Mass – Hindemith

Paul Hindemith’s mass „Apparebit repentina dies” takes around 30 minutes and was composed in the late 20th century. He follows the usual structure of masses: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, (Benedictus), and Agnus Dei. A mixed choir performs; no instruments are being used.

Typical for the epoch of the expressionism, which has only just ended around this composition, it is difficult to find a structure in the separate parts, dissonant harmonies are often used as well. At the very beginning, (Kyrie) there’s an alteration between one choir voice and the rest of the choir. As already mentioned, Hindemith includes a few dissonant chords, which also often happen to sound unexpected. The dynamics stay overall the same throughout the “Kyrie”.  The second part “Gloria” builds a bit of a contrast, by altering short harmonic sounding chords with dissonant ones. The last chord is unlike the ones before more clearly sung, ending on a major triad.

The following part “Credo” is with a duration of 8 minutes the longest section of the mass. In between the again occurring dissonant harmonies, a few major7 chords can be heard, which are always left open. The first half is nevertheless rather calm. After a rest for every voice, the bass starts a second section within the “Credo”, which is much more hectically than the previous one, but seems to be becoming calmer towards the end. Hindemith includes a few unison parts, which are the first ones where the text is easy to understand. Similar to the “Gloria”, he builds in a clear major triad at the very end.

At the beginning of the fourth part “Sanctus” the whole choir sings the same note at the beginning, creating a clear sound. Nevertheless, the following few syllables are dissonant. It seems that, in particularly this part of the piece, all sung notes are held for a really long time, which creates an interesting, slightly disconcerting tone sung by all voices. The end is similar to the start on a long unison sung note. In “Benedictus”, the second last part, Hindemith creates a contrast by altering a clear and bright sounding melody, sung by only the sopranos, with the rest of the choir “answering” with dissonant rubbing chords. The alto starts with the last part of the mass, only accompanied by single vowels sung by the rest of the choir in the background. Only after a while the piece starts becoming polyphonic again. The end is, again, in contrast to the rest of the piece, a harmonic triad.


With pieces from the epoch or in style of the expressionism I often find, that there fascinating to analyse in detail, but nevertheless, difficult to listen to. I found it interesting to see how Hindemith altered different styles within just one part of the mass. It was furthermore a change to all the other masses I’ve listened to so far, which are mostly harmonic and calm sounding. Overall I can say, that this mass was certainly interesting to listen to, even though I wouldn’t add it to my personal music library.