Program Notes

Sun of Justice: A Two-Fold Offering – Part Two

Sun of JusticeWith this two-fold offering of traditional Byzantine Music, we seek to give the listener two distinct yet complementary experiences: first, that of being in a traditional Orthodox church somewhere in the Middle East, wherein one choir sings in Greek and the other in Arabic; and second: that of being in a traditional Orthodox church in the United States with highly trained and proficient chanters singing traditional Byzantine Music in straightforward, clear, properly translated English. The first experience is not uncommon today; the second is less common, but we have hope that it will soon become the liturgical standard—hand-in-hand with the continued development of Byzantine Music in Greek and Arabic—for Orthodox Christian parishes in America. Presented in liturgical sequence, each disc jumps from one moment to another, giving a taste of the entire experience of praying the Great (Royal) Hours on Christmas Eve morning, Vesperal Liturgy on Christmas Eve, and Orthros (Matins) and Divine Liturgy on Christmas morning.

Back in the United States…

I have written elsewhere concerning my general approach to the composition of Byzantine Music
in English. For this project, I was blessed to have the opportunity to set the excellent translations of my late spiritual father, the Very Reverend Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash) (+ 2016). In rendering his translations, I focused on three areas: first, setting the medium-textured Idiomela (through-composed hymns) in the most traditional way possible; second: rendering the syllabic-textured Troparia in traditional forms that lend themselves to memorization and congregational singing; and third: metering Fr. Ephrem’s translations to fit the melodies of the Greek Eirmoi for the Odes of the Canon. Each of these tasks is comparably challenging, vastly different, and equally important.

In composing the Idiomela, I may choose to follow the general contour of the Greek prototypes, but more often than not I simply allow the text to direct me where to go. Sometimes this yields a result much like the Greek, other times the result is very different. At its heart, however, are the structure and content of the text itself. I departed from the middle texture of Petros’s Doxastarion for the double-choir Doxastikon of the Ninth Hour, opting for a style closer to the slow or “old” sticheraric genre. This showcases a more melismatic style in English, for which I sought to emulate the works of Stephanos Lambadarios, Konstandinos Protopsaltis, and the newly released Doxastikarion of the Athonite monastery of Vatopaidi.

The syllabic Apolytikion and Troparia of the Prophecies in general require a process similar to that of the Idiomela: compose for the text. However, I also make an attempt to create melodies that will linger in the listener’s mind and lend themselves to memorization.

The Canon melodies, being modeled after the Eirmos of each Ode, require a metered translation in order to be sung correctly; otherwise, the Ode loses its strophic melodic pattern, and the whole structure falls away. Having been given free reinby the late Fr. Ephrem to adapt his translations as I see fit, I dedicated significant time and energy to the metering process. Rather than attempting to find the most polysyllabic synonyms possible for each translated word, I rather erred on the side of elaboration, clarification, and paraphrase—while staying within the spirit and content of each hymn text and within the bounds of Orthodox theology—and worked toward a text that is clear and theologically sound, sounds like proper English, and fits the given melody.

In undertaking these three main compositional challenges, I strove to create a series of hymns that not only would complement their Greek originals and Arabic counterparts, but that would stand also on their own merits.

John Michael Boyer (Read Part One)

Order the Recording

Sun of Justice Concert Series

Cappella’s Associate Music Director John Michael Boyer directs exhilarating Byzantine chants for Christmastide in Greek, Arabic, and English. Featuring Lebanon-born guest soloist, Rev’d Deacon John (Rassem) El Massih, and the release of a new CD of the program.

With performances in Seattle, Portland, Salem, and Sacramento.

SALEM

Thu 14 Dec, 7:30pm
Greek Orthodox Mission Church of Salem
at Blanchet High School
TICKETS Add to Calendar

SEATTLE

Fri 15 Dec, 8:00pm
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
TICKETS
Add to Calendar

Sun of Justice: A Two-Fold Offering – Part One

Sun of JusticeWith this two-fold offering of traditional Byzantine Music, we seek to give the listener two distinct yet complementary experiences: first, that of being in a traditional Orthodox church somewhere in the Middle East, wherein one choir sings in Greek and the other in Arabic; and second: that of being in a traditional Orthodox church in the United States with highly trained and proficient chanters singing traditional Byzantine Music in straightforward, clear, properly translated English. The first experience is not uncommon today; the second is less common, but we have hope that it will soon become the liturgical standard—hand-in-hand with the continued development of Byzantine Music in Greek and Arabic—for Orthodox Christian parishes in America. Presented in liturgical sequence, each disc jumps from one moment to another, giving a taste of the entire experience of praying the Great (Royal) Hours on Christmas Eve morning, Vesperal Liturgy on Christmas Eve, and Orthros (Matins) and Divine Liturgy on Christmas morning.

Somewhere in the Middle East…

Not showcasing particularly extravagant or virtuosic music, Disc One of Sun of Justice is a selection of standard, traditional settings of hymns from classical musical sources in both Greek and Arabic. The main source for the material in Greek is the Doxastarion of Petros Peloponnesios, the Archon Lambadarios (leader of the left choir), of the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Constantinople in the mid-18th century. Considered a modern father of Byzantine Music, his “New Sticheraric” genre and texture—simpler and more elegant than much of what came before—became the standard repertoire in the Greek Orthodox Churches from the 18th century on; it also served as the model for how most Byzantine Music would be adapted to other languages. In some cases, there is slight discrepancy between the hymn texts in the Doxastarion and those in the standard Menaion of the Greek Orthodox Church; where they differ, we opted to favor the Doxastarion, as this was clearly what was in use when Petros was composing.

Mitri El Murr, the composer of most of the Arabic selections on this record, emulated and evoked the style of Petros in many ways. He also incorporated some less conservative elements, however: modulations, chromaticism, and some melodic turns all his own; yet his style remains firmly within the received tradition.

In addition to these two main compositional sources, Disc One includes work in Greek by Stephanos the Lambadarios and Ioannis Vyzantios the Protopsaltis, who both emulated the style of Petros into the 19th century; the Monk Chrysostom Agiographos, a composer on Mt. Athos in the early 20th century; and my teacher and friend, Dr. Ioannis Arvanitis, who composed the Prokeimenon at the end of the disc and also the Kalophonic Eirmos which closes Disc Two.

The Arabic melody for the Kontakion is a composition by the Very Reverend Father Romanos Joubran, Dean of St. George Cathedral in Beirut, and emulates the traditional Greek melody beautifully. In addition, our own Deacon John Rassem El Massih took it upon himself to compose both the Prophecy Troparia and the Troparia of Ode I of the Canon; he also masterfully adapted Arvanitis’s melody for the Prokeimenon to the Arabic text. All in all, shifting back and forth between Greek and Arabic feels virtually seamless, and the two languages—as well as their respective melodies—complement each other beautifully.

John Michael Boyer (Read Part Two)

Order the Recording

Sun of Justice Concert Series

Cappella’s Associate Music Director John Michael Boyer directs exhilarating Byzantine chants for Christmastide in Greek, Arabic, and English. Featuring Lebanon-born guest soloist, Rev’d Deacon John (Rassem) El Massih, and the release of a new CD of the program.

With performances in Seattle, Portland, Salem, and Sacramento.

SALEM

Thu 14 Dec, 7:30pm
Greek Orthodox Mission Church of Salem
at Blanchet High School
TICKETS Add to Calendar

SEATTLE

Fri 15 Dec, 8:00pm
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
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Add to Calendar

Why “Sun of Justice”?

Sun of Justice

John Michael Boyer explains the meaning behind the name of our Sun of Justice concert series and the new PRÓTO ensemble recording:

Sun of Justice The ecclesiastical feast day celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ—which came to be called simply “Christ’s Mass,” or “Christmas” in English—was added to the calendar in the Eastern Church somewhat later than were other major feasts. Originally Christ’s Nativity and Baptism were celebrated on the same day: Epiphany (January 6th). Much has been written concerning what influences—Pagan, Persian, or Christian—led to December 25th becoming the feast day of the Nativity of Christ. All three—the late Roman Pagan holiday of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, the ancient Persian celebration of the birth of Mithras (the “Sun of Justice”), and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ—were each in the mind of the Roman populace to one extent or another during the development of the Christian calendar. This may explain why one of the main hymnological themes for Christmas is light in general and the sun specifically: Orthodox hymnography refers to Christ “dawning from a Virgin,” to his Nativity making “the light of knowledge dawn on the world,” and to him as the “Dayspring from on high,” or “Dayspring from the East.” The hymns even apply the title “Sun of Justice” to Jesus Christ. Christians seemed to say, “You all worship the sun in the sky or call this false god Mithras the ‘Sun of Justice,’ whereas we worship the true God, the spiritual, noetic ‘Sun of Justice’: Jesus Christ, the Son of God and true giver of light and life.”

This imagery permeates the feast’s hymnography, which also explores the paradox of God becoming man and the Virgin giving birth; the humility of the Son of God in his Incarnation; and the sanctifcation of the earth, the deification of humanity, and the reconciliation of God and Man in the God-Man Jesus Christ. The hymns culminate in creation’s universal exaltation: “Shout with joy, to the Lord, all the Earth!” “Glory to God in the highest!”

John Michael Boyer

Order the Recording

Sun of Justice Concert Series

Cappella’s Associate Music Director John Michael Boyer directs exhilarating Byzantine chants for Christmastide in Greek, Arabic, and English. Featuring Lebanon-born guest soloist, Rev’d Deacon John (Rassem) El Massih, and the release of a new CD of the program.

With performances in Seattle, Portland, Salem, and Sacramento.

SALEM

Thu 14 Dec, 7:30pm
Greek Orthodox Mission Church of Salem
at Blanchet High School
TICKETS Add to Calendar

SEATTLE

Fri 15 Dec, 8:00pm
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
TICKETS
Add to Calendar

Arctic Light II: Northern Exposure – Program Notes

The genesis of this concert program occurred last season in January 2017 after renowned Finnish choral conductor Timo Nuoranne was slated to appear with Cappella Romana to direct Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Vigilia (All-Night Vigil). Timo Nuoranne has championed that work in particular throughout his career, having performed it with both Finnish and non-Finnish choirs, and made the definitive recording of the work with the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir in 1998 for the label Ondine.

Even after a series of unexpected delays at the Department of Homeland Security and the chaos that ensued after the presidential inauguration at the State Department (including its worldwide network of embassies), we took the risk and paid for Nuoranne’s flight changes three times. However, Nuoranne’s artist visa was only issued on the day of the first concert. Alas it was not to be, and patrons will recall that our associate music director John Michael Boyer stepped in to direct the program at the last minute.

Shortly after the Vigilia performances we began to consider developing a new program that would suit Mr. Nuoranne’s considerable and broad expertise in Finno-Nordic sacred a cappella works from the last hundred years, virtuoso works “bathed in Arctic Light.”

As Timo and I began putting lists together of possible works to include, Cyrillus Kreek’s Psalm settings quickly rose to the top. In the 1980s as a young man Timo once sang Kreek’s Psalms in Finland under the direction of one of Estonia’s leading choral directors, Tõnu Kaljuste, who told the choir that a public performance of these Psalms would not have been possible in his own country at that time. Now Kreek’s music has the chance of being recognized as an important contribution to the choral canon alongside that of fellow Estonians Veljo Tormis and Arvo Pärt.

Kreek’s Psalms take pride of place throughout this program for another reason: Cyrillus Kreek was an Orthodox Christian. His family converted from the Lutheran faith in 1896, with the young seven-year-old Karl taking on a new Slavicized name, Cyrillus. It’s curious that in the published edition of the Psalms there is no mention of this fact, perhaps in order to allow all Estonians (not only Orthodox) to lay claim to him as one of “their” composers. The editorial note in the score also makes no mention that the Psalms here are presented in forms regularly used in Orthodox services, including Orthodox liturgical refrains (not included in the Psalms themselves) that are also omitted in the score’s printed English and German translations.

Our program follows at first a reasonably liturgical order. The first three Psalms on the program are those regularly sung at Orthodox Vespers, following the common Slavic tradition to excerpt select verses rather than sing the entire Psalm. The opening psalm of vespers 103 (104 in the Masoretic numbering) has an unmistakable folk feeling.

The second selection, Blessed is the Man, takes its title from Psalm 1:1, and is followed by verses from Psalms 2 and 3, forming the traditional first “Kathisma” from Saturday Vespers. Also featuring held pedal points that indicate a folk style, this setting uses the traditional Orthodox refrain “Alleluia” after each verse, with imitation of the refrain’s original melody cleverly imbedded into the music for the verses.

The lamplighting psalms at Orthodox vespers open with the first two verses of 140 (141 Mas.). In this setting, Kreek follows the ancient (and contemporary Slavic) tradition of refrains after the verses “Hear me O Lord” (“Kuule mind oh Issand”). After the male choir takes the second verse in four-part harmony, Kreek adds additional imperative versions of the refrain “Hear me, hear me, hear me,” that give the music a personal as well as corporate tone.

These three Psalms (along with Psalm 121/120 not included on this program) were completed in 1923, at the time the Estonian Orthodox Church had cut ties with the Moscow Patriarchate following the Russian revolution, aligning itself instead with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which allowed more use of Estonian in Orthodox services. This remains the case to this day in the contemporary Apostolic Orthodox Church of Estonia.

Since Psalm 140 is normally troped with hymns proper to the season, we have opted to insert a festal hymn from the Latin tradition, Danish composer Per Nørgård’s setting of two stanzas from a Marian hymn for Advent “Flos ut rosa floruit.” Nørgård’s most celebrated choral work is the infamous Wie ein Kind (“Like a child”) from 1980 with texts by the schizophrenic Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli and Rainer Maria Rilke. Unlike the outbursts of Wie ein Kind this short motet gracefully floats along in a rocking motion, somehow in sync with the beating of the human heart. The stanzas of the hymn end with the refrain “nova genitura” undulating in C major, but ending unresolved on G, a non-foundational note of the chord, perhaps implying that the “nova genitura” (“new birth”) is ongoing.

Following Psalm 140 in Orthodox vespers the clergy prepare to enter the sanctuary again following the singing of “O Joyful Light” (Phos hilaron), which in its Finnish translation begins with “O Jesus Christ.” In this setting by Boris Jakubov (a Finn with Slavic roots), the composer shows an inventive, restrained treatment of the text, only gradually increasing the range and dynamic of the music for a fitting, noble conclusion. Jakubov studied at the Helsinki Music Academy and worked for a while at an Orthodox seminary in an area of Karelia that was part of Finland from 1812 to 1940.

In an historic Latin-rite mass the readings and psalmody, including the Alleluia, were followed by a sequence on high days. In medieval Denmark, one such sequence was “Gaudet mater ecclesia,” which was sung in honor of St. Knud Lavards (canonized in 1170). Unlike “Flos ut rosa floruit,” this setting is based on the text’s traditional chant melody, punctuated between the stanzas with a series of bell effects on the word “gaudet” (“rejoice”).

In the place of scripture readings, we present instead a setting of New Testament verses for Advent by Swedish composer Sven-Erik Bäck. Bäck pushes the limits of an a cappella choir in his motet Natten är framskriden, assuming that the singers can, without an instrument giving fixed pitch references, master sudden shifts in tonality in unrelated keys for expressive effect. Just as an expressionist painter distorts representation for emotional effect, here Bäck distorts conventional tonality to create distinct, shifting feelings in each word or phrase. At times both a major and minor version of a chord or melody is heard simultaneously, and melodies can display wide displacements of more than an octave. In the opening section “the day is almost here” (“och dagen är nära”), the cadence almost arrives at F-sharp major, but in first inversion with a minor third in the bass further keeping it from resolution. Bäck was not only a musician but also a theologian by training, and his sacred motets display a keen attention to a text’s exegesis through musical devices. At the close of the motet, the music moves to the distant key of C, in both major and minor, finally resolving to major but again in first inversion, leaving the listener in state of anticipation: indeed Christmas Day is coming, but not yet here.

Eric Ericson talking to Mark Powell in between rehearsals, Namur, Belgium, 1992.

Incidentally Bäck was one of the early collaborators of Eric Ericson (1918–2013), the greatest choral leader in modern Sweden, who with the Swedish Radio Choir that he founded in 1951 aimed to elevate choral singers to the level of orchestral players, not only in terms of pay and working conditions, but especially of uncompromising musical skill and virtuosity. Some of that virtuosity was on display when Ericson came to Portland in 1983 to direct a regional collegiate choir, which made a big impact on me as an impressionable 15-year-old in the audience. Later in my 20s I had the opportunity to sing under his direction some of the same music on this program in the Choeur de Chambre de Namur in Belgium, fulfilling a young singer’s dream of working with him and extending my artistic formation with northern exposure.

Nørgård’s Agnus Dei sets only the last section of the ordinary text with the appeal for peace (“dona nobis pacem”). Following a dramatic opening on its first vowel, a melody appears first in the tenor, then in the alto, then is transformed and agitated until “dona nobis pacem.” Like Bäck’s Advent motet, this one ends unresolved: on a major-seventh sonority without a root, seeming to question if true peace is attainable, at least in this life.

These modern composers are not the only ones to explore the outer limits of harmonic possibilities. Kreek’s 1914 psalm settings recall music by Strauss or early Schoenberg with constant shifting tone centers. His Psalm 84 (83 LXX), along with Psalm 22, are harmonically more experimental than the later 1923 collection, moving quickly through a variety of key centers from the outset and returning home only at the close. Psalm 84 invokes a medieval style undulating melody sung in parallel fourths (at “my soul longs”), while Psalm 22’s text receives dramatically shifting melodies in distant keys before returning to a C sonority without a third, leaving its tonality ambiguous as Kreek again appends a personal imperative “Deliver my soul, my own soul alone.

Program List

🇳🇴NORWAY
Edvard GRIEG: Fire salmer (Four hymns) 1, 2, 4
Knut NYSTEDT: Veni sancte spiritus

🇸🇪SWEDEN
Sven-Erik BÄCK: Natten är framskriden
Thomas JENNEFELT: O Domine

🇩🇰DENMARK
Per NØRGÅRD: Agnus Dei, Gaudet mater, Flos ut rosa floruit

🇫🇮FINLAND
Pekka ATTINEN: Saata, oi Kristus
Boris JAKUBOV: Ehtooveisu

🇪🇪ESTONIA
Cyrillus KREEK: Psalms

Knut Nystedt’s Veni was written in 1979, treating this impeccable sacred Latin poem with dramatic effects, especially antiphonal female and male choirs each answering the other in unrelated keys simultaneously, creating colorful sonorities that match the poem’s evocative images. Like Eric Ericson, Nystedt also founded a virtuoso ensemble, the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir in 1950, which he conducted for forty years and through it advocated for increasingly higher skills in a cappella singing. Perhaps second only to his Immortal Bach, Veni is one of his best-known pieces. Nystedt was beloved by many and passed away in 2014 just shy of his 100th birthday.

If it weren’t for its use of an Estonian rather than a Slavonic text, it would be difficult to tell if Kreek’s setting of Psalm 136 (137 Mas.) weren’t by one of the Russian New School of composers such as Rachmaninoff or Gretchaninoff. Kreek was a student of composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory when one of his teachers would have been Maximilian Steinberg, student and son-in-law of Rimsky-Korsakov and composer of the now celebrated Passion Week, of which Cappella Romana gave the world premiere performances and world premiere recording in 2014. Rather prominent echoes of Steinberg’s compositional voice from Passion Week can be heard in Kreek’s setting here from 1944. From 1942 to 1944 the Estonian Orthodox Church was granted a short period of autonomy, followed by a dramatic exile of clergy and many faithful to Sweden during the second Soviet occupation, lasting from 1944 until Estonian independence in 1991. Kreek remained in Estonia however for the rest of his life.

Thomas Jennefelt’s O Domine stands as one of the most famous works of the modern Swedish school of a cappella choral music. Using fragments of the Requiem mass text, the piece opens with angular outbursts from choir and mezzo-soprano soloist, a discongruous collage of wildly expressionistic effects: speaking chorus, tone clusters, complex mechanical rhythms, and highly dissonant chords sung first in one octave then the next in quick succession: a technical tour-de-force for even the best of choirs. The piece ends with “In paradisum” during which the choir sings the syllables of the text with as little accentuation as possible, all becoming clear and full of consolation. As silence becomes part of the composition, the listener is left with the impression that the singing is still going on by the angels, in paradise.

Following this somewhat postmodern treatment of the Requiem texts, we follow it with a more solid hymn of comfort for the living, the Kontakion of the Dead from the Orthodox memorial service. This setting in Finnish by Pekka Attinen begins conventionally but opens up with transcendent sonorities on the words “life everlasting.”

Edvard Grieg’s Four Hymns (Fire Salmer) were the Norwegian composer’s last compositions, written in 1906 less than a year before he died. Cappella Romana will perform three of them in this concert (with soloists who incidentally each come from Norwegian heritage!). The first treats a paraphrase of the Song of Songs in a highly personal way, reflecting a kind of Lutheran-style piety with an emphasis on personal devotion and individual connection to Jesus Christ. Likewise in the second hymn the text emphasizes the salvific act of Jesus Christ on the individual believer, with the final hymn granting the individual Christian a glimpse of heaven. While Grieg once had a desire to become a Lutheran pastor, he was known to have been ambivalent about religion throughout his life. However these songs are a testament to a deeply personal reflection on life and death. The tension between this world and the next is most expressed musically in the second hymn, in which the soloist sings in B-flat major, while the choir sings in B-flat minor. This technical feat is all the more remarkable given Grieg’s failing health; these are not among his parlor pieces.

He wrote in his diary at the time, “These small works are the only thing my wretched health has allowed me… The feeling ‘I could, but I cannot’ is heartbreaking. In vain I am fighting against a superior force and soon, I suppose, I shall have to give up completely.” Despite his sense of imminent death, the hymns reveal, through Grieg’s optimistic musical declamation and resolve, a sanguine hope and confident faith.

—Mark Powell, Executive Director, Cappella Romana

Venice in the North

Venice in the North

Venice in the North

Following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the peoples of Russia and Ukraine began to look to the West not only for trading partners, but also for political, intellectual and artistic models. The Westernization of northern Slavic societies rooted in Byzantine traditions of governance and religion accelerated during the tumultuous seventeenth century, which saw the founding of the Romanov dynasty (1613), the Old-Ritualist Schism, and the accession of Tsar Peter the Great (1689), who transferred the capital from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. Meanwhile the liturgical arts of architecture, iconography and singing all began to display influence from the Baroque culture of the contemporary West, evident in music from the adoption of staff notation and the cultivation of Italian and Central European styles of polyphonic composition (so called partesny singing).

Western influence on the music of the Russian Orthodox Church reached its apogee during the reign of the Empress Catherine II the Great (1762–96), who continued the practice of her immediate predecessors of appointing Roman Catholic composers of Italian opera as directors of the Imperial Court Chapel. The first of these was Baldassare Galuppi (1706–1785), a student of Antonio Lotti and Maestro di cappella at San Marco in Venice whose three-year contract for service in St Petersburg (1765–68) was secured after protracted negotiations with the Venetian Senate. In addition to producing the secular and ceremonial music for voices and instruments that had been expected of previous imported maestri, Galuppi composed unaccompanied choral works in Church Slavonic for Russian Orthodox worship. These range from such compact settings of hymns as “Only-Begotten Son” from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom to “Pass Judgment, Lord” and other lengthy works in multiple movements known as sacred concertos. Often featuring texts chosen freely from the Bible, sacred concertos came to be performed during the communion of the clergy at the Divine Liturgy, where they would supplement or replace the chanting of the liturgically appointed communion verse.

Seattle
Friday 28 April, 7:30pm
St. Mark’s Cathedral

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Portland
Saturday 29 April, 8:00pm
St. Mary’s Cathedral

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Sunday 30 April, 3:00pm
St. Stephen’s Catholic Church

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Galuppi also influenced the development of Russian Orthodox music by fostering the careers of two court singers of Ukrainian origin: Maxim Sozontovich Berezovsky (ca. 1745–77) and Dmitri Stepanovich Bortnyansky (1751–1825), both of whom were sent to Italy for advanced musical study (respectively, 1769–73 and 1768–79). Berezovsky may already have been active as composer of Orthodox sacred music at the time of Galuppi’s arrival, for there is evidence of mutual influence, as well as conflicting attributions for several works including the settings of ‘It Is Truly Right’ and the Lord’s Prayer from the Divine Liturgy performed in this program.

The only other Italian opera composer known to have written a significant body of music for the Russian Orthodox Church was Giuseppe Sarti (1729–1802). Between engagements for the Danish monarchy in Copenhagen, Sarti was maestro di coro of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice in 1766–67. Sarti left a subsequent post as maestro di cappella at Milan Cathedral (1779–84) for in Russia, where he would remain for nearly twenty years, during which he would serve two terms (1784–86 and 1790–1801) as director of the Court Chapel in St Petersburg and teach students including the Ukrainian Artemy Lukyanovich Vedel (1767–1808) and the Russian Stepan Anikiyevich Degtiarev (1766–1813), a serf of Count Sheremetev who accompanied Sarti on a journey to Italy in 1790.

By the time that Bortnyansky succeeded Sarti as director of the Imperial Court Chapel in 1801, it had become the most important musical establishment in the Russian Church. Granted censorship by over publications of Russian Orthodox church music in 1816, Bortnyansky consolidated musical forms and practices that to this day remain the basis for liturgical singing in many Slavic churches. While further developing the choral genres pioneered by Galuppi and Sarti, he also worked in two ways to domesticate improvised traditions of harmonizing Slavic chant: 1) through the creation of through-composed settings of (mainly Kievan) chant melodies; and 2) by publishing in 1815 a collection of Simple Chant for the hymns and responses of Divine Liturgy notated in alto and bass parts. As Joppi Harri has recently shown, this two-part texture conveys in outline the substance of the formulaic ‘Court Chant’ that would be systematically notated by Bortnyansky’s successors at the Imperial Chapel Alexei Fyodorovich Lvov (1798–1870) and Nikolai Ivanovich Bakhmetev (1807–91).

The Russian Chant Revival

Russian Chant Revival

Russian Chant Revival

Major traditions of complex sacred music throughout Europe were shaped during the so-called “long nineteenth century” (the period of relative peace which lasted from the battle of Waterloo to the outbreak of World War I) by movements to recover elements of early traditions for modern use. These efforts, like contemporary “back-to-roots” endeavors in non-musical arts and the Romantic nationalisms to which they were all related ideologically, shared certain broad aims and methodologies even as they emphasized local particularities. Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all employed the rapidly developing academic disciplines of liturgiology and musicology (both historical and comparative) to identify their historical, cultural, and spiritual roots. Scholarly findings were then harnessed to serve (re-) creative practice in ways that ranged from wholesale resurrections of neglected repertories to the composition of new music inspired by real or imagined pasts. e results in Western and Central Europe are well known: a musical spectrum from the Solesmes “restoration” of Gregorian chant to Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, in between which were revivals of Renaissance polyphony and Baroque liturgical music (especially that of J.S. Bach) that combined old and new in nearly equal measure.

This concert traces a quest that emerged out of the so-called “Russian Religious Renaissance” of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to renew the music of Russian Orthodoxy through the study and creative re-appropriation of its traditions of chanting. Two approaches to research were pursued simultaneously, in some cases by the same people: 1) the study of notated chant manuscripts and other historical documents reaching as far back as the Byzantine origins of Orthodox worship in medieval Rus’; and 2) the investigation of contemporary chanting in the worship of monasteries, Old Believers, southern Slavs, and Greeks. is research enabled antiquarian revivals in the form of concerts and published editions of historical works, as well as pastoral initiatives to promote the use of unison chanting. Yet scholarship arguably achieved its greatest impact by fostering the emergence of a “New Direction” in the creation of harmonized choral music for the Russian Orthodox Church, the crowning achievement of which is generally acknowledged to be the (mostly) chant-based All-Night Vigil, op. 37 of Sergei Rachmaninov (1873–1943).

Tickets

Seattle
Friday 31 March, 7:30pm
St. James Cathedral

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Portland
Sunday 2 April, 3:00pm
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral

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The stylistic indistinguishability of completely original sections of Rachmaninov’s Vigil from movements based on melodies from the Znamenny, Kievan, and Greek repertories of Russian chant points toward contradictions inherent in the New Direction. In pursuing a broad creative agenda that may be summarized as “back to the future,” its adherents forged inescapably modern syntheses through their (inevitably) selective use of data regarding historical and living traditions of Slavic and Byzantine chanting. Contemporary ideologies and perceptions of musical, spiritual, and/or ethnic purity governed the use of historical or ethnographic evidence, blurring lines between real and imagined traditions.

From the seventeenth century to the emergence of the New Direction in the later nineteenth century, there were three major streams of musical practice within Russian Orthodoxy:

  1. A group of chant repertories recorded in neumes or staff notation as a single melodic line. The oldest of these was Znamenny – from the word “znak” ([musical] “sign”) – chant, a repertory with Byzantine roots that was indigenized over the course of half a millennium. Out of the core Znamenny repertory emerged other bodies of chant, some of which were closely derivative regional variants (the most prominent
    being Kievan chant), while others such as Demestvenny chant were created as supplements to adorn worship selectively with new (and o en elaborate) music. Post-medieval waves of musical influence from the Balkans led to the formation of additional Slavonic chant repertories labeled “Greek” and “Bulgarian.”
  2. Multipart singing derived from the Slavic chant traditions listed above, most of it realized extemporaneously according to orally transmitted conventions, a practice known in western Europe as “chanting on the book.” The multipart textures that emerged from these polyphonic practices featured harmonic progressions, seventh chords, octave doublings, and parallel movements of vocal parts that are inadmissible according to Western textbooks of harmony and counterpoint. As Jopi Harri has recently shown, these practices undergird manuals for ordinary church singing (Obikhod) edited and published in multiple voice parts by three directors of the Imperial Capella in Saint Petersburg: Dmitry Bortnyansky (1751– 1825), Alexei Lvov (1798–1870), and Nikolai Bakmetev (1807–91).
  3. Singing music notated in multiple voice parts (partes) composed in the style of contemporary western European art music, albeit without the use of musical instruments. Renaissance and Baroque styles of partesny singing initially absorbed through Poland and Ukraine were replaced during the later eighteenth century by Galant and Classical works, a stylistic change stimulated by Catherine the Great’s appointment of Italian composers to head the Imperial Capella. Chants were occasionally harmonized using “textbook” western harmony and counterpoint, but most of the music composed in this style featured original melodic material.

The present concert surveys the progress of the New Direction in Russian church music through selections drawn mainly from three services: the All-Night Vigil, a composite of the offices of Vespers (evening prayer), Matins (morning prayer), and the First Hour celebrated on Saturday night and the eves of major feasts; the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the ordinary form of the Eucharist in the Byzantine rite; and the Memorial Service (Panikhida). We represent the received practices of polyphonic chanting in nineteenth-century Russia with excerpts of collections recording the traditions of two great monastic foundations: the Monastery of the Kievan Caves (Kiev-Pechersk Lavra) as transcribed and arranged after its oral traditions of harmonization by Leonid Malashkin (1888); and the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Possad near Moscow as edited by Hieromonk Nathaniel Bochkalo (1911). This style of chanting was ubiquitous and was found to be inspirational even by composers of the New Direction whose own church music rejected many of its harmonic devices. In some of his chant-based works, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908) adopted the doubling of upper-voice melodies in bass voices, while Rachmaninov quoted the Kievan version of the morning hymn “Your Cross, O Savior” in his Second Piano Concerto.

One of the first composers to move toward the reorientation of Russian church music was Mikhail Glinka (1804–57), whose triumph with the nationalist opera A Life for the Tsar led to his appointment as Director of the Imperial Capella in 1837. During his brief tenure at court (1837–39), Glinka composed only a single sacred work (a Cherubic Hymn in a Romantic version of the imitative polyphonic style of the Renaissance) and apparently had little impact on the aesthetic trajectory of church singing. Late in life, however, Glinka returned to the composition of liturgical music a er a period of study in Berlin, where a setting of the Paschal hymn “Christ is Risen” is preserved among his papers. Having made the acquaintance of the abbot of the Coastal Monastery of St. Sergius near Saint Petersburg, (now Saint) Ignaty Brianchaninov, Glinka composed two works for the community: a set of responses to the Litany of Peace, and an arrangement for male voices of the Greek Chant melody of the responsory “Let My Prayer Be Set Forth” from the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. In both of these late works Glinka used a “strict style,” avoiding dissonance and chromatic alterations of the scale, that reflected his rejection of what he perceived to be the prevalence of Italian and German influence in contemporary Russian church singing.

The foundations for a broader quest to establish a distinctively Russian style of church music rooted in the past were strengthened in 1867 with the establishment of a department for the “History of Church Singing” at the Moscow Conservatory. Glinka’s late sacred works were nally published in 1878 by the Moscow rm of Jurgenson, which in that same year also released an original setting of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, op. 41 by Peter Tchaikovsky (1840–93). Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy immediately provoked litigation from Bakhmetev, who as Director of the Imperial Capella alleged that its unauthorized appearance contravened his powers of censorship over printed liturgical music. e dismissal of this lawsuit on a technicality in 1880 inaugurated a new era of productivity in Russian church music, out of which soon coalesced the creative re-imaginings of chant and folk music of the New Direction.

Tchaikovsky’s next publication of music for Orthodox worship was explicitly an attempt to reframe ancient traditions of Russian church singing: All-Night Vigil: An Essay in Harmonizing Liturgical Chants, op. 52 (1882). It was based almost entirely on melodies from major repertories of Russian chant, with harmonizations ranging stylistically from unmetered and modally pure settings in the “strict style” to relatively complex arrangements featuring counterpoint and other devices characteristic of Western art music. An example of the latter is the Polyeleos, a setting of a Greek Chant for festal matins that extends iterations of its refrain (“Alleluia”) with passages of imitative polyphony.

In 1883 Mily Balakirev (1836–1910) and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov were appointed co- directors of the Imperial Capella. Working with the assistance of a team of younger composers, Rimsky-Korsakov immediately set out to rework its core repertory of customary chants (Obikhod) according to academic principles of modal harmony and voice-leading. The results of this group e ort were published in 1887 as the All- Night Vigil based on Ancient Chants, from which we have excerpted its arrangements of Kievan melodies in Mode 1 for the Lamplighting Psalms and interpolated hymns (stichera) of Saturday vespers.

Composers in Saint Petersburg continued to recast ancient chants through 1923, when the Communist authorities prohibited the Petrograd People’s Choral Academy (as the Imperial Capella had been renamed) from performing Maximilian Steinberg’s recently completed Passion Week. (Passion Week received its world premiere by Cappella Romana 91 years later in 2014.) By that time leadership in Russian sacred music had long ago passed to composers and scholars based in the old capital of Moscow, a shift brought about in part by Tchaikovsky as a member of a committee that in 1886 completely reorganized the curriculum of the Moscow Synodal School of Church Singing. Newly hired conductor Vasily Orlov (1856–1907) quickly transformed its choir of men and boys into Russia’s leading vocal ensemble and a champion of new music, eventually including the most challenging sacred works of Rachmaninov and Alexander Grechaninov (1864–1956).

A sample of this repertoire by Chesnokov, sung by the Male Choir of Saint Petersburg:

During the tenure of chant scholar and composer Stepan Smolensky (1848–1909) as its director (1889–1901), the Synodal School became the central hub of the New Direction, training and appointing as faculty composers including Alexander Kastalsky (1856–1926), Pavel Chesnokov (1874–1944), and Nikolai Tolstiakov (1883–1958). From the time of its reorganization the professional networks of the Synodal School faculty overlapped with those of the Moscow Conservatory, where Smolensky taught as a professor of the history of church music alongside colleagues including the composer-theorist Sergey Taneyev (1856– 1915). They later came to encompass scholars, performers, and composers of church music in Saint Petersburg, especially after Smolensky served a term (1901–1903) as director of the Imperial Capella.

Composers working during the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries within the orbits of the New Direction approached
the problem of formulating a chant-based style from a number of angles. In a treatise entitled A Theory of Ancient-Russian Church and Folk Singing on the Basis of Authentic Treatises and Acoustic Analysis (Moscow: 1880) the St-Petersburg-based theorist and composer Yuri Arnold (1811–98) began to expound a systematic approach to the modal harmonization of chants rooted in ancient theory that resembled contemporary work on Greek folk song and Byzantine chant by Louis-Albert Bourgault Ducoudray (1840–1910). Arnold’s approach was subsequently taken up by the priest, historian, and composer Dmitry Allemanov (1867–1928), who began to correspond with Smolensky in 1894 and taught the history of church singing at the Moscow Synodal School during the years 1910–18. Labeled “Greek Chant” in some of its republications, Allemanov’s setting of the matins antiphon “From My Youth” is an original composition in chant style. Allemanov, however, did compose numerous settings of authentic chants, mainly Russian but also Byzantine. The latter appeared in a pair of publications co-authored with Alexei Zverev that feature harmonized Byzantine melodies in Greek and Slavonic.

Sergey Taneyev was a master of academic styles of counterpoint whose major sacred works are two large-scale sacred cantatas for chorus and orchestra: John of Damascus, op. 1 (1883–84); and At the Reading of a Psalm, op. 36 (1912–15). He became interested in church music in the mid 1870s, discussing the matter with Tchaikovsky and occasionally venturing to produce his own settings of liturgical texts for unaccompanied chorus. Of Taneyev’s seventeen extant liturgical choruses, een are based on traditional Russian chants. Those for the All-Night Vigil were evidently intended, according to Plotnikova,
to be components of a cycle that, had it been completed, would have comparable to that of Tchaikovsky. Taneyev sets his chosen Znamenny, Kievan, and Greek chant melodies to various permutations of imitative polyphony or, as in the case of the Apolytikion of the Resurrection in Mode 1, homophonic writing in the “strict style”. Although never published during his lifetime, this Apolytikion is one of two chant-based works by Taneyev that the Synodal Choir performed in 1891 at Smolensky’s behest.

Ultimately, as Vladimir Morosan has noted, it was Smolensky and his assistant Kastalsky that succeeded in forging a distinctive and widely copied chant- and folk-related choral idiom that the former had christened “kontrapunktika.” Similar in texture to the nationalist style pioneered in secular music by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881), kontrapunktika featured parallel vocal lines (including the fourths and hs forbidden by textbook harmony), constantly shi ing numbers of voices, drones, and irregular phrases based on chant melodies and their texts. Smolensky himself o ered only a small number of fully developed exemplars of this technique, the most extensive of which is the Panikhida on emes from Ancient Chants for Male-Voice Choir, a setting of the Russian Orthodox Memorial Service composed in 1904. Many of his other musical publications were editions of existing bodies of music, including a three-volume set of chant harmonizations arranged for male chorus that appeared in 1893, from which we perform the Prokeimenon for Saturday Vespers and a Cherubic Hymn for the Divine Liturgy.

After joining the Synodal School as a pianist on the recommendation of Tchaikovsky, Alexander Kastalsky rose through the ranks of its faculty to become director from 1910 to 1918. One of his most self-consciously antiquarian endeavors at the school was a performing edition of the medieval Russian version of the Service of the Furnace (1909). The Service had originated in the late Byzantine rite of Hagia Sophia as a quasi-dramatic retelling of the story of the Three Hebrew Youths in the fiery furnace from the Septuagint version of the biblical Book of Daniel. Previously recorded by Cappella Romana from manuscripts preserved today on Mount Sinai, the Greek prototype of the Service was celebrated during the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries between matins and the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday before Christmas in the cathedrals of Constantinople and Thessalonica. In Russia the Service expanded into a multi-day observance with spoken dialogue, additional chants, and pyrotechnics. Basing his work on recent scholarship, Kastalsky combined ancient chant sources with arrangement according to the techniques of kontrapunktika to create for the Moscow Synodal School a greatly abbreviated version lasting approximately thirty minutes. We sing its penultimate movement, a setting of verses from Psalm 136.

Nikolai Tolstiakov was a 1903 graduate of the Synodal School who served on its staff from 1907 through 1918 and then, like his mentor Kastalsky, for another five years during the institution’s twilight as a People’s Choral Academy. Tolstiakov originally published “Blessed is the Man,” an arrangement of Greek Chant melodies for selected verses of Psalms 1–3, as the second of five numbers for mixed chorus from the All-Night Vigil contained in his Opus 1. Like the paraliturgical choral concerto O Be Joyful in the Lord (Op. 19, No.2 of 1898) by Alexander Grechaninov, it was later arranged for male chorus by Pavel Chesnokov, another graduate turned staff member of the Synodal School. Grechaninov had acquired his association with the school when its choir premiered his Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, op. 13. According to Morosan and Rakhmanova, this led to conversations with faculty members who convinced him to adopt the techniques of kontrapunktika.

Svetlana Zvereva has documented how Kastalsky also exchanged ideas regarding stylistic directions in contemporary church music with Vladimir Glinkaov (1866–1920), a composer best known today for his piano works. In his All-Night Vigil, op. 44 (1911), a work premiered by the Synodal Choir and described by Kastalsky as “remarkable for the boldness of its exposition,” Rebikov went beyond the stylistic conventions of kontrapunktika to create his own soundworld of invented melodies and austere harmonizations. Rebikov’s music for vespers includes two solo chants in a quasi-Byzantine style: a setting of the Canticle of Symeon (the Nunc dimittis, Luke 2:29–32) for a tenor with a “mature timbre”; and a version of the Marian hymn “Hail, Virgin Mother of God” for a tenor with a “youthful timbre.”

The harmonically and sonically rich textures of Pavel Chesnokov’s mature choral style stand in polar opposition to the radical asceticism of Rebikov. Chesnokov began his career as a church composer by regularly employing traditional melodies, but over time turned toward original composition, preferring to suggest rather than to quote chant. This is the case with his second setting of the Russian Orthodox Memorial Service, the Panikhida No. 2, a work written for mixed voices as Opus 39 and then immediately adapted for male voices as Opus 39a (1913). In the Funeral Kontakion and Ode 9 of the Kanon, Chesnokov musically unifies a patchwork of textual fragments reflecting abbreviations commonly made to the service in late imperial Russia.

The dismantling of institutional infrastructure for the creation and performance of sacred music in the Soviet Union led the task of further development along the lines of the New Direction in the hands of Russian émigrés. Alexander Glazunov (1865–1936), who held the title of Director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory from 1905–1930, went abroad in 1928 on a concert tour from which he eventually decided not to return, settling in Paris in 1932. In the year before his death Glazunov composed his first known liturgical music for the choir of the St. Serge Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris, a pair of chant arrangements from the matins of Easter Sunday. The Paschal Exaposteilarion sets a Greek Chant melody with harmonies and counterpoint in the “strict style” that Morosan likens to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov and Taneyev.

Born in Saint Petersburg, Nikolai Kedrov, Jr. (1906–1981) was the son of Nikolai Kedrov, Sr. (1871–1940), a singer, composer of church music, and professor at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. After his family settled in Paris in 1923, the younger Nikolai resumed his musical training, eventually succeeding his father as director of the Kedrov Vocal Quartet. He was one of the editors of the so-called London Sbornik (1962–72), a multivolume collection of liturgical music that featured prominently both the composers of the New Direction and their émigré successors. Kedrov, Jr. contributed to this project many of his own arrangements of Russian chant, among which is his setting of the Greek Chant for the verses and refrains of Psalm 103, the opening psalm of Byzantine vespers.

Seattle
Friday 31 March, 7:30pm
St. James Cathedral

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Portland
Sunday 2 April, 3:00pm
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral

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The Tallis Scholars: Metamorphosis

Cappella Romana Presents: The Tallis Scholars

Cappella Romana Presents: The Tallis Scholars

METAMORPHOSIS

H. Praetorius: Magnificat IV
Gibbons: Magnificat (‘Short’)
Pärt: Magnificat
Sheppard: Our father
Tavener: Our father (1999 version)
Stravinsky: Otche nash
Palestrina: Pater noster (a5)
Gallus: Pater noster (a8)

Interval

Chant: Ave Maria
Mouton: Ave Maria – virgo serena
Stravinsky: Bogoroditse devo
Pärt: Bogoroditse devo
Gibbons: Nunc dimittis (‘Short’)
Eccard: Maria wallt zum Heiligtum
Pärt: Nunc dimittis
Torrentes: Nunc dimittis
Holst: Nunc dimittis

Magnificat

The Ave Maria, Pater Noster, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis between them explore the full emotional gamut of the Christian experience. These four core texts of Christianity take us from birth to death, celebrate God as both father and infant, Mary as virgin and mother. There is joyful anticipation here, but also calm acceptance; we find ourselves looking forward to a life yet to come and backwards over a life already lived.

From simplest plainchant monody to elaborate polychoral polyphony, composers have responded to these touchstone texts in their different ways. Tonight’s programme explores the scope and diversity of these responses in works from the renaissance and 20th century.

We open with three contrasting settings of the Magnificat – Mary’s song of joy at the Annunciation. Each finds echo at the close of the concert in the corresponding setting of the Nunc Dimittis, framing the evening with the two familiar canticles of the Anglican rite of Evensong, or the Catholic services of Evening Prayer and Compline.

One of the earliest German composers to employ Venetian polychoral techniques in his music, Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629) showcased the style at its animated and expressive best in his nine alternatim Magnificat settings. The Magnificat Quarti Toni embraces the ambiguous tonality of this “fourth tone” (the Hypophrygian mode), colouring what we might now think of as a minor key with rhythmic energy more suited to the jubilant text. It also boasts perhaps the most striking opening of any Praetorius work – an arresting bit of chromatic writing that keeps the ear guessing – as though the joy of this text is so great that the composer cannot find adequate expression in conventional harmonic gestures.

Although perhaps best-known now for his expressive madrigals, Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) was an accomplished and prolific composer of sacred works. While his Second Service showcases some of the finest verse writing of late Tudor England, his earlier Short Service finds its interest in the textural manipulation of full choral forces. Gibbons the madrigalist is quietly evident here in the stylistic articulation of his texts. Contrast, for example, the athletic, dance-like emphasis of the opening of the Magnificat, with the sustained, legato phrase that begins the Nunc Dimittis. Mary has rarely seemed as youthful in her joy as she does in Gibbons’ hands, nor Simeon’s rapture (“For mine eyes have seen thy salvation”) more simple in its conviction. The gradual scalic flowering of the “Amen” of the Nunc Dimittis is surely one of the contrapuntal high-points of its age.

Few composers are more texturally aware or demonstrate a greater sense of aural drama than contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Part. Derived from his studies of Gregorian chant, renaissance polyphony and Russian Orthodox music, Part’s signature technique – a reverberant choral homophony he terms ‘tintinnabuli’ – places his voices in a constantly shifting yet strangely static harmonic relationship. With any conventional sense of harmonic trajectory negated, it is through varied vocal textures that he achieves his meditative musical drama.

Here in his Magnificat he places a solo soprano voice chanting on a single pitch against a series of homophonic choral ensembles, creating a contemporary take on the renaissance fauxbourdon technique of harmonised chant. The Nunc Dimittis by contrast sees Pärt’s voices deployed in rather more flexible units, sustaining by turns a rocking dialogue between upper voices over chanted mens-voice pedal notes, and latterly a denser chorale-like homophony, collapsing ultimately back into the familiar waves of echoing sound for the Gloria.

Pater Noster

We return to the renaissance for the Pater Noster or Lord’s Prayer, heard first in a setting of exquisite delicacy by English composer John Sheppard. With its vernacular text, we can assume that the work dates from the reign of Edward VI with its new demand for music for Protestant liturgy. Clarity of text was paramount – a reaction against the “popish excesses” of the Catholic rite – and led composers to favour the translucent, five-part texture heard here. Modal harmonies add interest and colour to a treatment whose rocking imitation and pulsing, dotted rhythms establish a single mood of affirmation and spiritual security.

Affirmation is a little harder-won in two contemporary treatments of the same text. While offering moments of glowing, consonant warmth in his four-part setting, John Tavener complicates his prayer with the smudged doubts of passing notes and suspensions, rooting his setting in the muddy complexity of human imperfection. This is a work that reaches for the divine while never losing touch with the earthly.

After experiencing a miraculous moment of healing in 1925, Igor Stravinsky returned to the Russian Orthodox Church (also, incidentally, the faith shared by Tavener) he had abandoned in his youth. The result was a sequence of liturgical choral works, including this miniature four-voice setting of the Pater Noster. The text here is heard in Slavonic, chanted in traditional recitative style, and references but never quoting chant melodies. With a limited harmonic palette Stravinsky creates a single-mood work of mournful beauty, throbbing with never-fully-resolved uncertainties.

Palestrina’s Pater Noster setting typifies the polychoral style of sixteenth-century Rome. A world away from the ascetic purity of Stravinsky or even Sheppard, Palestrina’s setting delights in the richness and echoing sonority of his double-choir forces. Athough reaching an impassioned climax at the contemplation of “debitoribus nostris” (our sinss), the scale and grandeur of the “Amen” suggests a certainty of redemption absent from the contemporary settings.

From Rome to Venice, in Jacobus Gallus’s (also known as Jacob Handl) Pater Noster. Marrying the older Franco-Flemish imitative style with the antiphonal writing of the Venetian tradition, Gallus creates a fluid and lovely musical prayer. Upper voices are pitted against lower, exchanging phrases that echo, embellish and complete one another. The work concludes with one of the loveliest Amens of the period – a florid seal on this elegant motet.

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Portland
Tuesday 4 April, 8:00pm
St. Mary’s Cathedral

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Seattle
Wednesday 5 April, 7:30pm
St. James Cathedral

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Ave Maria

The Ave Maria – the second Antiphon hymn during the Festival of the Annunciation – was a popular chant among sixteenth-century composers, chiming particularly with the revival in Marian worship during the early years of the Counter-Reformation. Heard first in its plainsong original, the text is then repeated tonight in a sequence of polyphonic settings.

The Marian imagery of the Ave Maria draws the smoothest of polyphony from the French renaissance composer Jean Mouton. Two simple motives (one rising, the other falling) form the melodic basis of this five-part work, giving it a characteristically organic sense of wholeness. Use of upper and lower voices suffice to create textural contrast within the imitative flow until the text’s climax in a threefold address of the Virgin – “O Maria Dulcissima/O Maria Piissima/O Maria Sanctissima” – where sudden homophony interrupts the flow with an appeal to Mary, all the more touching for its sudden plainness.

Texture is also at the fore in Arvo Part’s Bogoroditse Djevo – an unusually rhythmic and jubilant work from the minimalist. Passages of declamatory homophony are set against chanted sections of highly rhythmic, recitative-like accompaniment in this exhilarating paean to the Virgin.

The moving underlying parts of Stravinsky’s Ave Maria turn this prayer almost into a cradle song. “I can endure unaccompanied singing in only the most harmonically primitive music,” the composer wrote – a pronouncement amply borne out here. Any narrative quality in the text is negated by a meditative setting that restricts its harmonic language and range to the absolute minimum, creating a deliberately naïve piece of musical sophistication.

Johannes Eccard (1533-1611) worked as Kappellmeister to Elector Joachim Friedrich of Brandenburg in Berlin, and is chiefly known for his role in developing the genre of Lutheran Chorale. So influential was his work that the chorales of Bach’s St Matthew Passion owe their form to Eccard, and Brahms was known to revere the composer. Balancing a simple clarity in his polyphony with a sensitivity to word-setting that took Lassus as its model, Eccard’s music is represented tonight by two chorale motets.

Maria wallt zum Heiligtum describes Mary’s visit to the temple to present the infant Jesus to Simeon. Despite its six-part texture, the motet’s delicate harmonisation ensures that the words remain the focus, shaded by the composer’s textural manipulations. The climactic moment, when Simeon recognises Jesus as “the light of the world”, is beautifully simple – an octave leap in the soprano line sees it flower expansively above the accompanying voices. Ubers Gebirg Maria geht encloses within its story a miniature setting of the Magnificat. Its polyphonic treatment is once again a model of simplicity, but achieves drama through the contrasting homophonic directness of Mary’s speech (“My soul doth magnify the Lord”) and the more contrapuntal sections of narrative.

Nunc Dimittis

A contemporary of Guerrero and Morales, Spanish polyphonist Andres de Torrentes is best known for his large number of Magnificats. There survive also, however, two Nunc Dimittis settings, and tonight we hear the Nunc Dimittis in the eighth tone. It’s a short work, compressing a some exciting and athletic counterpoint into the traditional alternatim structure – alternating verses of plainchant and polyphony. Five voice-parts expand to six by the end, giving a thrilling sense of climax to the closing phrase “et nunc et semper” (now and forever).

The role of the Nunc Dimittis within the Anglican rite of Evensong has prompted settings by all the major English composers, including an elegant double choir treatment from Holst. The gradual building-up of the opening pianissimo chord establishes a contemplative mood that gives way to rather more sprightly polychoral writing, including a rhythmic “lumen ad revelationem”, and the vibrant exchanges of the Gloria that grow into a pealing “Amen”.

—Alexandra Coghlan

Byrd Ensemble – Spanish Music for the House of Habsburg

The Byrd Ensemble

SPANISH MUSIC FOR THE HOUSE OF HABSBURG

A musical exploration of the Habsburg dynasty, featuring Spanish music written for monarchs Charles V and Philip II

PROGRAM

Tomás Luis de VICTORIA – Requiem Mass

  • Introitus: Requiem aeternam
  • Kyrie
  • Gradual
  • Offertory
  • Sanctus & Benedictus
  • Agnus Dei I, II & III
  • Communion: Lux aeterna
  • Versa est in luctum
  • Responsory: Libera me

Intermission

VICTORIA – Magnificat primi toni
Cristóbal de MORALES – Circumdederunt me
MORALES – “Requiem aeternam” from Missa pro Defunctis
Alonso LOBO – Versa est in luctum
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA – Nunc dimittis

Portland
Sunday 12 March 2017, 3:00pm
St. Stephen’s Catholic Church

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The House of Habsburg

House of Habsburg coat of arms conforming with one of Habsburg County

The House of Habsburg was an incredible patron of the arts. During its six-century rule, it shaped the arts world like no other dynasty, employing singers and commissioning composers on an international scale. The program features music by the most prominent Spanish Renaissance composers employed by Charles V and Philip II: Victoria, Morales, and Lobo, and the great Counter-Reformation Italian composer Palestrina.

The House of Habsburg was one of the most influential royal houses of Europe. At the height of its power, the dynasty ruled Austria, a vast tract of Central Europe, Spain, the Low Countries, much of South America, and it occupied the throne of the Holy Roman Empire for nearly three centuries. The Habsburgs held the arts in high regard. In the sixteenth century, the power and wealth of a dynasty were expressed through its patronage of art and science. The most important ruler had to demonstrate that he was also an outstanding patron by commissioning and collecting works of art. Artists employed at the court enjoyed a good income, high social standing, and remarkable freedoms, a rarity during period of religious turbulence. The Habsburg who defined Europe in the Renaissance was Charles V (1500-1558), who ruled Spain and its overseas empire and was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1519.

Music played an important role Charles’s court. Sacred music was sung for the daily services in the court chapel, for special memorial services, marriages and affairs of state that required a solemn ceremony in church. Professional singers and the clergy provided the chapel with music. Members of the court chapel performed many duties, as they were often singer, priest, composer, choirmaster, organist, music teacher, and scribe at the same time. Additionally, the nobility received extensive musical education themselves, often from the members of the court chapel, and learned how to sing and play instruments.

Charles surrounded himself with musicians. In Brussels he had a court chapel of mainly Flemish musicians called the “Capilla Flamenca” which he eventually brought with him to Spain. At his Spanish court Charles formed a larger ensemble, “La Grande Chapelle,” made up of the best musicians from the whole of Europe. The group performed sacred polyphony for voices and eventually secular music with instruments, once it came into style in the late sixteenth century. Charles loved both sacred and secular music.

Composer Cristóbal de Morales (c.1500–1553), a contemporary of Charles, is regarded as the most important Spanish composer before Victoria. The preference by Pope Paul III of employing Spanish singers in the papal chapel choir helped Morales, who moved to Rome in 1535 and joined up. During his time, Morales sang on three occasions for the emperor Charles V and received a commission to write music for Charles’s wedding to Isabella of Portugal in 1526. Morales remained employed by the Vatican until 1545, after which he returned to Spain following a period of unsuccessful job hunting in Italy. While regarded as one of the greatest composers in Europe, he was an unpopular employee and had difficulty keeping his jobs.

Morales was one of the first important contributors to a growing repertoire of musical settings of the liturgy for the dead. His antiphon for the the solemn office, Circumdederunt me, set for five voices, achieves a dark mood through slow-moving polyphony and low ranges. The sound fits the text perfectly:

The groanings of death have encircled me: the sorrows of hell have enclosed me.

His settings of funeral music were disseminated widely across Europe. The Missa pro Defunctis was likely sung in Mexico in 1559 at memorial ceremonies for Emperor Charles V and his son, Philip II of Spain.

Habsburg Map 1547

A map of the dominion of the Habsburgs in 1547

Philip II of Spain (1527-1598), “Philip the Prudent,” reigned during the so-called “Golden Age.” At the peak of his influence and power, Philip’s empire included territories on every continent then known to Europeans, including his namesake the Philippine Islands. People described his dominion as “the empire on which the sun never sets.” Unfortunately, his reign also saw the economic decline of Spain and the disastrous decade from 1588-1598 which included the devastating defeat of the Spanish Armada. Philip loved music and was a passionate art patron. He had a wonderful collection of masterpieces at the Escorial, his palace outside of Madrid, and was well educated in History and Politics but poor at languages.

16th-century Spanish music patronage differs from English, French, and Italian music in that the Spanish royal house maintained two royal chapels: the House of Burgundy and the House of Castile. The first was made up of Charles’s and Philip’s Low Countries subjects (Flemish) and the second of Spaniards. Philip’s maintenance of two chapels of singers and players showed an incredible commitment to music, unmatched by his contemporary sovereigns. Philip was also the only monarch of his time who patronized Italian, Spanish, and Flemish composers equally. He was the only patron to whom Palestrina dedicated two books of masses. Philip also helped Spanish composer Guerrero on his first publication, and Victoria dedicated one of his lavish single publications of Magnificats to him in 1563. Philip was the leading international music patron of his age.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (c.1548-1611), the most famous Spanish composer at the time, was one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594), and Orlando di Lasso. Victoria was not only a composer but also an accomplished organist and Catholic priest. Victoria was sent by Philip in 1565 to prepare for holy orders at the German College in Rome. During this time he likely studied under Palestrina, whom he eventually succeeded as director of music at the Roman Seminary.

The Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary, was the next most important part of the liturgy after the Mass in the 16th-century Catholic Church. It was sung at the close of each day’s service of Vespers: Settings of the Magnificat were in demand. Composers served this liturgical need by publishing a complete set of eight or sixteen settings of the Magnificat, covering eight “tones” or keys. Victoria’s Magnificat primi toni, one of his two polychoral settings, employs eight voices and alternates between fugal sections for one choir and full double choir passages for both choirs. The way Victoria balances imitation and full homophonic statements in his Magnificat is strikingly similar to Palestrina’s techniques in Nunc dimittis for double choir—we can hear why Victoria is called the “Spanish Palestrina.”

In 1578 Philip II honored Victoria’s request to return to his native Spain, where he met the pious dowager empress Maria, sister of Philip, and later became her chaplain. His last work was the Requiem Mass (1605) in memory of the empress Maria, his most famous work. All of the music in the Requiem Mass is scored for six voices, except the initial Taedet animam meam funeral motet (not sung in the program) he also wrote for the occasion. The second soprano part often carries the cantus firmus (a pre-existing melody used as the basis of a polyphonic composition), though it disappears into the other parts. Victoria concludes the Mass with the motet Versa est in luctum, which was probably sung as the clergy and dignitaries assembled around the catafalque, a decorated wooden framework supporting the empress’s coffin.

Philip II died at San Lorenzo in 1598. Alonso Lobo (1555-1617) wrote his best motet, Versa est in luctum, for Philip’s funeral at Toledo Cathedral. While the six-part motet is set to text associated with a Requiem Mass, he did not write a complete Requiem Mass setting. Though not as famous as Victoria, this stunning motet filled with beautiful, cascading lines captures the despair of the text and showcases why Victoria considered him to be an equal.

My harp is turned to grieving and my flute to the voice of those who weep.
Spare me, O Lord, for my days are as nothing.

ABOUT THE BYRD ENSEMBLE

Described as “pure and radiant” (Gramophone), “immensely impressive” (Early Music Review), and “rich, full-voiced, and perfectly blended” (Early Music America), the Byrd Ensemble is garnering international acclaim for its performances and recordings of chamber vocal music, particularly Renaissance polyphony. The Byrd Ensemble, directed by Markdavin Obenza, is a Seattle-based professional ensemble made up of 10 to 12 singers from the Pacific Northwest. The group presents its annual concert series at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle. The Byrd Ensemble is a nonprofit organization.

Since 2004, the ensemble has performed in the greater Seattle area and has toured across the United States presenting concerts for the Gotham Early Music Scene in New York with Peter Phillips (director of the Tallis Scholars) and the Boston Early Music Fringe Series. In 2014, the Byrd Ensemble was one of sixteen groups—the only ensemble from the United States—chosen to sing at the London International A Capella Choir Competition and worked with Peter Phillips, Mark Williams, and John Rutter, who described the ensemble as “a fine group that has achieved an enviable standard of tuning, blend, and ensemble.”

The Byrd Ensemble became part of the Scribe Records label in 2011 and has since produced six records—four of which feature Renaissance polyphony and have been reviewed by major early music publications: Early Music America, Gramophone and Early Music Review. Our Lady: Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks (2011) featured reconstructions by musicologist Nick Sandon of music by lesser-known English Renaissance composers—Pasche, Merbecke, and Ludford—and included two world-premiere recordings. In the Company of William Byrd (2012), Music for the Tudors (2015), and Music of the Renaissance: Italy, England & France (2016) featured more mainstream Renaissance composers Palestrina, Tallis, Sheppard, Byrd, and White. In 2014, the Byrd Ensemble was included in the international edition of Gramophone Magazine for their recording of works by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR MARKDAVIN OBENZA has dedicated his career to music. In addition to the Byrd Ensemble, Markdavin is also Director and founder of Seattle-based chamber choir Vox16 and Producer for Scribe Records, an independent record label. He is an active freelance singer who performs with the Byrd Ensemble and has performed with the Tudor Choir, Early Music Vancouver, and members of the Tallis Scholars. He is the Director of Choral Music at Trinity Parish Church in Seattle, WA.

Byzantine Music in Cyprus

Cyprus: Between Greek East and Latin West

Cyprus: Between Greek East & Latin WestManuscripts of Byzantine chant copied through the middle of the fifteenth century show that Cyprus remained closely tied to the musical mainstream of Byzantium. The two hymns (stichera) from the Greek office for St Hilarion included on the present recording are excerpts from a longer sequence of hymns interpolated on the eve of his feast between the verses (stichoi) of the Lamplighting Psalms of Byzantine Vespers. Their melodies have been taken from standard collections of medieval Orthodox hymnody and, like all the Greek chants on this disc, have been edited by Dr Ioannis Arvanitis in the light of his groundbreaking research on rhythm in Byzantine chant of the Middle Ages (2010). One of our sources is the Sticherarion Sinai Greek 1471, a volume that consists mainly of through-composed hymns (stichera idiomela) that Oliver Strunk (1977) identified as having been copied on Cyprus during the fourteenth century and, perhaps because of the island’s proximity to the Middle East, includes rarely notated hymns associated with the rite of Jerusalem.

Cypriot cantors from the period of Lusignan rule not only maintained existing traditions of Byzantine chanting, but also contributed works in the new kalophonic style to musical anthologies copied on the mainland. What little we know about these musicians comes mainly from brief headings to their compositions mentioning their names, the fact that they were from Cyprus, and perhaps also their musical or clerical posts. For the present recording we have selected three works partially or wholly attributed to Cypriot composers from the manuscript Athens, National Library of Greece 2406, an encyclopedic volume of Byzantine service music copied in the northern Greek town of Serres and dated to the fateful year of 1453.

Byzantine musical manuscripts record the musical activities of three members of the Asan family of Cyprus, two of whom appear in Athens 2406 (the third is the priest Manuel Asan, whose works are transmitted in other early fifteenth century sources). To Konstantinos (Constantine) Asan are ascribed several texts set to music in the kalophonic style by John Kladas, a Lampadarios of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia and the leading Constantinopolitan composer of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The present recording offers one of their two hymns that honour the Holy Trinity in fifteen-syllable verse, a metre employed widely in Byzantine sacred and secular poetry. The music of Kladas is generally meditative in character, but gradually builds in tension through a series of textual repetitions. This tension is released with teretismata that culminate in vocal imitations of brass fanfares that herald the final exclamation: ‘Save me, Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!’

In Athens 2406 the Communion Verse for Saints (and ordinary Tuesdays) by Nicholas Asan follows another setting of the same text attributed to the daughter of Kladas. Nicholas begins with a brief quotation of a formula for the syllabic rendering of psalms, after which he shifts into a melodically florid style for the remainder of the piece, about two thirds of which is devoted to repetitions of the refrain ‘Alleluia’ extended through the intercalation of consonants within the melismas and the insertion of the command ‘Λέγε!’ (‘Say!’). These extensions not only helped to fill the time required for the distribution of Communion, but also reflected sonically the Byzantine theological understanding of earthly worship as an icon of that celebrated perpetually by the angels.

Byzantine cantors who wished to further prolong a liturgical moment were able to do so by inserting a musically independent kratema (‘holder’), a composition consisting entirely of teretismata. Although their vocables were rendered exclusively with the human voice, kratemata could serve liturgical functions analogous to those of the organ preludes, interludes, and postludes found in later Western liturgical traditions. On the present recording we demonstrate this by appending to the Communion Verse a kratema by Paul Kasas, a priest-monk who was Protopsaltes (First-Cantor) of Cyprus during the early fifteenth century. Copied in Athens 2406 among festal psalms for evening prayer, this kratema is labelled a katavasia by its scribe. This technical term denoting some kind of descent was traditionally applied in Byzantine liturgy either to the concluding stanzas of poetic canons at the morning office or, in the old rite of Jerusalem, the short festal hymns known in modern use as apolytikia (‘dismissal [hymns]’). Composers of kalophonic chant, however, tended to use the term to refer to short kratemata that could be added as codas to other works (Anastasiou 2005). The katavasia of Kasas is divided musically into three large sections of melodically related material, each of which is formed of sequences of phrases that climax an octave above the base (final) of the mode. Athens 2406 includes two endings for this kratema, the second of which is recorded on this disc: a lightly ornamented version of Neagie, the intonation for the Fourth Plagal Mode; and an alternate version in which this intonation is dramatically stated in octaves, labelled ‘doubling’ (‘diplasma’) in the manuscript, after which the upper voice executes a gentle descent to the base of the mode.

During the final decades of the Lusignan dynasty and then subsequently under the administration of Venice, Greek Orthodox cantors in Cyprus began to shadow the musical developments of their colleagues in Venetian-ruled Crete. While continuing to transmit the central repertories of Byzantine chant, Cypriot musicians also wrote new chants and selectively arranged older compositions in ways that reflected shifting musical sensibilities. As in Crete, the changes included alterations of melodic style and the extension of modal variety to a broader range of liturgical genres. An example of these new directions in melody and modality is the Trisagion (‘Thrice Holy’) Hymn composed as a conclusion to the Great Doxology (Gloria in excelsis) of the Byzantine morning office of Orthros. This hymn appears amid the older musical layers of Sinai Greek 1313, a Cypriot manuscript of the sixteenth century featuring the hands of multiple scribes. Probably the latest of these scribes is Hieronymos Tragodistes, a composer and theorist who left Cyprus in the middle of the sixteenth century for Venice where he became a pupil of Gioseffo Zarlino (Strunk 1974).

—Alexander Lingas

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Seattle

Friday, 13 Nov. 2015, 7:30pm
Blessed Sacrament
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Portland

Saturday, 14 Nov. 2015, 7:30pm
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
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Sunday, 15 Nov. 2015, 2:30pm
St. Mary’s Cathedral
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Latin Music in Cyprus

Cyprus: Between Greek East and Latin West

Cyprus: Between Greek East & Latin WestLiterary witnesses to the cultivation of music by the French kings of Cyprus are found in a variety of sources, but nearly all of the surviving music associated with the Lusignan court is contained in a single manuscript: Torino Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria J.II.9. This remarkable document was, according to Karl Kügle (2012), evidently copied between 1434 and 1436 under the supervision of Jean Hanelle, one of two priest-musicians from Cambrai (the other was Gilet Velut) who arrived in Cyprus in 1411 with Charlotte of Bourbon, the second wife of King Janus I (1398–1432). Whereas Velut appears to have soon left the island, Hanelle remained in the service of the Lusignan family for decades, becoming scribendaria of the Roman Catholic cathedral of Nicosia in 1428 and also, at some point, master of the Cypriot king’s chapel. Probably travelling to Italy in 1433 as part of the Cypriot delegation for the marriage of Anne of Lusignan to Louis of Savoy, Hanelle then seems to have supervised the production of Torino J.II.9 for the Avogadro family of Brescia, whose coat of arms is on the first folio of the codex.

Since all of the music in J.II.9 is anonymous and there are no known melodic concordances with other sources, Kügle has suggested that its contents may be largely the work of Hanelle, and, perhaps, of some of his colleagues at the Lusignan court. The Torino manuscript opens with a section of Latin plainchant (a rhymed Office and Mass for St Hilarion, a rhymed Office for St Anne, and six sets of chants for the ordinary of the Mass), followed by a fascicle of polyphonic music for the Mass ordinary, and then another section containing 41 polytextual motets (33 in Latin and 4 in French). The remainder of the codex is devoted almost entirely to polyphonic French secular song (ballades, virelais, and rondeaux), the exception being a single polyphonic Mass cycle inserted by a later hand after the fascicle of ballades. The polyphony of J.II.9 ranges in idiom from technically advanced compositions displaying the rhythmic complexity characteristic of the so-called ars subtilior (‘subtler art’) cultivated in France and northern Italy during the later fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries to works in comparatively simple styles. An example of the latter is the largely homophonic Gloria in excelsis 10 for three voices, which features textures not entirely unlike those that could be produced by polyphonically elaborating chant in performance (as in the preceding Kyrie for St Hilarion).

Interspersed throughout the present recording is music for St Hilarion, an early Christian monk whose biography was written by St Jerome. Born in Gaza in 291, he learned asceticism in Egypt as a disciple of St Anthony the Great and completed his earthly life as a hermit near the city of Paphos in Cyprus. St Hilarion was thereafter regarded as a patron of the island; the castle in Kyrenia that served as the Lusignan summer residence was dedicated to him. In 1414 the court of King Janus marked the feast of St Hilarion (21 October) with newly composed services that the Avignon Pope John XXIII had recently approved for celebration with the issuance of a papal bull that is copied at the very beginning of codex J.II.9.

Cappella Romana CyprusThe Vespers responsory Letare Ciprus mixes praise for St Hilarion with supplication for the island, themes that the verse of the Mass Alleluia Ave Sancte Ylarion recalls amidst a stream of Greek terms. Detailed references to the life of the saint enrich the encomia and entreaties of the following Sequence Exultantes collaudemus in a manner similar to the texts of Motet 17 Magni patris/Ovent Cyprus, one voice of which, the motetus, directly asks Hilarion to intercede for King Janus.

The medieval motet is a form of polyphony in which upper voices, each of which may be provided with its own text, are supported by a foundational part (the ‘tenor’) that is either taken from a pre-existing melody (often a piece of plainchant) or, as is the case with all but two of the motets in the Torino manuscript, newly composed. Nearly all of the parts in the motets of J.II.9 feature what modern scholars call ‘isorhythm’, namely the repetition of a rhythmic pattern (talea) one or more times following its initial statement. This repetition may be literal or, as in the case of Motet 8 Gemma Florens/Hec est dies, involve patterns of diminution (in this case, a talea repeated twice in 3:1 diminution for a total of four statements).

Gemma Florens/Hec est dies is one of several motets commemorating milestones in the life of the Lusignan family, evidently having been written to mark the baptism in 1418 of John, the son of Janus and Charlotte of Bourbon. Its triplum voice emphasises kinship with the French royal family into which Charlotte was born, mentioning a ‘Macarius’ who is probably to be understood as being St Denys of Paris. Its motetus, on the other hand, speaks of the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth before invoking Christ’s protection on King Janus. Although differing in their wording, both upper voices of Motet 33 Da magne Pater/Donis affatim are hymns of praise to God featuring the acrostic ‘Deo gratias’, the concluding response for the Mass of the Roman rite.

—Alexander Lingas

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Seattle

Friday, 13 Nov. 2015, 7:30pm
Blessed Sacrament
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Portland

Saturday, 14 Nov. 2015, 7:30pm
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
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Sunday, 15 Nov. 2015, 2:30pm
St. Mary’s Cathedral
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