Quia vidisti me, Thoma – Luca Marenzio (1553-1599)
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In the Orthodox Church this Sunday is called “Thomas Sunday”. In our three-year lectionary, the Gospel lesson on this day is invariably John 20:19-31, in which Jesus invites Thomas to cast off his doubts about the Lord. It is perhaps not surprising that a number of composers have set the oft-cited twenty-ninth verse from this passage. Although this verse is the text of the Magnificat antiphon for the Feast of St. Thomas (December 21), the consistent addition of lively alleluias to these settings makes them perfect for the Second Sunday of Easter.
Italian composer and singer Luca Marenzio was considered by many Renaissance musicians to be the chief architect of the expressive 16th-century Italian madrigal style. Marenzio’s madrigalian style of text painting is well served here. Note the homophonic emphasis – all four parts singing the same text and rhythms simultaneously – given to the passage beati qui non viderunt (blessed are they that have not seen). The motet concludes with an imitative and joyful Alleluia in a dancing triple metre.
Quia vidisti me, Thoma, credidisti: beati qui non viderunt,
et crediderunt. Alleluia.
Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Alleluia.
Alleluia! O sons and daughters – Text: Latin; attrib. Jean Tisserand (15th cent.); tr. John Mason Neale (1818-1866) / Music: Melody Airs sur les hymnes sacrez, odes et noels, Paris, 1623.
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Jean Tisserand, a Franciscan friar, wrote a poem of nine stanzas entitled L’aleluya du jour des Pasques. It is found in a little booklet, without title, printed between 1518 and 1536, the original copy of which now rests in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. The text is based on the translation by John Mason Neale from his Mediaeval Hymns 1851. It is one of the few hymns on the resurrection that mentions Thomas. In our Common Praise hymnal it is found at 228.
The first known appearance of the tune O Filii et Filiae is in Airs sur les hymns sacrez, Paris 1623. The melody is modal in character, but like all folksong tunes, it has had many variants. The wonderful arrangement and rendition here by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge under the direction of the late Stephen Cleobury omits the verses referring to Thomas. They are included below (in italics) for reference.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
O sons and daughters, let us sing!
The King of heaven, the glorious King,
o’er death today rose triumphing.
That Easter morn, at break of day,
the faithful women went their way
to seek the tomb where Jesus lay:
An angel clad in white they see,
who sat, and spake unto the three,
“Your Lord is gone to Galilee.”
That night the apostles met in fear;
amidst them came their Lord most dear,
and said, “My peace be on all here.”
When Thomas first the tidings heard,
how they had seen the risen Lord,
he doubted the disciples’ word.
“My piercèd side, O Thomas, see;
behold my hands, my feet,” said he;
“not faithless, but believing be.”
No longer Thomas then denied;
he saw the feet, the hands, the side;
“You are my Lord and God,” he cried.
How blest are they who have not seen,
and yet whose faith has constant been,
for they eternal life shall win.
On this most holy day of days,
to God your hearts and voices raise
in laud and jubilee and praise.
Résurrection (Symphonie-Passion, Op. 23) – Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)
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The virtuoso French organist Marcel Dupré succeeded Charles-Marie Widor as the titular organist at St. Sulpice in Paris, a position he retained for the rest of his life. With his long tenure, and as Widor had been there for more than six decades, the position changed hands only once in a century. Dupré is both adored and reviled by organists; much of his music is at once brilliantly appealing and fiendishly difficult to play.
In 1921 Dupré made the first of his many visits to America. He refers in his memoirs to the evening of December 8, when, at a recital he was giving in the Wanamaker Auditorium in Philadelphia, he was offered several liturgical themes on which to improvise—Iesu redemptor omnium, Adeste fideles, Stabat mater dolorosa and Adoro te devote. He instantly decided to improvise an organ symphony in four movements which depicted in music the life of Jesus: ‘The world awaiting the Saviour’, ‘Nativity’, ‘Crucifixion’ and ‘Resurrection’. This improvisation became the basis of his Symphonie-Passion, Op. 23, which he began to compose on his return to France.
The last movement, played here by the composer himself in a 1965 recording, consists of a vast crescendo based entirely on the Eucharistic hymn Adoro te devote. Listen for that melody as it appears first in the top voice, quietly, as though early on Easter morning, then in interplay between manuals and pedal, and finally erupting into joyfully cacophonous resurrection in a French organ toccata with the melody on the massive 32’ Contre-bombarde stop in the pedals. As I’ve occasionally mentioned previously, this is best heard on a substantial audio system, or a good pair of headphones.