About this Recording
8.559624 - SIERRA, R.: Missa Latina, "Pro Pace" (Murphy, Webster, Milwaukee Symphony, Delfs)

Roberto Sierra (b. 1953)
Missa Latina ‘Pro Pace’


Musical settings of the Catholic Mass produced some of the most sublime and dramatic moments in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I was motivated by the Mass’s powerful texts to use today’s resources for evoking deep-felt emotions and drama. Such opportunities struck me as being particularly apparent in the text’s many pleas for peace, for mercy and for forgiveness; the work I wrote, designated a Mass “for peace” (Pro Pace), is rooted in ancient ecclesiastical traditions.

The concept of my Missa Latina “Pro Pace” came directly out of my experience growing up as a Catholic in Puerto Rico. I still recall vividly hearing the Mass in Latin in my hometown when I was a child. These memories created a strong impression—one that has only deepened through the years: a sense of mystery combined with power and compassion in hearing Gregorian chant intoned by the priest in a ritual involving this “dead” language.

The title I chose—Missa Latina—has dual meaning. On the one hand it refers to the traditional Latin text, while on the other hand the work is infused with a “Latino” character: full of Caribbean gestures that allude to my own Hispanic heritage, and which are present in so many of my works. These sounds can be heard particularly in the Laudamus te of the Gloria and the Pleni sunt caeli of the Sanctus.

The impulse for this work was primarily personal, and the Caribbean gestures and rhythms are there to underscore the drama of the Credo, the grand gestures of the Gloria, the inherent pain of the Crucifixus, and the tenderness of the Benedictus. When I think of the expressive range of the Missa Latina, I feel that this may be one of the most complex works I have written. The scoring of the Mass indicates the large modern orchestra, with a percussion section that includes instruments such as congas, bongos, and Cuban timbales, which originated in Caribbean folklore and popular music but are no longer unusual in orchestral music today.

My original intention was to compose a setting of only the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei), but once I began actually composing it, early in 2004, I changed course and decided to make it into some kind of “Votive Mass” with texts for a Proper. The turbulence and constant state of war in which we find ourselves led me to compose the work as a Mass for Peace. With this in mind I looked at the suggested chants for such an observance in the Liber Usualis, which I found to be inspiring. These were incorporated in the Introitus, the Offertorium, and at the end of the Agnus Dei. The first line for the soprano in the Introitus, in fact, is “Give Peace, O Lord,” and the last part before the final Alleluia contains the beautiful line from the Gospels, “My peace I leave you; my peace I give you.”

Missa Latina was co-commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington D. C., Leonard Slatkin, Music Director, through a generous gift from the John and June Hechinger Commissioning Fund for New Orchestral Works, and The Choral Arts Society of Washington, Norman Scribner, Artistic Director, through a generous gift from Anne B. Keiser and Charles Cerf.

This recording was made possible through a generous gift from Marilyn and Martin Campbell.

Roberto Sierra


The sung texts are included in the booklet, and may also be accessed at www.naxos.com/libretti/559624.htm.

Close the window