Gregorian Chant: Victimae paschali laudes

Victimae Paschali is the Sequence for Easter Sunday and is one of only four that survived the Council of Trent and other reforms. It’s variously attributed Robert II of France (tenth century), Notker Balbulus (tenth century), and Wipo of Burgundy (eleventh century). For textual reasons I think that Balbulus is the most of the three to have been its author.  The chant’s melody is well worth listening to both for its innate musical worth but also because it’s an incredibly influential piece of music. The famous German chorale Christ lag in Todesbanden is based upon it to give one example and Brumel based a Mass upon it to give another. It starts with a rising three part melody for the first three phrases that falls slowly in little peaks and valleys over the next three. The single melodic line is exploited skilfully to provide a lyrical flow whose long-breathed phrasing imparts a sense of serenity. Enjoy :-).


Victimae paschali laudes

Victimae paschali laudes
immolent Christiani.
Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri
reconciliavit peccatores.
Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus.
Dic nobis Maria,
quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
et gloriam vidi resurgentis:
Angelicos testes,
sudarium, et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea:
praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere:
tu nobis, victor Rex,
Amen. Alleluia.

May you praise the Paschal Victim,
immolated for Christians.
The Lamb redeemed the sheep:
Christ, the innocent one,
has reconciled sinners to the Father.
A wonderful duel to behold,
as death and life struggle:
The Prince of life dead,
now reigns alive.
Tell us, Mary Magdalen,
what did you see in the way?
I saw the sepulchre of the living Christ,
and I saw the glory of the Resurrected one:
The Angelic witnesses,
the winding cloth, and His garments.
The risen Christ is my hope:
He will go before His own into Galilee.
We know Christ to have risen
truly from the dead:
And thou, victorious King,
have mercy on us.
Amen. Alleluia.

Performers: Pro cantione antiqua conducted by James O’Donnell

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