Saturday, July 24, 2010

Petite et Accipietis

This passage from the reading from Luke is the Communio (Communion hymn) for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (this Sunday, July 25th, the Ninth after Pentecost). Here's the English translation at JoguesChant:
Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you; for all who ask, receive, he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened, alleluia.

Here's the mp3, from Jogues; they've got a PDF of the score over there, too - but here's the image from the Brazilian Benedictines:

A lovely passage.

Here's a terrific (Michael) Haydn version, the gradual (it says) from Missa Sancta Theresiae:

There's another YouTube version, about which it says:
Audio recorded Dec. 13, 2009 at the Saint Paul Seminary Chapel, St. Paul, Minn.

Founded in 1988 by Artistic Director Axel Theimer, Kantorei is a high-quality a cappella choral ensemble of about 40 singers from the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. Devoted to a natural approach to singing, Kantorei is known for performing unaccompanied music with rich, effortless and efficient sound. Kantorei specializes in 19th- and 20th-century European compositions.

Kantorei has collaborated with the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Chorale, Minnesota Sinfonia and Amadeus Chamber Symphony and performs a full schedule each season. The ensemble's Web site is

I'm always happy to include smaller ensembles recorded live! So here it is:

I'm trying to find out why a gradual was included in this Mass! That's certainly not the usual thing, and there must be a reason; if I find out what it was, I'll come back and add to this post. It does seem to be a very popular piece, in fact.

The mass was - judging from Bernini sculpture accompanying the first video above - written to celebrate Theresa of Avila; I'm guessing it was commissioned, but wonder for what occasion? Another mystery for now, hopefully to be cleared up later....

Meantime, here's a photo of that wonderful piece, "The Ecstasy of St. Theresa" (one of my very, very favorite pieces of religious artwork, in fact):

Here's an explanation of the ecstatic experience, from Theresa herself:
It pleased our Lord that I should see the following vision a number of times. I saw an angel near me, on the left side, in bodily form. This I am not wont to see, save very rarely.... In this vision it pleased the Lord that I should see it thus. He was not tall, but short, marvellously beautiful, with a face which shone as though he were one of the highest of the angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call Seraphim.... I saw in his hands a long golden spear, and at the point of the iron there seemed to be a little fire. This I thought that he thrust several times into my heart, and that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew out the spear he seemed to be drawing them with it, leaving me all on fire with a wondrous love for God. The pain was so great that it caused me to utter several moans; and yet so exceeding sweet is this greatest of pains that it is impossible to desire to be rid of it, or for the soul to be content with less than God.

(PBS' "Power of Art" did a great segment on Bernini - and on this piece in particular - not too long ago.)

(EDIT: OK, I believe I've found some answers. It seems that Michael Haydn was in the habit of writing Graduals and Offertories for masses; it's an interesting thing, because many composers wrote music only for the mass ordinary. I'm not sure if he's an exception, or if there are lots of lesser-known polyphonic masses written by other composers that also include the propers of the day. In any case, this Mass was written for Emperor Franz's nameday on August 3, 1801; Michael Haydn (the younger brother, BTW, of Franz Josef Haydn) wrote a mass for the Emperor's nameday every year for several years, it seems.

Now, the interesting thing here is that Emperor Franz was the husband of Empress Maria Theresa, one of the most powerful women in history - and it was she who commissioned these pieces for her husband. And get this, from another section of the same book, and my emphasis:
Haydn also used the gradual and the offertory to enhance the stylistic variety of the mass....The [Gradual's] text, from Christ's sermon on the mount... - "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" - was well-suited to a nameday mass; as addressed by a wife to her husband, moreover, it could have conveyed an erotic subtext.

Heh; a bit of over-active imagination, there, I'd say. But I'm in favor, frankly - and Franz and Maria Theresa did have 16 children together. In any case, it certainly goes with the Bernini sculpture, doesn't it?)

(EDIT 2: Well, there's more: the Wikipedia article notes that:
The Duchess of Lorraine's love for her husband was strong and possessive. The letters she sent to him shortly before their marriage expressed her eagerness to see him; his letters, on the other hand, were stereotyped and formal. She was very jealous of her husband and his infidelity was the greatest problem of their marriage, with Maria Wilhelmina, Princess of Auersperg, as his best known mistress.

So now I'm just sad about that; love fails yet again. Look at her, as a young girl:

Well, she did make major reforms during her reign; probably some kind of consolation. But then, she was also a notorious anti-Semite - and the mother of Marie Antoinette....)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Haydn is a lovely piece of music but not suitable for liturgy, according to Pius X and his reforms.


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