Music for the Fourth Sunday in Lent — March 14, 2021
Laetare Jerusalem – Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1532 – 1585)
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The uncle of the great Giovanni Gabrieli, Andrea Gabrieli is often overshadowed by his nephew, yet he was one of the greatest and most approachable composers of the High Renaissance. He brought an international stature to the school of native Venetian composers after a period when Netherlandish composers had dominated. Although he was not as profound a composer as Giovanni, his music displays an exceptional versatility; he was one of the most important figures of his generation and exerted considerable influence on both later Venetian and south German composers. Much of his music was written for the huge, resonant space of St. Mark’s, Venice, where he had been appointed organist in 1566.
Laetare Jerusalem is the Introit for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Gabrieli’s setting is from his Sacrae cantiones, a collection of sacred motets for choir which shows a close relationship between music and text.
Lætare, Jerusalem: et conventum facite, omnes qui diligitis eam: Gaudete
cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis:
ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae.
Lætatus sum in his, quæ dicta sunt mihi:in domum Domini ibimus.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.
Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together, all you who love her: rejoice
with joy, you who have been in sorrow:
that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.
I rejoiced because they said to me, We will go up to the house of the Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt (SWV 380) – Heinrich Schütz (1585 – 1672)
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Born in 1585, exactly 100 years before Bach, Heinrich Schütz is considered the greatest German composer of the 17th century. Born in Köstritz, Germany, he lived in Venice from 1609 to 1613, where he studied music with Giovanni Gabrieli. He moved to Dresden in 1615 to work as court composer to the Elector of Saxony, a position he held until the end of his life, with only brief interruptions, including a return to Venice in 1628, where he likely studied with Claudio Monteverdi. His compositions show the influence of his two Italian teachers, along with that of the Netherlandish composers of the 16th century.
In 1648 he published his Geistliche Chormusik (Sacred Choral Music), a collection of 29 motets for five to seven voices. Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt is the briefest of all the motets in this collection. It is mostly homophonic and more in the character of a hymn than the complex counterpoint of the other pieces. It is almost as if Schütz wanted to treat this iconic cornerstone text as a congregational creed of faith rather than as a commentary. The St. James’ Choir last sang this motet on the Fourth Sunday in Lent 2018.
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt
daß er seinen eingebornen Sohn gab
auf daß alle die an ihn glauben
nicht verloren werden
sondern das ewige Leben haben.
For God so loved the world,
that he sent his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish,
but have everlasting life.
There is no YouTube link for this week’s final selections. Instead, be sure to attend the Liturgy at Home on Zoom this Sunday, March 14 at 10:30 am to hear me play a setting of the Welsh hymn tune Aberystwyth as a prelude and the Ciacona in E minor of Dietrich Buxtehude as a postlude.
Meditation on “Aberystwyth” – Edwin T. Childs (b. 1945)
Joseph Parry wrote Aberystwyth when he was professor at University College in Aberystwyth, setting it to Charles Wesley’s hymn Jesus, lover of my soul, with which it has been associated ever since. By far the most popular composer in Wales during the 19th century, Parry wrote several choral works, including oratorios, cantatas, and operas, along with a little instrumental music and about 400 hymn tunes. Edwin Childs was my music theory and composition instructor in my undergraduate years. Dr. Childs’ gentle hymn setting shows the richness of his colourful harmonic language.
Ciacona in E minor (BuxWV 160) – Dietrich Buxtehude (1637 – 1707)
Buxtehude was first and foremost an organist, beginning in Helsingborg (1657-1658), then at Elsinore (1660-1668), and last from 1668 at the Marienkirche in Lübeck. His post in the free Imperial city of Lübeck afforded him considerable latitude in his musical career and his autonomy was a model for the careers of later Baroque masters such as George Frideric Handel, Johann Mattheson, Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach. In 1673 he organized a series of evening musical performances known as Abendmusik, which attracted musicians from far and near and remained a feature of the church until 1810.
In 1705, Bach traveled 200 miles from Arnstadt to hear the Abendmusik, meet the pre-eminent Lübeck organist, and hear him play. Buxtehude was old and ready to retire by the time he met both Bach and Handel. He was deeply impressed by the skills of both men to the extent that he offered his position in Lübeck to both of them. But a condition of the post was that the organist who followed him must marry his eldest daughter, Anna Margareta. Both Bach and Handel turned the offer down.
The ciacona form, also known as chaconne or ciaccona, is very similar to the passacaglia. It is a series of variations over a short repeated them (ostinato) in the bass. It has been suggested by scholars that this particular beautifully crafted ciacona in E minor is based on the Rosary. Although it appears to have 31 four-bar statements of the theme, there are in fact just 15 full eight-bar statements, each depicting in turn the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. Buxtehude, and his admirer Bach, were both fascinated with numerology, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility, although one might still wonder why a Lutheran “North German” organist would base a composition on the Rosary!