Friday, March 27, 2015

The Palm Sunday Communion Song: Pater, si non potest ("Father, if this cup cannot pass away")

The Communion hymn for Palm Sunday, Pater, si non potest, is the last chant of the day, sung during Communion after the Passion gospel has been sung:

The text, taken directly from Matthew 26:42, is a short and sad ending for the Palm Sunday liturgy:
Pater, si non potest hic calix transire, nisi bibam illum: fiat voluntas tua.
Father, if this cup cannot pass away, unless I drink it: your will be done.

Here's the chant score: has all the chant propers for today, sung by the Sao Paolo Benedictines:

Hebdomada SanctaDominica in Palmis de Passione Domini

Antiphona: Hosanna filio David (34.9s - 548 kb) score

Ad processionem
Procedamus (8.3s - 133 kb) score
Antiphona: Pueri... portantes (2m24.9s - 2266 kb) score
Antiphona: Pueri... vestimenta (1m18.4s - 1228 kb) score
Hymnus ad Christum Regem: Gloria, laus (2m43.7s - 2558 kb) score
Responsorium: Ingrediente Domino (3m34.2s - 3350 kb) score

Ad Missam

Tractus: Ps. 21, 2- Deus, Deus meus (1m54.7s - 1794 kb) score
Graduale: Phil. 2, 8. V. 9 Christus factus est (2m19.3s - 2178 kb) score
Offertorium: Ps. 68, 21.22 Improperium... et dederunt (2m40.2s - 2504 kb) score
Communio: Mt. 26, 42 Pater, si non potest (3m28.0s - 3252 kb) score

And here are Chantblog posts on some of these:

Blessed Holy Week to all.

    Sunday, March 22, 2015

    Lent 5: Saepe expugnaverunt ("Greatly have they afflicted me")

    Sung by a group called Sequentia, this seems to be a version of the Tract for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

    Remember that the Tract replaces the Alleluia during Lent, and that the text consists either of a complete Psalm or of the greatest part of a Psalm.

    Here's the chant score; the singing on the video above is much more elaborate - if not actually improvised upon - but the tune does seem to me to be there:

    I've written briefly about this tract before; the text in English is from Psalm 129, verses 1-4:
    “Greatly[a] have they afflicted me from my youth”—
        let Israel now say—
    “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
        yet they have not prevailed against me.
    The plowers plowed upon my back;
        they made long their furrows.”
    The Lord is righteous;
        he has cut the cords of the wicked.

    I noted in the previous post that Psalm 129 is one of the "Songs of Ascents."    Also that Verse 4 is translated "The Lord who is just will cut the necks of sinners" in the Douay-Rheims version of this Psalm - but that the King James translates it this way:  "The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked," as do most other versions.  (The Good News Bible -  and some others  - translate it this way:  "But the Lord, the righteous one, has freed me from slavery," )  So I'm not quite sure what's going on there; clearly there are some disputes about the Hebrew.

    It's a beautiful recording, though, and I'm really happy to have found it. provides the full complement of propers for today, here sung by the Sao Paulo Benedictines;  note that the Communio again depends on the Gospel for the day.
    Hebdomada quinta quadragesimæ  Dominica
    Introitus: Ps. 42, 1.2.3 Iudica me, Deus (3m09.1s - 1293 kb) chant score
    Graduale: Ps. 142, 9.10. V. Ps. 17, 48.49 Eripe me, Domine (3m49.9s - 1572 kb) chant score
    Tractus: Ps. 128, 1-4 Sæpe expugnaverunt (1m50.9s - 759 kb) chant score
    Offertorium: Ps. 118, Confitebor tibi, Domine (1m41.8s - 697 kb) chant score
                     quando legitur Evangelium de Lazaro:
                     Io. 11, Videns Dominus (3m43.2s - 1526 kb)

                     quando legitur Evangelium de muliere adultera:
                     Io. 8, 10.11 Nemo te condemnavit (2m35.9s - 1213 kb)

                     quando legitur aliud Evangelium:
                     Io. 12, 26 Qui mihi ministrat(49.0s - 382 kb)

    Here are posts on Chantblog about the other propers:

    Sunday, March 15, 2015

    The Communio for Lent 4: Ierusalem, quæ ædificatur ut civitas ("Jerusalem is built as a city")

    Ierusalem, quæ ædificatur ut civitas is the Communion Song for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (when the Gospel is other than that of the man blind from birth or the parable of the Prodigal Son - in Year B, in other words).

    Lent - Fourth Sunday: Communio from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

    The text is taken from the beautiful Psalm 122:3-4:
    Jerusalem, quæ ædificatur ut civitas, cuius participatio eius in idipsum: illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini, ad confitendum nomini tuo, Domine.

    Jerusalem is built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.

    Here's the chant score:

    Ierusalem, quæ ædificatur ut civitas is the old, Tridentine, Communion Proper for today; the others,  Lutum fecit and Oportet te were added as alternates that depend on the Gospel reading, after the 3-year lectionary was adopted.

    Today is Laetare Sunday in Lent:  "Rose Sunday," a day when the penitential mood lifts a bit.  The vestments are rose-colored, and the theme is throughout one of grace.  It's a parallel, in that way, to Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent.

    Another, very interesting, parallel, though, is Lent IV's similarity to Advent II, in that all the chant propers for these Sundays mention Jerusalem (or "Sion").  Last year, as readers of this blog might recall, I was wondering why this was the case for the Advent II propers; I asked Derek about it, and he referred me to Dom Dominic Johner's book. The Chants of the Vatican Gradual.   Here's what Johner has to say about today, Laetare Sunday, in Lent:
    Even more than on the second Sunday of Advent (q.v.), the station "at the church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem," in which the solemn services were conducted at Rome, has determined the selection of the liturgical texts of today's Mass. All the chants contain allusions to Sion or Jerusalem. Only the Offertory in its present form is an exception.

    In other words, the chant propers for today refer to Jerusalem because the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem was the stational church in Rome on the Fourth Sunday in Lent during the church's early years.

    This page describes the custom, and lists all the stational churches for Lent; you'll see that the Fourth Sunday in Lent was celebrated at "Santa Croce in Gerusalemme," i.e., The Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.   Here's the introduction from that page:
    Pilgrims who travel to Rome during Lent can participate in a beautiful custom that dates back to the fourth century. It’s a custom that began as a way to strengthen the sense of community in the city while honoring the holy martyrs of Rome. The faithful would journey through the streets to visit various churches. As they walked they would pray the Litany of the Saints. The bishop of Rome, that is the Holy Father, would join them, lead them in prayer and celebrate Mass at the church.

    Though this practice was around for years, Pope Saint Gregory the Great established the order of the churches to be visited, the prayers to be recited and designated this as a Lenten practice. The tradition continued until 1309 when the papacy moved to Avignon. Pope Leo XIII revived the tradition and it was fully restored by John XXIII in 1959.

    The PNAC apparently observes this Lenten custom even today, and elaborates on the history at this page.  Here's a short excerpt, with much more at the link:
    Our modern observance of the stational liturgy traces its roots back to the practice of the Bishop of Rome celebrating the liturgies of the church year at various churches throughout the city, a tradition dating back as far as the late second or early third century.  One reason for this was practical: with the church in Rome being composed of diverse groups from many cultures, regular visits by the bishop served to unify the various groups into a more cohesive whole.  Another reason, particularly following the legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313 which permitted public worship, was to commemorate certain feast days at churches with a special link to that celebration.  Therefore, Good Friday came to be celebrated at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and Christmas at St. Mary Major, where a relic of the manger was venerated.  In time, the original churches in the city, known as tituli (sing. titulus) because they often bore the name of the donor, took on an additional significance as the places that held the relics of the martyrs and the memory of the early history of the church in this city. 1

    As time passed the schedule of these visits, which had earlier followed an informal order, took on a more formalized structure.  By the last half of the fifth century, a fairly fixed calendar was developed, having the order of the places at which the pope would say Mass with the church community on certain days throughout the year.  In the weeks before the beginning of Lent, the three large basilicas outside the walls were visited, forming a ring of prayer around the city before the season of Lent began.  During Lent, the various stations were originally organized so that the Masses were held in different areas of the city each day.  During the octave of Easter the stations form a litany of the saints, beginning with St. Mary Major on Easter Sunday and continuing with St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Lawrence, the Apostles, and the martyrs.

    This also explains the Advent II propers; Santa Croce in Gerusalemme was the stational church on that Sunday as well.

    Which is all quite interesting, to me, and definitely explains what I took to be mysterious! offers a complete list of today's propers sung by the Sao Paolo Benedictines; note that the Offertory and Communio vary, depending on the Gospel for the day.
    Hebdomada quarta quadragesimæ  Dominica
    Introitus: Cf. Is. 66, 10.11; Ps. 121 Lætare Ierusalem (3m46.5s - 3540 kb) chant score
    Graduale: Ps. 121, 1. V. 7 Lætatus sum (1m58.9s - 1858 kb) chant score
    Tractus: Ps. 124, 1.2 Qui confidunt (3m13.4s - 3024 kb) chant score
    Offertorium: Ps. 134, 3.6 Laudate Dominum (1m37.4s - 1524 kb) chant score
                     quando legitur Evangelium de filio prodigo:
                      Ps. 12, 4.5 Illumina oculos meos (1m33.8s - 1468 kb) chant score
    Communio:  Ps. 121, 3.4 Ierusalem, quæ ædificatur chant score (1m09.7s - 1092 kb)

                     quando legitur Evangelium de cæco nato:
                      Io. 9, 6.11.38 Lutum fecit (39.3s - 616 kb)

                     quando legitur Evangelium de filio prodigo:
                      Lc. 15, 32 Oportet te (28.9s - 454 kb)

    Other Chantblog articles about the propers for the day include:

    Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    A Lament for Lent: Parce Domine ("O Lord, spare thy people")

    Parce Domine is a "Lenten lament" of a type similar to Attende Domine, about which I've written several times previously.  Both pieces are and have been used in processions and for congregational singing during Lent. I love Attende Domine and prefer it, personally, because of its tunefulness -  but just came across this one and thought I'd post it, too.  Giovanni Vianini sings it this video:

    I don't find this piece in the Liber Usualis, but here's a PDF of the chant from the website of The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.   The text comes from Joel 2:17, and also, I'd say, from the general and widely-used Psalmic motif of "O Lord, will you be angry with us forever?," since that phrase is not found in the passage from Joel.
    Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: let not thy wrath be kindled against us forever.

    In the video above, Giovanni Vianini is singing the antiphon along with the hymn Flectamus iram vindicem, which CPDL calls "Variant 3":
    The hymn Flectamus iram vindicem is attributed to St Ambrose. The Gregorian Parce Domine refrain is also sung with verses from the miserere using the tonus peregrinus."

    Parce Domine, populo tuo, ne in aeternum irascaris nobis.

    Variant 1
    Parce Domine populo tuo, et ne des haereditatem tuam in [obprobrium] perditionem. (Joel 2:17. Vulgate)
    Variant 2
    Parce Domine, parce populo tuo quia pius es et misericors. Exaudi nos in aeternum, Domine.

    Variant 3 (Hymn)

    1. Flectamus iram vindicem,
    Ploremus ante Judicem;
    Clamemus ore supplici,
    Dicamus omnes cernui:

    2. Nostris malis offendimus
    Tuam Deus clementiam
    Effunde nobis desuper
    Remissor indulgentiam.

    3. Dans tempus acceptabile,
    Da lacrimarum rivulis
    Lavare cordis victimam,
    Quam laeta adurat caritas.

    4. Audi, benigne Conditor,
    Nostras preces cum fletibus
    In hoc sacro jejunio,
    Fusas quadragenario.

    O Lord, spare thy people, and be not angry with us for ever.
    Variant 1
    O Lord, spare thy people and give not thine inheritance to [reproach] perdition.
    Variant 2
    Spare, O Lord, spare thy people, for Thou art gracious and merciful. Hear us for ever, O Lord.

    Variant 3 (Hymn)
    1. Let us appease His wrath,
    Beg for mercy from our Judge;
    Cry to Him in supplication,
    Let us all prostrate and say:

    2. By our sins we have offended
    against your mercy, O God
    Pour forth from above
    O pardoning One, your forgiveness

    3. Having given us this acceptable time,
    grant that in the water of our tears
    we may purify our heart and that it may become
    a joyful sacrifice offered out of love.

    4. O Merciful Creator, hear
    our prayers with our weeping
    in this holy time of
    forty day fasting.

    Here's a page from The St. Gregory Hymnal (published by St. Gregory Guild, Philadelphia, 1920), courtesy of  Parce Domine is offered here as an antiphon "usually sung three times before the 50th Psalm [AKA Psalm 51], Miserere mei, Deus":

    Several composers have written settings of Parce Domine; here's one from Gounod, sung beautifully by Mezzo-Soprano Andreia Petrea.  This is really quite a great piece, I have to say; unfortunately I've not been able to find the text Gounod uses here - it's not Flectamus iram vindicem, as far as I can tell - and I haven't yet been able to understand the words via the video.  Will be back with an update if either of those two things occurs!

    This is an audio/video of a setting of Parce Domine by 15th-Century Low Countries composer Jacob Obrecht; it starts here with the Gregorian melody - which, as far as I can tell, is not actually part of the composed piece.  (Here's a PDF of the composition from CPDL; the text is the one from Variant 2 above.)  The way the chant is sung here at the outset makes me like the antiphon better than I did originally:

    Friday, March 06, 2015

    The Communion Song for the Third Sunday of Lent: Passer Invenit ("The sparrow has found her a home")

    Here's one of the rare instances of a chant proper used twice during the liturgical year.  Passer Invenit is the Communion Song for the Third Sunday in Lent (when the Gospel reading is other than the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, as it is this year in Year B), and also for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - which for Episcopalians is the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 10).   I'm not sure who the singers are in this video:

    It's sung in the video below by the schola of the Monastery of the Holy Cross, Benedictine monks in Chicago.  They also add some commentary about the chant, which is well worth listening to.

    The passage is from the beautiful Psalm 84, Quam dilecta!, and the text for this chant consists of verses 2-3:
    How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! *
    My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;
    my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

    The sparrow has found her a house
    and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
    by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,
    my King and my God.

    Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
    they will always be praising you.

    Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
    whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.

    Here's an mp3
    , another lovely rendition from JoguesChant. Below is the score, from the same site:

    This one caught my eye in particular because I recognized an ornithological reference! From Wikipedia:
    A passerine is a bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or, less accurately, as songbirds, the passerines form one of the most diverse terrestrial vertebrate orders: with over 5,000 identified species,[1] it is roughly twice as diverse as the largest of the mammal orders, the Rodentia.

    The names "passerines" and "Passeriformes" are derived from Passer domesticus, the scientific name of the type species – the House Sparrow – and ultimately from the Latin term passer for Passer sparrows and similar small birds.

    Here's a lovely rendition from a women's chant group (again, not sure who they are):

    These guys, apparently part of the Sacred Heart Choir in Kuala Lumpur, are singing the same tune for Lent 3, they say (and doing a really nice job of it, too):

    I've actually written before about this chant, having found this entry at the St. Cecilia Schola Cantorum site:
    Here is the communion chant for this weekend, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. This chant, which mimics the sound of a turtle dove, is surely one of the most spectacular in the Gregorian repertoire.

    And it's always so great to find a reference like that - and the monks in the video above discuss this, too. Here's the sole polyphonic piece I could find that's based on this text; it's actually the entire Psalm "Quam dilecta!", and a very lovely thing it is, too, written by one Michel-Richard Delalande (1657-1726).

    I simply adore the lush richness of this Petits Motets style! If you look at the selections on the right side of the page at that YouTube link, you'll notice that this guy did quite a number of Psalms.

    The image below is a "Grasshopper Sparrow on a nest. Source: Chester A. Reed, ''The Bird Book'', 1915."

    Here are all the chant propers for the day, sung by the Sao Paulo Benedictines:
    Hebdomada tertia quadragesimæ
    Introitus: Ps. 24, 15.16 et 1-2 Oculi mei (3m02.3s - 2852 kb) score
    Graduale: Ps. 9, 20. V. 4 Exsurge... non prævaleat (3m46.7s - 3546 kb) score
    Tractus: Ps. 122, 1-3 Ad te levavi (1m45.2s - 1646 kb) score
    Offertorium: Ps. 18, 9.11.12 Iustitiæ Domini (1m21.7s - 1278 kb) score
                     Quando legitur Evangelium de Samaritana:
                     Io. 4, 13.14 Qui biberit aquam (3m02.3s - 2852 kb)
                     Quando legitur aliud Evangelium:
                     Ps. 83, 4.5 Passer invenit (3m30.3s - 3288 kb) score

    Here are posts on Chantblog for other propers of this day:

    Sunday, March 01, 2015

    The Communio for Lent 2: Visionem quam vidistis ("The Vision you have seen")

    This very short - and beautiful - chant is the Communion song for the second Sunday of Lent (and also for the Feast of the Transfiguration, one of the very few instances of this kind of double use):

    The text comes from Matthew 17:9. a passage that immediately follows the story of the Transfiguration on the Mountain in that Gospel:
    Visionem quam vidistis, nemini dixeritis,
    donec a mortuis resurgat filius Hominis.

    Tell the vision you have seen to no man,
    till the Son of man be risen from the dead.

     Here's the chant score:

    The Introit for today, Tibi dixit cor meum, is also used as the Introit for Transfiguration (although the other propers are different between the two days).  This is because the Second Sunday of Lent was,  I believe, at one time a commemoration of the Transfiguration, in the same way we now commemorate on the Last Sunday after Epiphany, the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday.

    The Gospel reading for today in the Historic (Roman Catholic) Lectionary was taken from  Matthew 17:1-9, which contains the entire story of the Transfiguration; this certainly explains very well why the Transfiguration Introit is used on this date.   (But, oddly, the Tridentine Introit was not Tibi dixit, but Reminiscere Miserationum ("Remember Your Mercies")!  So this adjustment in the use of the Transfiguration propers here is actually quite odd; I'm guessing that we may actually be moving back in time, before the Tridentine Rite, in some way.  My hunch is that it all has something to do with the Liturgical Renewal movement during the 20th Century; I will need to do some more research on that.)

    (Just for the sake of interest, in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and in the Historic Lutheran Lectionary, the Lent 2 Gospel reading was taken from Matt. 15:21–28, the story of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was "grievously vexed with a devil.")

    In any case, the old, Tridentine, rite, the Communio for today was Intellige clamorem meum; here it's sung by the Schola of the Vienna Hofburgkapelle.

    Rene Goupil notes that the text is taken from Psalm 5: 2-4, and offers this translation:
    Understand my cry, heed my voice in prayer, my King and my God, for to thee, Lord, shall I pray.

    So Visionem itself may be a new chant; again, I'll have to try to find out.

    Whatever the case, Ambrosio Cotes (Villena/Valencia, 1550 - Sevilla, 1603) set the very same text, here sung, I believe, by Victoria Musicae (and directed by Josep R.Gil-Tàrrega?):

    Here are all of today's chant propers, sung by the Sao Paulo Benedictines:

    Hebdomada secunda quadragesimæ
    Introitus: Ps. 26, 8.9 et 1 Tibi dixit cor meum (cum Gloria Patri) (2m59.6s - 2808 kb)
    Graduale: Ps. 82, 19. V. 14 Sciant gentes (3m00.8s - 2828 kb) score
    Tractus: Ps. 59, 4.6 Commovisti (2m18.1s - 2160 kb) score
    Offertorium: Ps. 118, 47.48 Meditabor (1m16.1s - 1192 kb) score
    Communio: Mt. 17, 9 Visionem (2m36.4s - 2446 kb) score

    Here are links to Chantblog articles about the propers for today:

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    Ash Wednesday: Miserere mei Deus secundum (Josquin Desprez)

    This recording of Josquin's setting of Psalm 51 is sung by the Dufay Ensemble:

    (Notes at YouTube read:  "2a parte - Auditui meo dabis gaudium" by Kiem, Eckehard (Google PlayeMusiciTunesAmazonMP3))

    The words come from Psalm 51, which figures prominently in the Ash Wednesday liturgy; it is recited immediately following the imposition of ashes.  Here's the Latin of the Psalm (via CPDL) , followed by the English translation from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer:
    Miserére mei, Deus: secúndum magnam misericórdiam tuam.
    Et secúndum multitúdinem miseratiónum tuárum: dele iniquitátem meam.
    Ámplius lava me ab iniquitáte mea: et a peccáto meo munda me.
    Quóniam iniquitátem meam ego cognósco: et peccátum meum contra me est semper.
    Tibi soli peccávi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificéris in sermónibus tuis, et vincas cum judicáris.
    Ecce enim in iniquitátibus concéptus sum: et in peccátis concépit me mater mea.
    Ecce enim veritátem dilexísti: incérta et occúlta sapiéntiæ tuæ manifestásti mihi.
    Aspérges me hyssópo, et mundábor: lavábis me, et super nivem dealbábor.
    Audítui meo dabis gáudium et lætítiam: et exsultábunt ossa humiliáta.
    Avérte fáciem tuam a peccátis meis: et omnes iniquitátes meas dele.
    Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spíritum rectum ínnova in viscéribus meis.
    Ne projícias me a fácie tua: et spíritum sanctum tuum ne áuferas a me.
    Redde mihi lætítiam salutáris tui: et spíritu principáli confírma me.
    Docébo iníquos vias tuas: et ímpii ad te converténtur.
    Líbera me de sangúinibus, Deus, Deus salútis meæ: et exsultábit lingua mea justítiam tuam.
    Dómine, lábia mea apéries: et os meum annuntiábit laudem tuam.
    Quóniam si voluísses sacrifícium, dedíssem utique: holocáustis non delectáberis.
    Sacrifícium Deo spíritus contribulátus: cor contrítum et humiliátum, Deus, non despícies.
    Benígne fac, Dómine, in bona voluntáte tua Sion: ut ædificéntur muri Jerúsalem.
    Tunc acceptábis sacrifícium justítiæ, oblatiónes et holocáusta: tunc impónent super altáre tuum vítulos.

    Psalm 51    Miserere mei, Deus

      1     Have mercy on me, O God, according to your
                                          loving-kindness; *
               in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

      2     Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
               and cleanse me from my sin.

      3     For I know my transgressions, *
               and my sin is ever before me.

      4     Against you only have I sinned *
               and done what is evil in your sight.

      5     And so you are justified when you speak *
               and upright in your judgment

      6     Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
               a sinner from my mother's womb.

      7     For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
               and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

      8     Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
               wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

      9     Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
               that the body you have broken may rejoice.

    10     Hide your face from my sins *
               and blot out all my iniquities.

    11     Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
               and renew a right spirit within me.

    12     Cast me not away from your presence *
               and take not your holy Spirit from me.

    13     Give me the joy of your saving help again *
               and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

    14     I shall teach your ways to the wicked, *
               and sinners shall return to you.

    15     Deliver me from death, O God, *
               and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
               O God of my salvation.

    16     Open my lips, O Lord, *
               and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

    17     Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice; *
               but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

    18     The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *
               a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

    This is the very interesting Wikipedia entry for this piece, in its entirety:
    The Miserere, by Josquin des Prez, is a motet setting of Psalm 51 (Psalm 50 in the Septuagint numbering) for five voices. He composed it while in the employ of Duke Ercole I d'Este in Ferrara, most likely in 1503 or 1504.[1] It was one of the most famous settings of that psalm of the entire Renaissance, was hugely influential in subsequent settings of the Penitential Psalms, and was itself probably inspired by the recent suffering and execution of the reformer Girolamo Savonarola.[2]

    During the 1490s, the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole I d'Este, kept in close contact with Savonarola, who was also from Ferrara, and supported him in his efforts to reform the Roman Catholic Church. About a dozen letters between the two survive: the Duke sought advice both on spiritual and political matters (for example, his alliance with France).[3] Even after Savonarola's arrest, Duke Ercole attempted to have him freed, but his last letter to the church authorities in Florence, in April 1498, went unanswered. After Savonarola's execution, Ercole, then in his eighties, probably commissioned his newly hired composer, Josquin, to write him a musical testament, very likely for performance during Holy Week of 1504.[4] Savonarola's impassioned meditation on sin and repentance, Infelix ego, composed in prison after his torture, and published in Ferrara in mid-1498 shortly after his death, was the probable model for Josquin's setting. It is an extended prayer to the God against whom he believes he has sinned, based closely on Psalm 51, and unified by a boldface-type repetition of the phrase "Miserere mei, Deus" throughout the text.

    In keeping with Savonarola's dislike of polyphony and musical display, the Miserere is written in a spare, austere style, much different from the contrapuntal complexity, virtuosity, and ornamentation of works such as the five-part motet Virgo salutiferi, which was probably written around the same time.[5] The tenor part, which contains the repeating phrase "Miserere mei, Deus", was likely written to be sung by the Duke himself, who was a trained musician and often sang with the musicians in his chapel.[6]

    The Miserere is one of Josquin's two "motto" motets, motets in which repetitions of a phrase are the predominant structural feature (the other is the five-voice Salve Regina of several years before). In the Miserere, the opening words of the first verse "Miserere mei, Deus", sung to a simple repeated-note motif containing only two pitches (E and F), serves as the motto. This recurs after each of the 19 verses of the psalm. The motto theme begins each time on a different pitch, with the recurrences moving stepwise down the scale from E below middle C to the E an octave below, then back up again to the opening E, and then down stepwise to A fifth below, where the piece ends. In addition, the length of the motto theme is halved once it begins its ascent out of the bass, and has its length returned to normal for the final descent from E to A.[7] These three journeys of the motto theme's opening note, down, up, and then down again, define the three divisions of the composition: a brief break is usually observed in performance between them.

    While overall the composition is in the Phrygian mode, the harmonized repetitions enforce tonal variety.[8] Texturally, the piece is so constructed that the words are always clearly intelligible. Intelligibility of sung text was not always a high priority for composers of the period, and this lack of intelligibility was a specific criticism Savonarola made of polyphonic music. Josquin arranges for the words to be heard by using chordal textures, duets, and by avoiding dense polyphony; and of course after each verse the tenor voice intones alone "Miserere mei, Deus", as in the Savonarola meditation. As tenor sings these words, the other voices join in one at a time to reinforce the first, "an effect analogous to boldface type in a printed text."[9]

    Josquin's setting of the Miserere was influential not only as a psalm setting, but as an example of how to approach the text of Infelix ego. Later in the 16th century, composers who specifically set the words of Savonarola, such as Adrian Willaert, Cipriano de Rore, and Nicola Vicentino, all of whom wrote motets on Infelix ego, used Josquin's work as a model.[10]

    Psalm 57:1-4, another Psalm that contains the words "Miserere mei Deus," provides the text for the Gradual on Ash Wednesday; here's a video of that chant:

    And here's the chant score:

    Here's the complete text of Psalm 57:     
    1     Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,
    for I have taken refuge in you; *
        in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge
        until this time of trouble has gone by.
    2     I will call upon the Most High God, *
        the God who maintains my cause.
    3     He will send from heaven and save me;
    he will confound those who trample upon me; *
        God will send forth his love and his faithfulness.
    4     I lie in the midst of lions that devour the people; *
        their teeth are spears and arrows,
        their tongue a sharp sword.
    5     They have laid a net for my feet,
    and I am bowed low; *
        they have dug a pit before me,
        but have fallen into it themselves.     
    6     Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, *
        and your glory over all the earth.
    7     My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; *
        I will sing and make melody.
    8     Wake up, my spirit;
    awake, lute and harp; *
        I myself will waken the dawn.
    9     I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD; *
        I will sing praise to you among the nations.
    10     For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, *
        and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
    11     Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, *
        and your glory over all the earth.

    Here are all the propers for Ash Wednesday, from the Sao Paulo Benedictines:
    Tempus quadragesimæ
    Feria quarta cinerum
    Ad ritus initiales et liturgiam verbi
    Introitus: Sap. 11, 24-25.27; Ps. 56 Misereris omnium (3m44.9s - 3516 kb) score
    Graduale: Ps. 56, 2. V. 4 Miserere mei, Deus (3m15.9s - 3064 kb) score
    Tractus: Ps. 102, 10 et 78, 8 et 9 Domine, non secundum peccata nostra (3m27.7s - 3248 kb) score

    Ad benedictionem et impositionem cinerum
    Antiphona: Cf. Ioel 2, 13 Immutemur habitu (1m21.5s - 1276 kb) score
    Responsorium: Cf. Bar. 3,2. V. Ps. 78,9 Emendemus in melius (2m24.7s - 2264 kb) score

    Ad liturgiam eucharisticam
    Offertorium: Ps. 29, 2.3 Exaltabo te (1m37.7s - 1528 kb) score
    Communio: Ps. 1, 2b.3b Qui meditabitur (45.3s - 710 kb) score

    Here are posts on this site about the propers on the day:
    The Ash Wednesday Introit: Misereris omnium
    Ash Wednesday: Miserere Mei Deus (The Gradual)
    Ash Wednesday:  Domine, non secundum (The Tract)
    Ash Wednesday: Immutemur habitu and Emendemus in melius (antiphons sung during the imposition of ashes)
    Exaltabo Te, Domine (The Offertory)
    The Ash Wednesday Communion Song: Qui meditabitur

    A holy Lent to all.

    Tuesday, December 23, 2014

    December 23: O Virgo Virginum

    Anglicans sing O Virgo Virginum as the Antiphon upon Magnificat at Vespers on December 23.  It's the eighth and last of the Great "O" Antiphons sung during the week before Christmas.

    Here's the wonderful English translation of this beautiful text:
    O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? That which ye behold is a divine mystery.

    Here's a video of the Magnificat, too, so you can sing the whole thing:

    The text of the Magnificat comes from Luke 1;  here are the words to the original Latin and the modern English (US BCP 1979) versions of this beautiful canticle, so that you can sing along if you wish.

    Magnificat: anima mea Dominum.
    Et exultavit spiritus meus: in Deo salutari meo.
    Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae:
    ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
    Quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est:
    et sanctum nomen eius.
    Et misericordia eius, a progenie et progenies:
    timentibus eum.
    Fecit potentiam in brachio suo:
    dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
    Deposuit potentes de sede:
    et exaltavit humiles.
    Esurientes implevit bonis:
    et divites dimisit inanes.
    Suscepit Israel puerum suum:
    recordatus misericordiae suae.
    Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros:
    Abraham, et semini eius in saecula.

    Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
    Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

    My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
    my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
    for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
    From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
    the Almighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his Name.
    He has mercy on those who fear him *
    in every generation.
    He has shown the strength of his arm, *
    he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
    He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
    and has lifted up the lowly.
    He has filled the hungry with good things, *
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
    He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
    for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
    The promise he made to our fathers, *
    to Abraham and his children for ever.

    Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
    as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

    As a bonus, here's Josquin DesPrez' setting of the antiphon; exquisite, as always.


    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...