Libera : Lament For Jerusalem

This week’s chorale posting is Libera’s hauntingly beautiful 2004 recording of their director Robert Prizeman’s setting of The Lamentations of Jeremiah.

The Lamentations of Jeremiah inspired many a musical masterpiece over the centuries and are an important part of the liturgy of Passion Week. They are to be found in the Book of Lamentations in the Old Testament following on from the Book of Jeremiah. In the Catholic tradition the five chapters of The Lamentations are often referred to by their Latin name "Lamentationes". They record the crushed and desolate words of the Prophet Jeremiah bewailing the destruction of Jerusalem, the ensuing famine, and the carrying off of its people into captivity. (Liturgically the link between the Lamentations and the Passion is to be found in John 2: 19-21 where Jesus prophesies his death as the Destruction of The Temple).

Prizeman’s setting of The Lament for Jerusalem starts traditionally enough with the call from the Book of Hosea to return to the Lord ("Convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum") a call which he repeats through the text which describes the grim lot of the defeated in Biblical times.1 

The singing as you might expect from Libera is wonderfully clear and Prizeman’s setting is a modern (and to my mind hauntingly beautiful) version of a plainsong chant. Musically it’s lovely, but Prizeman’s text is not without flaws. There are mistakes in the Latin. There’s no such word as "lamentione" for example – it should be "lamentatione" and sometimes what the boys sing doesn’t match the text. I don’t think these detract from the singing however. Have a listen and see what you think.



Jerusalem Jerusalem

Convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord thy God.
Defecerunt prae lacrimis oculi mei

Conturbata sunt visera mea
My eyes have grown dim with tears

My bowels have been wrenched and twisted

LamentioneIn lamentation
Magna est enim velut mars contritio tua

Quiis mendebitur tui
Your destruction is as great as the ocean

Who will heal you

Jerusalem Jerusalem

Convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord thy God.
LamentioneIn lamentation
Effesum est in terra ie cur meum

Super contritione filiae populi mei Cum deficeret parvulus Et lactens in plateis oppidi
My liver is poured out on the ground

Over the destruction of the daughter of my people As the young and the suckling child Collapse in the streets of the town

Jerusalem Jerusalem

Convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convert to the Lord thy God.

In lamentation

Notes: 1 With the exception of the excerpt from Hosiah Prizeman’s text is taken from Lamentations 2: 11-13

11 Caph. Defecerunt præ lacrimis oculi mei, conturbata sunt viscera mea; effusum est in terra

jecur meum super contritione filiæ populi mei, cum deficeret parvulus et lactens in plateis oppidi.

11 Caph. My eyes have failed with weeping, my bowels are troubled: my liver is poured out upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people, when the children, and the sucklings, fainted away in the streets of the city.
12 Lamed. Matribus suis dixerunt :

Ubi est triticum et vinum? cum deficerent quasi vulnerati in plateis civitatis, cum exhalarent animas suas in sinu matrum suarum.

12 Lamed. They said to their mothers: Where is corn and wine? When they fainted away as the wounded in the streets of the city: when they breathed out their souls in the bosoms of their mothers.
13 Mem. Cui comparabo te, vel cui assimilabo te, filia Jerusalem? cui exæquabo te, et consolabor te,

virgo, filia Sion? magna est enim velut mare contritio tua : quis medebitur tui?

13 Mem. To what shall I compare you? Or to what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem? To what shall I equal you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Sion? For great as the sea is your destruction: who shall heal you?

Source: NEW ADVENT BIBLE: Lamentations 2

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