Missa Brevis world premiere: Strong musical charisma

The premiere of Missa Brevis was a sincere meeting with our own time. Modern music which inspires confidence due to authenticity and charisma.

The new organ in Bergen Cathedral has triggered great activity in the Church music field. The now discontinued Church Music Days followed after an extensive programme in connection to the initiation of a new organ. It is no exaggeration to say that the Bergen Cathedral has confirmed it’s position as a church music center on the Norwegian music scene. Both local and national composers and performers have their place in this picture, but this time Johan Kvandal was in focus. An Oslo-based composer with north Norwegian musician’s blood in his veins. The programme was interesting due to the two completely new works Fantasy for organ, opus 83, and Missa Brevis, opus 84 – in contrast to three works from the 60s.

Nothing revolutionary has happened to Kvandal’s compositional style during these 30 years. A solid technical platform and a moderat modern style with a touch of a modal character. The compositions appear authentic with a personal sound language, modernistic, but held within strict frames, and with strong musical charisma. The premiere performance of Missa Brevis became a sincere meeting with our own time, not only musically but also ideologically. The Gloria movement in the traditional mass is full of joy, but in Kvandal’s work it was transformed into a praise with a doubting and confused atmosphere – a thought provoking reflection of our times.

Kvandal’s musical style is based on tradition, but the harmonics are expanded and give broad sound effects without experimental exaggerations. The melodic lines are strong and have a vibrant connections. It must be a pleasure to sing this music and it sounds well. Johan Kvandal is without a doubt a significant composer and he writes masterfully well for choir and organ.

Missa Brevis gave an appealing first impression and will surely find it’s place in the Norwegian church music literature. But Kvandal’s music is demanding and will perhaps not always be performed the way it was in Bergen Cathedral. Both the composer himself and a well attended Cathedral were able to enjoy a fit cathedral choir a soloist with a personal relationship to Kvandal’s music, an excellent accompaniment on a top class organ, and last but not least, a confident musical direction.

by Knut Helbekkmo, Bergens Tidende, 25.11. 1997