3rd Sunday of Lent 2014: Eriks Ešenvalds (b1977) – Passion and Resurrection

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March 23, 2014

Eriks EšenvaldsEriks Ešenvalds' Passion and Resurrection was written in 2005 and premiered by Maris Sirmais and the State Choir Latvija. It recounts the Passion using a series of viewpoints that Ešenvalds connects musically to create an integrated whole. Even if you feel that modern choral music isn't for you I'd encourage you to give this piece a try you may be very pleasantly surprised.   It's written in four parts that succeed each other without interruption and each of which is prefaced by lines from scripture and interwoven with quotations from by the sixteenth-century Spanish composer Cristóbal de Morales' setting of Parce Mihi. The piece requires an expert choir and makes heavy demands on the soprano soloist but when the choir is the English choir 'Polyphony' under their conductor Stephen Layton and the soprano soloist is Carolyn Sampson the demands of the piece are handled masterfully and convincingly. I wonder why it is that so many singers who specialise in Medieval, Renaissance, or Baroque music have such an affinity for modern music. Whatever the reason we benefit from Carolyn Sampson's sympathetic and supremely confident singing here. Passion and Resurrection made a strong impression on me when I first heard it and I enjoy it more and more with each listening, I hope you will too.

markfromireland

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Libera: Danny Boy (Soloist: Isaac London) – YouTube

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March 22, 2014

This is our live performance of Danny Boy from Armagh Cathedral

Video Source: ▶ Danny Boy – YouTube Published on Mar 16, 2014 Libera Official 

Soloist: Isaac London

J. S. Bach (1685–1750): O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht BWV 118

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March 21, 2014

Bach decal 175x175 Caption Colour I wrote about this motet back on September 30th 2012 as the introductory posting to my series Johann Sebas­tian Bach: The Motets. It's one that I love so much that I can't resist posting it again in part because it's all too often ignored in discussions about Bach's sacred music. It's always puzzled me that a piece of music as lovely as this is so often overlooked. Bach wrote it most likely in 1736 for the funeral procession of for the funeral of Christian Weiss the pastor of St. Thomas, and rescored it ten years later in a somewhat more restrained version for indoor use. Its melody comes from a hymnal printed in Leipzig in 1625 and Bach isn't the only composer to recognise its merits – Mendelssohn also used it in his oratorio St Paul.

markfromireland

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Confitebor tibi, Domine, RV596

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March 20, 2014

This three-voice setting of a Psalm 111 (110 in the Vulgate) must be one of Vivaldi's greatest musical achievements.  It's relatively late and has no connection to the Pietà   – he probably composed it sometime around 1732. It's a great example of Vivaldi's use of counterpoint characterised by élan and vitality. You'll find it below together with its text, a translation and performer information. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Heinrich Schütz (1585 – 1672): Selig sind die Toten

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March 19, 2014

Heinrich Schütz 180x150 captionedThis is one of the few of Schütz's motets that is both well-known and to have attained lasting popularity. It was first published in 1648 in the collection of twenty-nine of Schütz's motets called 'Geistliche Chormusik' and is scored for  SSATTB, with continuo. These motets are important not only for their beauty but because they represent the point at which Schütz turned away from the Venetian practices of his youth turning instead to a more traditional Northern European model. There's a renewed focus on imitative polyphony which, in the preface to 'Geistliche Chormusik' Schütz recommended as a discipline to budding composers.

Selig sind die Toten (blessed are the dead) follows Schütz's strictures it's style is quite as imitative as you would expect in a motet whose composer consciously set out to write a piece that emulates a Renaissance motet. It doesn't quite end there though. Schütz was a man of his time and so it's not completely a Renaissance motet there are elements that belong to the Baroque era such as the remarkable expressive contrasts.

markfromireland

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Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Das Marienbild, D623

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March 18, 2014

"Bohemian Madonna" carved by Otto Kolross from a Spruce trunk taken from Osser forest. The statue is located in the forest chapel featured in the music player below - mfi.

"Bohemian Madonna" carved by Otto Kolross from a Spruce trunk taken from Osser forest. The statue is located in the forest chapel featured in the music player below - mfi.

Aloys Wilhelm Schreiber's poem Das Marienbild was published in 1817,  sometime during the spring of 1818 Schubert bought the poetry volume in which it appeared and brought it with him to to Zseliz where he took up residence in July as music master to Count Esterházy's children. During that summer he set several poems  amongst them this one. It's been suggested by various commentators amongst them John Reed that Schubert must have composed Das Marienbild at the behest of his employer because Schubert was 'not at this time in sympathy with orthodox piety.' But to say this is to ignore the fact that Schubert  was interested in Marian music and wrote quite a lot of it. Far more of it indeed than many modern commentators seem willing to acknowledge.

In this particular piece Schubert depicts the purity and simplicity suggested by Schreiber's text by weaving the melody around a C major tonality –  a key which Schubert used on more than one occasion to depict clarity and purity. 1

markfromireland

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St. Patricks’s Day Earwig: Port na bPúcai (The Music of the Fairies) – viol solo – YouTube

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March 17, 2014


The tune of the Pookas. The Pooka (Puck) is a sort of hobgoblin associated with the Fairies, herald of winter.
A fanciful Celtic piece. I would say Irish, but I've noticed I have to be careful with that...

Video Source: Port na bPúcai (The Music of the Fairies) - viol solo – YouTube Published on 26 Jun 2013 by ernststolz

St. Patrick’s Day 2014: The Wind that Shakes the Barley – 2010 Oregon All-State Choir

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March 17, 2014

This is a ballad I learnt when I was a schoolboy and enjoy singing to this day.  It was written by Robert Dwyer Joyce (1836–1883) a poet and professor of literature from Glenosheen, County Limerick. The song's viewpoint is that of a young man from Wexford about to sacrifice himself for Ireland in the 1798 rebellion against the British occupation regime.  If you've seen Ken Loach's  film 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley' about our War of Independence (1919–1922) and the Civil War (1922–1923) you'll probably remember this ballad from fairly early on in the film. It's also been recorded by both Loreena McKennitt, and Lisa Gerrard both of them very good – I doubt you'll have much trouble finding videos of them singing it on YouTube, but this excellent choral version of it  – which has particularly effective brief solos, deserves to be far far better known than it is.

Happy St. Patrick's day.

markfromireland

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Orlande de Lassus (±1530-1594): Psalm 143 — Penitential Psalm No 7

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March 16, 2014

The seventh and final Penitential Psalm (Psalm 143) set by de Lassus was intended to sung on Lauds on Good Friday and Compline in the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. It's a beautiful piece of music – technically very demanding to sing as de Lassus makes use of a full range of musical techniques there's some wonderful word-painting and I really like his use of syncopation for example at 'turbatum est cor meum' and 'velociter exaudi me, Domine'. There's a wonderfully effective piece of writing at 'velociter exaudi me, Domine; defecit spiritus meus'  (hear me speedily, O Lord; my spirit faileth) which begins after a rest in all parts, ends on an unstressed beat and is followed by a written-in bar’s rest in all parts you almost see the Psalmist being forced to pause because his spirits are failing him. The doxology starts with a strong clear Gloria and ends very sonorously.

markfromireland

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2nd Sunday of Lent 2014: Mozart Requiem K626 C R F Maunder Edition Westminster Cathedral Boys Choir, Academy of Ancient Music

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March 16, 2014

This performance of Mozart's Requiem K626 is quite different to what you're used to and assuming that the version with which you're familiar uses Sussmayr's score you're likely to be ... surprised, by much of what you hear. Maunder's edition is far leaner and more taut than Sussmayr's when coupled with forces similar to those for which Mozart was writing and when those forces are renowned for the clarity with which they sing and the orchestra accompanying them are using period instruments the effect is like seeing a well-loved and familiar painting after it's come back from having been cleaned, it's brighter, clearer, you notice details that you hadn't noticed before, it is, in short different from what you had become used to. Beautiful? Oh yes, very beautiful but also slightly disconcerting.

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Orlande de Lassus (±1530-1594): Psalm 130 — Penitential Psalm No 6

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March 15, 2014

The sixth Penitential Psalm No 6 (Psalm 130) is the shortest it's sung at Vespers on Wednesday, during the Burial Service, and in the Office of the Dead at Vespers and Lauds. Of Lassus' settings this one is unique in that he based it, somewhat loosely, on the sixth Psalm tone, which can be heard in each of its eight sections.

markfromireland

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Orlande de Lassus (±1530-1594): Psalm 102 — Penitential Psalm No 5

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March 14, 2014

Psalm 102 is one of the longest and was to be sung on the feast of the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. Its length meant that de Lassus had to make use of all the techniques at his command to sustain both interest and momentum. While the technicalities are important what really sets this Psalm setting apart in a series of Psalm setting that are one of the jewel of Renaissance polyphony is de Lassus' wonderful use of word-painting.  I'll give just a few examples:

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