Alanna Ropchock

The Polyphonic Mass in the Early Lutheran Liturgy

The five-movement polyphonic Mass Ordinary emerged from the cultural and liturgical practices of the Roman Catholic Church and became the preeminent large-scale musical genre of the fifteenth century. At the end of the sixteenth century, the polyphonic masses by composers from the generation of Josquin des Prez (ca. 1450-1521) were still in wide circulation, but they belonged to an institution intrinsically opposed to the Catholic Church and best known nowadays for its cultivation of vernacular liturgical music: the Lutheran church. My book investigates the reception of the polyphonic mass in early Lutheran communities from ca. 1540-1600 in order to alter the current understanding of the Mass Ordinary as a Catholic genre. It does not deny the Catholic origins and identity of the polyphonic mass, but rather contributes an additional layer to the reception and performance histories of arguably the most noteworthy music genre of the Renaissance. Lutherans performed polyphonic masses in pedagogical and recreational settings while humanists of the Reformation preserved older masses as musical “classics” in an early attempt to construct a musical canon. Christians who followed Martin Luther also afforded the polyphonic mass a prominent role in their liturgical practices, which is the focal point of this project.