Music for the Fifth Sunday of Easter — May 10, 2020

Cantate Domino canticum novum– Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643)


The proper introit for this Sunday is drawn from the first verses of Psalm 98. The abundance of “alleluias” and references to the marvelous works of the Lord mark it as a jubilant song for Eastertide. Claudio Monteverdi, an Italian composer, string player, choir director and priest adapted the text for this setting for six voices liberally from this psalm, which shows up in the Propers around Christmas and Easter in celebration of the “new song” representing Christ. Monteverdi’s abbreviation of Psalm 98 focuses on the musical imagery of songs and instruments, and compresses the text into two groups of three verses, each ending with the phrase, “for He has done marvelous things.” It seems to borrow at least one idea from an earlier Monteverdi madrigal, and its playful echoing and give-and-take between the six parts make for a celebration in a distinctive madrigal style.

Cantate Domino canticum novum,
Cantate et benedicite nomini ejus:
Quia mirabilia fecit.
Cantate et exultate et psallite
in cythara et voce psalmi:
Quia mirabilia fecit.

Sing to the Lord a new song,
Sing and give praise to his name:
for he has done marvelous things.
Sing and exult and praise.
in songs with the harp and the voice:
for he has done marvelous things.


Christ ist erstanden : Chorale Prelude, BWV 627 / Chorale Setting, BWV 276 – J. S. Bach (1685 – 1750)


The German Easter hymn Christ ist erstanden (Christ is risen) is likely the oldest liturgical song to originate in the German vernacular. According to records, the first verse was sung as early as 1100 to venerate the cross. It has inspired music by composers from the sixteenth century through to the present day, growing to become cherished by German musicians for its long history and usage in both the Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions. The text, with a 1535 English translation by Myles Coverdale, goes as follows:


Christ ist erstanden
von der Marter alle.
Des sollen wir alle froh sein,
Christ will unser Trost sein.

Wär er nicht erstanden,
so wär die Welt vergangen.
Seit daß er erstanden ist,
so loben wir den Herren Christ.

Alleluja, Alleluja!
Des soll’n wir alle froh sein,
Christus will unser Trost sein. Kyrieleis


Christe is now rysen agayne
From His death and all
His payne:
Therfore wyll we mery be,
And rejoyse with Him gladly.

Had He not rysen agayne,
We had ben lost, this is playne:
But sen He is rysen in dede,
Let us love Hym all with spede.

Now is tyme of gladnesse.
To synge of the Lorde’s goodnesse:
Therfore glad now wyll we be,
And rejoyse in Hym onely. Kirieleyson.


Bach uses this chorale to compose one of the most compelling chorale-preludes of the Orgelbüchlein, his unfinished collection of 46 organ chorales, originally intended as a chorale cycle of 164 pieces to cover the liturgical year. Unlike any other work of the set, Bach treats Christ ist erstanden to a longer, more complex and thrilling structure of three parts, marking the three verses of the chorale. The first section of the Christ ist erstanden simply, yet majestically, presents the chorale melody, derived from Victimae paschali laudes, the sequence for Easter by Wipo of Burgundy. The second section is noticeably more active, infused with Bach’s deft contrapuntal writing, while the third section combines the majesty of the first section with the contrapuntal flare of the second section, suggestive of the triumph of the Easter story. In this brilliant rendition, Helmuth Rilling and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, along with organist Gerhard Gnann, present the three verses of the organ chorale-prelude in alternation with the verses of this joy-infused Easter hymn.


Gerald Harder