Alleluia was originally scored for Wind Ensemble and titled October. We can hear his writing for winds in the expansive architecture of phrases and his crafting of register and timbral combinations.
Antiphon for the Angels
by Hildegard von Bingen
Trans. Barbara Newman
Spirited light! On the edge
of the Presence your yearning
burns in the secret darkness,
O angels, insatiably
into God’s gaze.
Perversity could not touch your beauty;
you are essential joy.
But lost your companion,
angel of the crooked wings.
He sought the summit,
shot down the depths of God,
and plummeted past Adam –
that a mud-bound spirit might soar.
Max Reger penned the motet O Tod Wie Bitter Bist Du in Leipzig, in 1912--in a musically historic city at a time of great musical transition (think Rite of Spring). Reger, primarily and organist, had a fondness for traditional forms, particularly the fugue. His highly chromatic and expansive language was a clear descendent of Bach. But in this piece, he takes on a much more "modern" technique of constant modulation and dramatic contrast to create a motet that is "mortally sad…It will be a shockingly sad work with a transfiguring conclusion." Indeed, it is not until the final verse that Reger settles into a key, the restful F# major, to complete his own "death and transfiguration."
O death, how bitter is the remembrance of you to a person at peace with his possessions,
to a man undistracted and prospering in everything and still having strength to welcome a luxury.
O death, your judgement is good to a person who is needy and lacking strength, who is in extreme old age
and is anxious about everything and who is disobedient and has lost hope.
Recorded, June 2015, St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle
Serena Chin, piano
Cantos Sagrados, or Sacred Songs, is a three movement work by Scottish composer James Macmillan. The texts are a weaving together of poetry by Anna Marie Melendez and Ariel Dorfman which are political and dramatic depictions of repression in Latin America, with Latin texts of the Roman rite. Macmillan's treatment of this liberation theology creates a profoundly moving work. Movement 1, Identity, tells the tale of mothers finding yet another son murdered, and moves from grief to anger, to sorrow and to a plea for release.
Live performance, St. James Cathedral, Seattle, 2010
What did you say—they found another one? —I can’t hear you—this morning
another one floating
in the river?
talk louder—so you didn’t even dare no one can identify him?
the police said not even his mother
not even the mother who bore him
not even she could they said that?
the other women already tried—I can’t understand what you’re saying, they turned him over and looked at his face, his hands they looked at,
they’re all waiting together,
silent, in mourning,
on the riverbank,
they took him out of the water he’s naked
as the day he was born, there’s a police captain
and they won’t leave until I get there? He doesn’t belong to anybody,
you say he doesn’t belong to anybody?
tell them I’m getting dressed, I’m leaving now
if the captain’s the same one as last time
what will happen
that body will have my name - my son’s my husband’s
my father’s name
I’ll sign the papers tell them
tell them I’m on my way,
wait for me
and don’t let that captain touch him
don’t let that captain take one step closer to him.
Tell them not to worry:
I can bury my own dead.
Libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni, et de profundo lacu: Libera eas de ore leonis ne absorbeat eas tartarus,
ne cadant in obscuram.
Deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the depths of the pit: deliver them from the lion’s mouth, that hell devour them not, that they fall not into darkness.
Lidholm's epic motet, ...a riveder le stelle, is a powerful setting of Canto VI of Dante's Inferno. The motet, scored for 32-part choir, is considered a landmark of 20th century choral composition, and is among the most challenging motets of its kind.
The music describes the teacher and student, having walked through the various levels of hell (listen for the crying souls in the first minutes of the work), and seeking to return to the world. They find a small passage way, dark and frightful, teacher climbs first and student follows, (listen for the sixteen part male chorus "climbing" by whole tones), and once again, they behold the stars. The final minutes are a mere standing in awe of the stars while hearing a distant echo of the prior journey.
But soon it will be night and we must rise to the stars.
Now is the time to depart this place
for we have seen and experienced it all.
Keep moving! Return to paradise.
The wings of hell’s monarch are heard nearby.
We must leave quickly,
but soon it will be night.
I climbed toward paradise with no thought of looking back.
I passed through a small opening
and finally saw heaven and the supreme light
and beheld once again the stars.
Brahms' motet Op. 29 No. 2 Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz” (“Create a pure heart within me, O God”), is clearly in the lineage of Bach's motets. Throughout the work, Brahms gave himself very strict compositional restrictions—for instance, in the first section, the top soprano part is exactly the same as the bottom bass part, only twice as fast. Brahms of course wrote this "Baroque" work through the lens of a Romantic era master. The three movements, although modeled after Bach, serve as a sort of Romantic concerto, with a slow opening, a more soloistic "trio" section, and a final allegro Alleluia fugue.
The Heart’s Reflection is a setting from the biblical book of Proverbs, and acts as a musical fantasia
in its free- owing form. Through this profound text we are taken on a journey of love, wonder
and spirituality associated with the bonds we share with one another. In a modern society that continually grows more out-of-touch with itself amidst the environmental and technological distractions of the day, this beautiful passage strives to mandate that we rea rm the connection we share with our fellow man. It serves as a poignant reminder of the spiritual kinship that exists within humanity and the necessity that we must remember to see ourselves in the hearts of others.
— Daniel Elder
See the waterfront shine forth resplendent; so the heart of humanity to all the earth re ects. (Proverbs 27:19)
Claudio Monteverdi’s setting for five voices comes from his Fourth Book of Madrigals and demonstrates his superb combining of text and music. In this music he is at the height of his dramatic and pictoral composition in the Renaissance style, and he will soon begin his experimentation with newer styles. Here the text is supreme as each line receives careful musical reference. Perhaps most interesting is his use of falso bordone, a method of chanting Psalms during Mass in which the cantor recites poetry on a single tone. Here Monteverdi uses these moments of pause in stark contrast with emotional bursts.
Sfogava con le stelle!
Shouts the lovesick poet to the
One who was lovesick
cried out his pain
to the stars in the night
and said looking up to them:
O you beautiful pictures of my loved one
just as you show me
when you are gleaming,
her outstanding beauty
show her also
how I burn for her
and make her with your golden face as merciful to me
as you make me love her.