Monthly Archives: March 2016

Maundy Thursday – 24 March 2016

Palm Sunday – March 20, 2016

Schein: Ingrediente Domino, Pitoni: Christus Factus Est,
Sweelinck: Vide homo
Victoria: Missa Simile est regnum coelorum

Schein (1586-1630) was the Thomaskantor in Leipzig a century before the great JS Bach. Although he never left Germany, he adopted the ‘Italian style’ that was so beloved by his successor. “Ingrediente Domino” is a complex piece with much rhythmic interest; the piece often juxtaposes ideas, for example, “Osanna” is sung by the sopranos whilst the rest of the choir sing “clamantes” then the roles are reversed.

Like Schein before him and so many since, Pitoni (1657-1743) was devoted to the music of Palestrina. He moved to Rome as an infant and, apart from a couple of brief sojourns in Assisi and Reiti, he remained there all his life. Over his incredibly long career (he was organist at the basilica of San Marco, Rome for over 60 years) he produced a vast output of music varying in style from what could, unkindly, be called Palestrina pastiche to music that could stand comparison in style and quality to some of the works of his contemporary Handel. Christus Factus Est is a short motet which borrows from both styles. After an imitative opening he emphasises various words by extending them. Then he suddenly transforms the texture: the choir sings simple harmonies as in a hymn only to return to the imitative style of his exemplar.

Sweelinck (1562-1621) may have been the least travelled of our four composers. He was, and is, famous for his keyboard music which travelled across Europe: it was published and played in London, Sweden and Italy as well as his native Holland. The motet “Vide homo” is a setting of a poem by the thirteenth century Parisian, Philippe de Greve, made famous as the final movement in Lassus’ last composition “Lagrime di San Pietro”: the Tears of St Peter. In this poem we hear of Jesus’ torment: the inward suffering from the betrayal was even more painful than being pierced by nails.

Like many Spanish composers of his era, Victoria (1548-1611), travelled from his homeland to Rome. He stayed in Rome for twenty years but after becoming ordained as a priest, he returned to Madrid to be the chaplain to Dowager Empress Maria, the daughter of Charles V. Whilst in Rome he wrote and published the “Missa Simile est regnum coelorum”, based on the motet of his compatriot, Guerrero. Victoria’s vast and varied output looks back towards the past masters and prepares us for the Baroque. This mass setting takes us on this journey through time, starting with the Kyrie, which closely follows the template motet. However, as we progress through the movements of the mass we are taken further from the original to a final Agnus Dei in two choirs that would not be out of place in the Baroque splendour of Venice.

Lent V – 13 March, 2016

Victoria – Asperges Me
Manchicourt : Missa “Surge et Illinare”
Clemens : Fremuit spiritus Jesus

1510 was a tumultuous year for the Roman Catholic Church. The Papal states were at war with France and the scene was set for a famous diplomat: Florence sent Niccolò Machiavelli to France. Into this cauldron of religious fervour two great composers appeared: Pierre de Manchicourt from northern France and Jacobus Clemens from what is now Belgium.

Manchicourt worked in France before settling in Spain, his music changed as he heard new techniques and incorporated them into his music. Although Clemens was, perhaps jokingly, called “not the pope”, he never visited Italy and he lived most of his life close to his birth place.

This week we don’t hear the difference between the music of the north and the south in the European of the 16th century; rather we hear the youthful exuberance of the young Manchicourt – the “Missa Surge et illuminare” was published before he was 25 – contrasted with the music of the mature Clemens – the motet “Fremuit spiritu Jesus” was published just 2 years before his untimely murder in 1556.

Both composers ‘fill the page’ with notes; the gap between imitative entries is short; and the rest they allow the singers is as short as possible.

In Clemens setting of the Raising of Lazarus, the second part repeats Jesus’ call ‘Lazarus come out!’ whilst the story unfolds around them. In the first part we are taken, with Jesus, to where he wept at the tomb of Lazarus. In the second part he shares his sorrow with the sisters of Lazarus but we end with the uplifting command of Jesus. Clemens adds to the emotional text with many complex and ambiguous harmonies. This motet was clearly much loved; two years after its publication around the time of Clemens’ death, Lassus wrote a motet on the same text with clear references to his predecessors’ setting.

By contrast, Manchicourt’s setting of the mass contains few accidentals and the chords are clear and the mode a very decisive Hypodorian. As befits a mass based on the Advent text of ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come’, the Agnus Dei ends, like the Clemens, with an uplifting final cadence.