Epiphany: Luca Marenzio (1553/1554 – 1599) : Tribus miraculis (Three miracles)

The feast of the Epiphany which you’ll sometimes hear called "little Christmas" celebrates the visit of the magi (the three wise men) to the infant Jesus when according to Matthew 2:11 they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It marks the end of Christmas in the Catholic religious calendar. (In the Eastern tradition from which it originates the Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ baptism at the hands of John the Baptist in the River Jordan). Jesus’ transformation of water into wine at the marriage feast at Canaan is also celebrated on this day.

I’ve picked Luca Marenzio’s "Tribus miraculis" – "Three miracles" for today’s posting first because it’s a remarkable piece of music by a remarkable musician, and secondly because it celebrates all three Epiphany events. Luca Marenzio born in Coccaglio  near Brescia in either 1553 or 1554, and died in Rome on Aug 22nd 1599. His reputation as a composer comes mostly his secular works particularly his madrigals which are notable for very detailed verbal imagery and harmonic expressiveness. He also wrote sacred madrigals which differ from their secular counterparts only in their texts. His sacred works are made up of motets, of which he wrote about 70, and Masses, like his madrigals they make heavy use of verbal imagery. Unlike his madrigals however his motets and Masses makes relatively heavy use of religious symbolism and in this he differs from Palestrina and Victoria both of whom influenced his compositions. His reputation was such that within six months of Palestrina’s death the avvisi di Roma of August 12th 1595 referred to him as the ‘foremost musician in Rome’. Marenzio wrote "Tribus miraculis" in 1585 scoring it for four voices, it’s characterised by pronounced changes in texture ranging from the very florid opening which describes the three miracles to the dramatic change at "hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias" ("today water was changed into wine at the marriage feast") to the chromatic shifts at the description of Christ’s baptism culminating in the sequential Alleluia. Tribus miraculis is  performed here by St Paul’s Cathedral Choir conducted by John Scott, lyrics and a translation to English are both below the fold. Enjoy :-).


Video Source: Luca Marenzio (1553/1554 – 1599) : Tribus miraculis (Three miracles) Uploaded by markfromireland on Jan 5, 2012

Lyrics: Tribus miraculis (Antiphon at second Vespers on the feast of the Epiphany)

Tribus miraculis ornatum diem sanctum colimus:

hodie stella Magos duxit ad praesepium:

hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias:

hodie in Jordane a Joanne Christus baptizari voluit,

ut salvaret nos. Alleluia.

We celebrate a day sanctified by three miracles:

today a star led the Wise Men to the manger;

today water was changed into wine at the marriage feast;

today Christ chose to be baptised by John in the Jordan

for our salvation. Alleluia

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