Music for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost — August 30, 2020

Qui vult venire post me – Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)


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Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was one of the late great Netherlands composers of the sixteenth century. This remarkable man, who apparently never travelled outside the Low Countries and seldom left Amsterdam for more than a few days at a time, was nevertheless fully aware of the significant developments in music that transpired during his lifetime. Sweelinck’s music represents both a culmination of the Renaissance polyphonic style and a looking toward the new musical idioms of the Baroque period.


This motet was first published in Antwerp in 1619 in Sweelinck’s collection Cantiones sacrae, which contains nearly all of the composer’s works in Latin. The text is from today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 16:24, also the communion antiphon for this day. Musically, the motet is notable for its use of a series of unusual double-suspension figures on the words et tollat crucem suam, which provide a particularity poignant dissonance at that point.


Qui vult venire post me,
abneget semet ipsum,
tollat crucem suam,
et sequatur me,
dicit Dominus.

If any want to become my followers,

let them deny themselves,

and take up their cross,

and follow me,

says the Lord.


Immortal, invisible, God only wise – Text: Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908); Music: Melody Welsh trad.; adapt. John Roberts of Henllan (1808-1876).


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Though the emphasis of this popular hymn is clearly upon God, who is eternal and unchangeable, it advances through the attributes of might, justice, goodness, love, light, and life toward a climax in “Great Father of glory, pure Father of light” in this version from the New English Hymnal (377). Its author was a pastor in and eventually the moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. The tune ST DENIO is based on the Welsh folksong Can Mlynedd i ‘nawr. As a hymn tune it appeared first in John Roberts’ Caniadau y Cyssegr 1839, where the editor simplified the melody considerably. A hearty song, it follows ternary (three-part) form, in which the first line of music is repeated, a third line of music with new material, and a slightly different entry of the first subject in the last phrase.


Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all life thou givest–to both great and small;
In all life thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
Then wither and perish–but naught changeth thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render; O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.


Gerald Harder