Gable

Thomas Selle (1599-1663) produced sacred works for Hamburg churches that have been frequently discounted because of their quantity and limited accessibility. His Monophonia harmonico-latina (1633-34) contains fifteen settings of antiphons and Latin hymns for tenor voice, treble instrument, and
organ continuo. Most unusual are three Mass movements which have no counterpart in the seventeenth century and display an ignored creative side of Selle's output.

One concerto sets the troped Kyrie fons bonitatis, adapted by the German church as "Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit." Less obviously a Mass item is Summo Deo sit gloria, a Latin translation of "Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr." Further removed from a traditional Mass is Veni sancte Spiritus, an antiphon which could open any service, thus making it an ordinary liturgical item.

In these pieces, the vocal cantus firmus is surrounded by active treble and continuo bass lines. Their style resembles a three-part organ setting, but without thematic interrelationships nor keyboard figuration. Selle's lively continuo part functions both as harmonic support and contrapuntal line. The violin or cornett part seems related to the sonata repertoire, but Italian traits do not extend to true treble duet and bass polarity nor recitative style.

These works share style, pitch level, and scoring, so that they obviously belong together. Since Mass items for solo voice are rare in the seventeenth century, these modest works by Thomas Selle appear to be a unique Lutheran concerted Missa brevis, and have no direct compositional models.

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Last updated on 21 March 2000 by Yo Tomita