Joannes Adamus Josephus Faber (Augsburg, Germany, ca. 1692 - Antwerp, 1759)

Missa Maria Assumpta 

The circumstances surrounding the composition of the Missa Maria  Assumpta by Joannes Adamus Josephus Faber (ca. 1692-1759) for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp in 1720, constitute one of the riddles of the development of the clarinet repertoire. 

The handwritten score of this mass forms part of the exhibition of the Vleeshuis museum in Antwerp, where it is on loan from the Library Royal Conservatoire Antwerp (B-Ac ms.59708). It contains one of the earliest known parts for clarinet.

Fabers handwriting of the one of the oldest clarinet solo's.

The clarinet had come into existence hardly two decades before in Germany. Its repertoire at that time consisted of a handful of anonymous duets, and two modest parts in the Juditha Triumphans oratorio (1716) by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) and the opera Ifigenia in Aulide (1718) by Antonio Caldara (ca. 1670-1736). Both Vivaldi and Caldara use the new instrument in a popular context, in which the parts could equally well be performed by trumpets. 

 Faber used the clarinet in a completely different and lyrical way. His parts allow the clarinet to enter into dialogue with the singing voices, a role that hitherto had been reserved for the oboe. 

What inspired Faber to start using the clarinet in this way and how this very early solo piece for clarinet came to be composed in Antwerp continues to puzzle musicologists to this day. 

 Faber is known to have composed only three works, the Missa Maria 

Assumpta, the Missa et Ressurexit and a motet called Quam Delicto. All three date from 1720, the year in which Faber was accepted as a probationer by the chapter. It is possible that Faber wanted to impress the chapter by giving this new instrument a solo role and thus secure a position as the choirmaster of the cathedral. Other possibilities are that Faber had already become familiar with the clarinet on his journey from his home in Mainz to Antwerp, or that he knew of it via instrument makers, such as Willems and Rottenburgh of Brussels, or Boekhout of Amsterdam.

Vlad Weverbergh verdient een levensgroot compliment om dit te realiseren.” - SIEBE RIEDSTRA


Joannes Adamus Josephus Faber (Augsburg, Germany, ca. 1692 - Antwerp, 1759) was accepted as a musician and tenor at the Antwerp Cathedral in February 1720. The Antwerp Cathedral organist, Jan Frederik Faber (1703-1764), was his younger brother. Joannes performed chamber music in 1728 on different instruments at the home of Philippo Alberto Vecquemans with his brother on keyboard, and the city minstrel, Theodoor Henricx (1681-1764). In the same year, Joannes became a priest. 

 The Mass Maria Assumpta was written in 1720 by Joannes Faber and is among the earliest works to include the clarinet. It is Italian and German in character, displaying an extensive instrumentation of five vocal soloists, three vocal ripienists, and two violins, viola, two cellos, oboe, two recorders, traverso, clarinet, organ, and harpsichord. It is scored one instrument to a part for 24 short movements. Three of the movements incorporate a C clarinet that may have been played by Faber himself. The 8th movement, “Gratias agimus,” in D Major, is marked Vivace, written in 2/2, and unusually scored for soprano solo, traverso, clarinet, pizzicato strings, and harpsichord. The 13th movement, “Qui tollis peccata mundi,” in D minor, written in 3/2, is scored for alto solo, clarinet, two recorders and harpsichord. In the movement, the clarinet surprisingly plays arpeggios in the low or chalumeau register descending to F, the lowest note at the time. The clarinet’s overall compass in this work is F to c3, remarkably large for the time but playable on a well tuned two-key clarinet. 

The clarinet was first introduced in the Southern Netherlands by the Amsterdam maker, Thomas Conraet Boekhout, about 1710. Boekhout’s son, Jan, advertised in 1718 that he also “invented another instrument called the Clarinet, which can be played in a large concert.” 

Albert R. Rice , Claremont, California

Faber Missa Maria Assumpta Vlad Weverbergh Terra Nova Collective live at St .Paulus Full Video