Posts tagged ‘church music’

April 5, 2015

music for Easter Sunday – François Couperin: Motet pour le jour de Pâques

by ada

François Couperin (le Grand! – indeed he was great), court musician, composer and harpsichord teacher of the Sun King, Louis XIV, composed this Easter motet around 1700. It was most likely performed by his cousin, Marguerite-Louise Couperin, a soprano singer of the Chapelle Royale. Happy Easter!

Advertisements
April 3, 2015

music for Maundy Thursday – “Eia Mater” from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Stabat Mater” RV 621

by ada

For all the stunning church music Antonio Vivaldi composed, he has never gotten to writing a proper passion oratorio. Fortunately, he did compose a Stabat Mater in 1721, the seventh movement of which we can now listen to. Performed by Philippe Jaroussky, because after 8 years of studying the long gone aesthetics of past societies, I only enjoy my soprano arias if sung by males.

April 2, 2015

music for Holy Wednesday – Niccolò Jommelli: Jerusalem convertere

by ada

I wanted to post a typical French Baroque lamentation today but couldn’t set my mind on one particular piece – so I decided to choose something entirely different in style: an aria from Niccolò Jommelli‘s oratorio “Le Lamentazioni del profeta Geremia per il Mercoledi Santo“. I find it fascinating how this piece, written only one year after Johann Sebastian Bach‘s death, is so definitely not-Baroque anymore.

By the way, Jommelli, just like a lot of other composers of his era, had a life I’d swap my own for at any moment, but it’s 2.30 am and I just don’t have the energy to tell more about it right now. So let’s just listen to his (rather cheerful) adaptation of Prophet Jeremiah’s call to repentance.

March 30, 2015

music for Holy Monday – Aria “Sileant Zephyri” from Antonio Vivaldi’s motet “Filiae maestae Jerusalem” RV 638

by ada

According to Antonio Vivaldi, this is how nature mourns the death of Christ – the second movement of one of the two motets he composed as introductions for his now lost Miserere.

March 29, 2015

music for Palm Sunday – Aria “Mich vom Stricken meiner Sünden” from Reinhard Keiser’s Brockes Passion

by ada

Another year of the Holy Week Series, already the fourth since my life turned upside down. Four years of not being a musician anymore. How time flies. And while, on a daily basis, I’m already quite comfortable with the fact that I’ll never be a flutist anymore, this is that special time of the year when I really feel pity for myself and can’t stop having those “what if” and “could have been” thoughts. It’s all pointless, of course, because depression isn’t a matter of choice. And while I haven’t touched my instruments in four years, I still have a lot to say about how 18th century music is the best, so let’s talk passion music (instead of mental health woes, haha). Because, according to Baroque Palm Sunday traditions, that’s what one is supposed to listen to on this day.

Of course, no Lent can pass without me mentioning the Brockes Passion, so Brockes Passion it is, the very first version ever, written by the Hamburg composer Reinhard Keiser who, if we believe Johann Mattheson, was “the greatest opera composer of the world”. He was also a lover of good vines (especially Tokay), which, at times, made him behave “more like a cavalier than a musician” (again, if we believe Mattheson, which I personally have no reason not to do.)

Keiser was the first composer to set Barthold Heinrich Brockes’ (a prominent Hamburg politician) libretto Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus aus den vier Evangelisten… in gebundener Rede vorgestellt to music in 1712. It was performed in the same year at one of the weekly concerts organised by Brockes at his home to a neat little audience of “over 500 persons” (apparently, Brockes had rather comfortable living conditions, haha). The première was a big success and the libretto became very popular among other German-speaking composers over the next few years. Händel, Telemann, Fasch and even Johann Sebastian Bach wrote their own versions. Here are my takes on some of them from the previous years: Johann Friedrich Fasch, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, Georg Philipp Telemann, and some more Telemann (of course it can always be some more Telemann).

 

December 21, 2014

music for the 4. Sunday of Advent – Samuel Capricornus: Adeste omnes fideles

by ada

I had grandiose plans for today’s music post – too bad I’ve had neither time nor energy to fulfill them. So, to make the best out of this situation, let’s listen to the motet Adeste omnes fideles composed by Samuel Capricornus; moved a lot, wrote cool music, died young. My kind of guy.

November 30, 2014

music for the 1. Sunday of Advent – Heinrich Schütz: Rorate coeli desuper from Kleine Geistliche Konzerte II, SWV 322

by ada

Advent arrived unexpectedly quickly this year and it makes me feel somewhat betrayed. I was so busy with seriously time-consuming life events like taking – and passing – exams, changing jobs and moving between countries, that I had no time for autumn-related delights. I’m also in denial about it being winter already, so I have yet to find my usual enthusiasm for Christmas music.

Considering that I’m no fan of the music of Heinrich Schütz, his motet Rorate coeli desuper from the second book of his collection Kleine geistliche Concerte may not be the best place to start, but we all have to start somewhere. And there is nothing wrong with Schütz. He, besides being one of the most important composers in the history of Early German Baroque music and an important milestone on its – in no way linear – development, was also the composer of the first German opera, Dafne. He was excellent in so many ways I can’t count but all his merits and praiseworthy compositional accomplishments are not enough to make me not hear the modal tunes of Renaissance polyphony in his music. And I just don’t like Renaissance polyphony. I really dislike it. All those madrigals based on modal counterpoint, and such. Definitely not my thing.

And while Schütz certainly did his best to get away from prima prattica and earned his fame as parens nostrae musicae modernae totally justly exactly for doing that, he is not quite there yet. But it’s no long journey to go; only a few decades to wait until Dietrich Buxtehude nails it completely and musica poetica becomes a tool for channelling human emotions instead of being an intellectual dictionary for the practitioners of musical rhetorics.

And now, after my exhaustive attempts to make it really clear why I don’t like this piece, let’s finally listen to it. It is quite sweet, actually.

April 18, 2014

music for Maundy Thursday – Johann Friedrich Fasch: “Mich vom Stricke meiner Sünden” (Passio Jesu Christi, FWV F:1)

by ada

For Maundy Thursday (is there any part of the world where it is still Thursday?) let’s have another version of the Brockes-Passion, composed by another Bach-contemporary and former Sängerknabe of the famous Thomasschule of Leipzig, Johann Friedrich Fasch. Although they have not met at Leipzig (having been at the same age, Fasch just finished his study years ten years before Bach arrived to begin his teaching career at a position that was originally intended for Fasch); their sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Karl Friedrich Christian Fasch were friends and even roommates when both employed at the Potsdam court of Friedrich the Great. Their job was to play continuo for the king, a flute player and amateur composer himself, whose teacher was Johann Joachim Quantz, the author of the the bible of all traverso players of all times (myself included), Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen, which is an endless source of information on the performance practice of the first half of the 18th century. 

Back to Papa Fasch – although he composed numerous cantatas and some other vocal works, this is his only oratorio. The opening movement is a nice choral in a polyphonic setting, the violins doubled with oboes, which is a great plus in my eyes. The voice of the Baroque oboe is one of the (very few) things that make life bearable.  

Two years ago I posted Pater dimitte illis from the oratorio Agonia di Cristo (Le Ultime Sette Parole) by Niccolò Jommelli with some stunning obligato bassoon part. Last year’s music for Maundy Thursday was Jesus in Gethsemane by Francesco Antonio Rosetti, which unfortunately seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth YouTube since then. That’s what happens to good music in our days. I am so sad.   

April 16, 2014

music for Holy Wednesday – Jan Dismas Zelenka: Lamentatio I pro Hebdomana sancta, ZWV 53

by ada

According to my own tradition I’m supposed to post something French today. Two years ago I wrote about the most beautiful Tenebrae music of all times, Troisième Leçon de Ténèbres pour deux voix composed by the 18th century royal harpsichord teacher François Couperin. Last year it was Leçon de Mercredi by another royal harpsichord teacher, Michel Delalande. I can’t make up my heart to leave my eternal love and longterm imaginary boyfriend, Jan Dismas Zelenka completely out of this year’s series though, so for Holy Wednesday let’s listen to one of his beautiful lamentations, Lamentatio I pro Habdomana sancta, based upon Prophet Jeremiah’s laments. While it’s definitely not French music, it fits the Tenebrae-tradition perfectly. 

April 14, 2014

music for Holy Monday – aria “Sventurati miei sospiri” from Giovanni Battista Ferrandini’s cantata “Il pianto di Maria”

by ada

The genre of “The Virgin’s Lament”, the passion story told from the perspective of Mary, originates from around the 5th century and has its roots in the Byzantine rite built on that particular teaching of the Council of Ephesus in 431 which declares Mary not only as the mother of Christ but also as the mother of God. It appears in various literary forms and musical settings throughout the centuries, but its purpose is always the same: to express the suffering of a mother who has to watch his son being unjustly killed. 

The aria Sventurati miei sospiri is part of the cantata Il pianto di Maria (Cantata sacra da cantarsi dinanzi al Santo Sepolcro) which, for a very long time was attributed to Georg Friedrich Händel but was actually composed by Giovanni Battista Ferrandini, an 18th century Italian composer. I really would love to share the intimate details of his life here but unfortunately the only sensational thing ever happened to him was having the 15-year-old Mozart play at his house while on one of his Wunderkind-tours in 1771.

Last year’s music for Holy Monday was the choir movement He smote all the first-born of Egypt from Georg Friedrich Händel‘s oratorio Israel in Egypt.

April 14, 2014

music for Palm Sunday – 1. Choral from Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (BWV 1)

by ada

The time has come again for the Holy Week Series, for the third year in a row. I’m sure you all are as happy as I am to witness my musicology writer career blossoming, haha. I am kind of late with Palm Sunday music though since we’re already deep into Holy Monday, but life has been pretty busy lately and left me no time for this blog.

I had a weird Palm Sunday, so I decided to post a similarly weird music, because I am vindictive.

The only cantata Johann Sebastian Bach ever composed for Palm Sunday is the cantata Himmelskönig, sei willkommen (BWV 182) which I have already posted last year. At the times Bach served in Leipzig, the practice of tempus clausum (closed time), which means that during the weeks of Lent and Advent no festivities and also no music at the liturgy other than Passion plays are allowed, was kept quite strictly. The only exception was the ceremony of Annunciation which, in the year 1725, fell exactly on Palm Sunday. This, and the fact that the text (written by Philipp Nicolai in 1597, btw) also mentions Jesus as the Son of David, makes this cantata perfectly eligible for Palm Sunday in my eyes; even if it has nothing to do with Lent at all. I am a free spirit, if it comes to interpreting music written for liturgical purposes. I can sell you the Christmas Oratorio as a perfect fit for Easter Monday, so watch out.

December 25, 2013

music for Christmas Day – Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Noëls pour les instruments, H. 351 & 354

by ada

French Christmas songs, in sweet, 17th century Théâtre-Français style.

December 25, 2013

music for Christmas Eve – Jakub Jan Ryba: Česká mše vánoční – Hej, mistře!

by ada

The first movement of the traditional (and very famous) Czech pastoral mass of Jakub Šimon Jan Ryba. With cute animations; because we are talking Baby Jesus here. In a proper Central European manner.

December 22, 2013

music for the 4. Sunday of Advent – Georg Philip Telemann: Lauter Wonne, lauter Freude

by ada

Telemann wrote this cantata for the 4. Sunday of Advent in the liturgical year of 1725 and published it in his collection of church cantatas Harmonischer Gottes-Dienst. It’s a sweet little piece of music which I’ve played myself on numerous occasions. More info about Telemann here – sorry, I’m too sick with this new sort of coughing flu to use my brain for anything else than to drink coffee and pet The Cat.

December 8, 2013

music for the 2. Sunday of Advent – Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Magnificat à 3 voix sur la même basse avec symphonie H.73

by ada

In my opinion, there is no way to express some “typically Catholic” emotions more beautifully than French Baroque church music does.* I’ve already stated my undying love both for the French music of those few decades at the turn of 18th century and for the ostinato arias** in general, so let’s get the two genres mixed! Could music get ever better than that? (This is a rhetorical question.)

So for the 2. Sunday of Advent let’s have a real gem of all things French Baroque, one of the ten Magnificats composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (you know, the guy who has written that oh so famous Te Deum everybody knows). It’s based on the four-bars ground of the descending tetrachord of a Passacaille, set in G minor which is, in Charpentier’s own words, a key that’s “Serieux et Magnifique“.***, ****, *****

* sorry people, I’m just simply no fan of either Gregorian music or Renaissance polyphony. Been there, done that and found something else that suits me better. No offense tough.

** everybody loves ostinato arias, even those who aren’t aware of it. Ostinato grounds are the roots of the pop (and sometimes rock and death black heavy metal) of any musical era. Even that of ours, right now.

*** Règles de Composition par Monsieur Charpentier, written around 1690

**** although in 1806 the characteristics of the G minor key are already described by Daniel Schubart as “bad-tempered gnashing of teeth”. Poor key seems to have lost a great deal of its magnificence throughout the years.

***** I’m getting crazy with all these stars and footnotes. Maybe I should stop using them at all.

December 1, 2013

music for the 1st Sunday of Advent – Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland”, BWV 62

by ada

The great success (ha! ha! two whole page views per day!) of the Holy Week Series inspired me to expand my musicology writer career to another part of the liturgical year: Advent and Christmas. You’re welcome.

Before the depression I had a thing for no-name German composers that didn’t really make it into the musical canon, like Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer or Cajetan Anton Adlgasser. Well, it’s over.* I’m all “all we need is Bach” nowadays. So for now, Johann Sebastian Bach it is, the cantata he’s composed for the first day of Advent in 1724; on the German translation of the ancient Ambrosian hymn Veni Redemptor Gentium.

* My interest in early music also seems to vanish very quickly. I hope, I will recover someday. Having spent 8 years of my life with something I can’t even enjoy anymore would be sort of tragic.

April 1, 2013

music for Easter Monday – Aria “Süß und rein muß der Christen Passah seyn” from the Easter Cantata “Weg mit Sodoms gift’gen Früchten”, TWV1:1534 by Georg Philipp Telemann

by ada

Telemann wrote a whole cycle of cantatas for the liturgical year and published them in a two-bands collection, under the title Der Harmonische Gottesdienst. I chose this aria from the cantata written for Easter Sunday in 1725 for my last post of the Easter series, because I think Telemann was a genius and I like how this short piece of music shows the purity of the new life after the feast of the Resurrection.

P.S.: I don’t really like the singer’s voice, but well, nothing is perfect on Earth. I’ve already learnt to accept the need of making compromises in life.

March 27, 2013

music for Holy Wednesday – Michel-Richard Delalande: IIIe Leçon du Mercredi Saint, S. 118

by ada

Last year I posted the world’s most beautiful Tenebrae musicTroisième Leçon de Ténèbres pour deux voix from the harpsichord teacher and court composer of Louis XIV, François Couperin. It’s a piece that’s really difficult to outbid. Fortunately French Baroque church music is overloaded with great compositions (so much that it makes me feel overwhelmed and troubled, actually). Originally I wanted to write about Michel Lambert, the composer of countless airs de cour, who wrote the first Leçons de ténèbres ever, as soon as 1662, but unfortunately YouTube is totally ignorant of the unique importance of his work so I just randomly picked one from another royal harpsichord teacher, Michel-Richard Delalande, who is famous for winning a composers’ competition that’s judge was XIV Louis, only and alone. Let’s speak about the role of totalitarian regimes in the evolution of music, haha.

%d bloggers like this: