Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Advent hymn for Matins: Veni Redemptor Gentium

Wow!  Listen to this wonderful video of the Advent Matins hymn, Veni Redemptor Gentium; the singers are the Schola Cantorum Riga - and they're accompanied by soprano saxophone.  It's tremendous!

They're doing something different with a few verses there; there are two different tunes happening (can't quite place the other). [EDIT:  The second tune is Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland - which from what I'm finding in various places is a German hymn with tune (maybe?) by Martin Luther (perhaps adapted from  original Gregorian plainchant) - a hymn that later, as often happened with German hymns, was picked up and used by the Bachster as a chorale for one of his cantatas.   I've read that the hymn was used "for centuries" on Advent 1 - I presume in German Lutheran churches.  Here's something about the second tune from "Hymns and Carols of Christmas" (and you can listen to it played on the organ here).
The first German version of this hymn was rendered by Henrik von Laufenberg, a minister of Freiburg (d. 1445): "Kum har, erlöser volkes schar." A version by another author of the fifteenth century reads as follows: "Kom, erlöser aller leute," and one from the beginning of the sixteenth century: "Erlediger der völckher khum"; and finally Luther’s version of 1524: "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland," with the title, Der hymnus: Veni Redemptor gentium etc. verdeutscht.]
It could be, now that I think of it, that the Schola is singing the hymn using both a Gregorian and an Ambrosian melody; an interesting idea!  I will definitely need to look at that.

Back to the first tune, though.  Here's Giovanni Vianini singing the full Ambrosian hymn all the way through (words in Latin and English below).

Here's TPL on this hymn:
Veni, redemptor gentium was composed by St. Ambrose of Milan (340-397). The current form of the hymn actually begins with Ambrose' second stanza. The original opening verse was "Intende, qui regis Israel".

The evidence in favor of St. Ambrose' authorship is, in part, due to a passing mention of it by St. Augustine.

St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose and was a good friend of his. St. Augustine both specifically mentions and quotes three of St. Ambrose' canonical hymns: "Aeterne rerum Conditor", "Deus Creator omnium", and "Iam surgit hora tertia". St. Augustine then goes on to mention "Veni, redemptor gentium" indirectly. Instead of giving the full title, he only gives a brief quote from the middle of the hymn, which matches that of the Veni, redemptor gentium. The hymn is also mentioned by other authors of the period as being by St. Ambrose. Pope Celestine mentions it in a sermon against the Nestorians, which he preached before a synod at Rome in 430. The Pope attributes it to St. Ambrose. Likewise Bishop Faustus of Riez (A. D. 455) and Cassiodorus (died 575) also quote it and attribute it to St. Ambrose.

The hymn is not used in the Breviarium Romanum, but does appear in the Liturgia Horarum. It is used as the Advent hymn for the Office of the Readings for the octave before Christmas.
VENI, redemptor gentium,
ostende partum Virginis;
miretur omne saeculum:
talis decet partus Deum.
O COME, Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin-birth.
Let every age in wonder fall:
such birth befits the God of all.
Non ex virili semine,
sed mystico spiramine
Verbum Dei factum est caro
fructusque ventris floruit.
Begotten of no human will
but of the Spirit, Thou art still
the Word of God in flesh arrayed,
the promised fruit to man displayed.
Alvus tumescit Virginis,
claustrum pudoris permanet,
vexilla virtutum micant,
versatur in templo Deus.
The Virgin's womb that burden gained,
its virgin honor still unstained.
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.
Procedat e thalamo suo,
pudoris aula regia,
geminae gigas substantiae
alacris ut currat viam.
Proceeding from His chamber free
that royal home of purity
a giant in twofold substance one,
rejoicing now His course to run.
Aequalis aeterno Patri,
carnis tropaeo cingere,
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.
O equal to the Father, Thou!
gird on Thy fleshly mantle now;
the weakness of our mortal state
with deathless might invigorate.
Praesepe iam fulget tuum
lumenque nox spirat novum,
quod nulla nox interpolet
fideque iugi luceat.
Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
and darkness breathe a newer light
where endless faith shall shine serene
and twilight never intervene.
Sit, Christe, rex piissime,
tibi Patrique gloria
cum Spiritu Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
whose advent sets Thy people free,
whom, with the Father, we adore,
and Holy Ghost, for evermore. Amen.

Latin from the Liturgia Horarum. Translation by J. M. Neale (1818-1866).

Original first stanza:
 Intende, qui regis Israel,
 super Cherubim qui sedes,
 appare Ephrem coram, excita
 potentiam tuam et veni.

I am more familiar with the melody used today for a hymn called "Come thou, Redeemer of the Earth" - a tune called Pu­er No­bis Nas­ci­tur, from the 15th Century Trier man­u­script.  There's a midi at that page - or you can hear that tune sung as the processional at this link.

But this tune is lovely also. 


cassandra said...

It's lovely. Thank you.

bls said...

I think so, too - glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting!


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