A Mass of Life

A Mass of Life (German: Eine Messe des Lebens) is a cantata by English composer Frederick Delius, based on the German text of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-1885).[1][2] In 1898, Delius had written a male choir and orchestral setting of "Midnight Song" from the same work, and this was revised to form part of the Mass.[1]

Delius, who was of German descent, chose for this work the German title Eine Messe des Lebens, having dropped the earlier title Lebensmesse because the German author Richard Dehmel asserted his copyright over the term Lebensmesse. The title Eine Messe des Lebens was used by Sir Thomas Beecham. who conducted the first complete performance of the work in London in 1909.

Eine Messe des Lebens is the largest of Delius's concert works, being written for four SATB soloists, double choir and orchestra.[1] It was dedicated to Fritz Cassirer, who had had an important hand in choosing the passages from Nietzsche's text. Lionel Carley and others, writing in Grove Music Online, describe it as the composer's "grandest project" and say that "Delius responded to Nietzsche's rich poetry in some of his most virile and exultant music, as well as in passages of a profoundly hypnotic and static calm."[3]

The work was completed in 1905. Part 2 was first performed in Munich in 1908, with a complete performance in London a year later.[1]

In September 2022 the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir performed the Norwegian premiere of the work, conducted by Mark Elder, and the Choir of the Earth will rehearse and record it remotely to produce a combined performance in November 2022.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b c d Kennedy, Michael, ed. (21 May 2013). "Mass of Life, A". The Oxford Dictionary of Music (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-957810-8.
  2. ^ "About A Mass of Life". Naxos Records. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  3. ^ Carley, Lionel; Anderson, Robert; Payne, Anthony (20 January 2001). "Delius, Frederick [Fritz](Theodore Albert)". Grove Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.49095. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0.
  4. ^ "Delius - A Mass of Life". Choir of the Earth. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  5. ^ "Digital Eent – Delius Mass of Life: play-through and commentary with Choir of the Earth". News. Delius Society. Retrieved 24 March 2022.

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