Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Gradual for the Feast of the Transfiguration: Speciosus forma

The Feast of the Transfiguration is on August 6 each year; here's the Gradual, Speciosus forma, sung beautifully by the Gloriæ Dei Cantores:

The text comes from Psalm 45:3, 2; here's the Latin and English from this page, which I believe belongs to somebody posting the chant propers for the Extraordinary Form.

Speciosus forma prae filiis hominum: diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis. V.: Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi.

Alleluia, alleluia. V.: Candor est lucis aeternae, speculum sine macula, et imago bonitatis illius. Alleluia.

Thou art beautiful above the sons of men: grace is poured abroad in Thy lips. V.: My heart hath uttered a good word. I speak my works to the King.

Alleluia, alleluia. V.(Wisd. 7. 26). He is the brightest of eternal light, the unspotted mirror, and the image of His goodness. Alleluia.

Here's the chant score:

I've written about the Alleluia, Candor est lucis before; here's the chant score for that one:

And those words, in Latin and English; the text comes from Wisdom 7:26:
Candor est lucis aetérnae, spéculum sine macula, et imago bonitátis illíus. Allelúia.

For she is the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God's majesty, and the image of his goodness.

"She" refers to Wisdom;  here's an mp3 of the Alleluia, from the Benedictines of Brazil.

Here's something interesting I found while Googling for this post: a hymn setting, I think, in Dutch, of Psalm 45:

That particular YouTuber has lots of vids of similar Psalm settings at his/her home page.

One problem with Psalm 45 is that some translations seem to think that what's seen as Verse 1 in others is actually an instruction for the musicians. So there's some variation in citing verses for this one!

If you're interested, somebody has posted Olivier Messiaen's entire work, La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ at YouTube.  Here are the first two movements (I believe) from the piece, in the video below:

Here's the content - sort of a "program notes" - from that YouTube page; as you can see, one of the movements is called Candor est lucis aeternae :

La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, for 100 voices, piano, cello, flute, clarinet, xylorimba, vibraphone, marimba & orchestra (1965-1969)

Premier Septénaire
I. Récit évangélique
II. Configuratum corpori claritatis suae
III. Christus Jesus, splendor Patris
IV. Récit évangélique
V. Quam dilecta tabernacula tua
VI. Candor est lucis aeternae
VII. Choral de la Sainte Montagne

Deuxième Septénaire
VIII. Récit évangélique
IX. Perfecte conscious illius perfectae generationis
X. Adoptionem filiorum perfectam
XI. Récit évangélique
XII. Terribilis est locus iste
XIII. Tota Trinitas apparuit
XIV. Choral de la Lumière de Gloire

Yvonne Loriod, piano
Arturo Muruzabal, violoncelle
Martine van der Loo, flute
Harmen de Boer, clarinette
Peter Prommel, marimba
Ruud Stotÿn, vibraphone
Henk de Vlieger, xylorimba
Ludwig van Gijsegem, ténor
Reiner Holthaus, baryton

Koor van de Brt Bruxelles
Groot Omroepkoor & Radio Symfonie Orkest Hilversum
Reinbert de Leeuw

La Transfiguration was the first of Messiaen's works to use sacred words as its text, drawing from the bible and the missal on the subject of Christ's transfiguration. It is not a dramatic work, but a liturgical one, meant, as Paul Griffiths notes, to show a story rather than to tell it. It is scored for a large choir and orchestra, with a duration of about ninety minutes. This work hearkens back to Messiaen's music of several decades earlier: gone are the harsher twelve-note constructions of the later works, replaced by a return to diatonicism, modes, 'loose' triadic harmony, and metrical freedom. The piece consists of fourteen movements, divided into two sets of seven (more of Messiaen's theological symbolism). Typically, there is also the incorporation of birdsong into the melodic framework, and it is important to note that, according to Griffiths, more than a decade later there is more species of birdsong in La Transfiguration than in the Catalogue des Oiseaux of 1958. There is also perhaps a recollection of Debussy through the use of the whole-tone scale. Ultimately, this work exemplifies Messiaen's tendency to compose music intended to be appreciated not in terms of its formal connectedness and continuity, but rather moment by moment. []

Art by Marc Chagall

Here are all the chants for the day, from
In Transfiguratione Domini

Introitus: Ps. 26, 8.9 et 1 Tibi dixit cor meum (cum Gloria Patri) (2m59.6s - 2808 kb)
Graduale: Ps. 44, 3 et 2 Speciosus forma (4m20.2s - 4068 kb) score
Alleluia: Sap. 7, 26 Candor est lucis æternæ (2m36.223s - 1223 kb) score
Offertorium: Ps. 8, 6.7 Gloria et honore (1m22.047s - 643 kb) score
Communio: Mt. 17, 9 Visionem (2m36.4s - 2446 kb) score

Here are posts about chant propers for this day on Chantblog:

Here's a mosaic in the upper part of the Fransiscan Church of the Transfiguration in Mount Tabor, Israel; Mt. Tabor is traditionally identified as the "Mount of the Transfiguration":

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