Friday, December 07, 2007

O Mundi Domina

An interesting find! This is another "O" Antiphon; it's sung on Christmas Eve - a day later than "O Virgo Virginum" (the English antiphon of December 23rd) or "O Emmanuel" (the Roman one), and it comes from medieval Hungary. You can hear an mp3 here, linked from this page. (Or you can listen to a better, clearer version of the antiphon here from; click #4 - or, better still, listen to them all.)

Here's the Latin, followed by the English:
O mundi domina regio ex semine orta
ex tuo iam Christus processit alvo tamquam sponsus de thalamo
hic iacet in praesepio qui et sidera regit.

O Lady of the World, sprung of Royal Race,
now hath Christ come forth from thy womb as a bridegroom from his chamber:
Here lieth he in the crib who ruleth the stars.

That page also mentions two other "O" antiphons - "O rex pacifice," and "O Ierusalem" - that it says were used in medieval times. The Anonymous 4 website says that:
The Office antiphon O mundi domina, for Christmas Eve, uses the same tune as the other great “O” antiphons of Advent, but with a text found only in Hungary.

It's the "same tune" only in a manner of speaking; obviously it's an alternate version of the tune we know - but you can definitely hear it. An excellent example, I'd say, of regional variation that has given rise to something that sounds quite different.

Giovanni Vianini, though, sings it straightforwardly, using the Great O melody:

But we sang the antiphon this week in rehearsal - with nobody catching on that this is related to the Great "O"s, which we had just sung the week before! - and we'll be singing it, quite by coincidence, I think, on the 23rd. Perfect timing! I have the chant written out in modern musical notation and will post it at some point, once I scan or photograph it.

There are quite a few collections of medieval Hungarian Christmas chant music out there, it seems. There must be something particularly notable about this - or perhaps the texts were especially well-preserved or abundant for some reason?

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