Posts Tagged ‘ Psalms ’

Arvo Pärt (b1935): De Profundis

2
June 5, 2015

Pärt's setting of Psalm 130 dates from 1980 and is dedicated to Gottfried von Einem. It's set for male voices and organ with bass drum.  It's the first piece of Pärt's music I ever heard and to me, it still epitomises much of his music which seems so spare and simple when you look at the score but which reveals its depths when you hear it performed. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Exsultate Deo

0
May 16, 2015

This is one of my favourites amongst Palestrina's motets. It's a five-part setting (SAATB) of the first three verses of Psalm 81. It's  a bright celebratory piece of music full of word-painting to depict the musical instruments mentioned in the text. Whenever people try to tell me that Palestrina's music is dull, cold, and lifeless, this is one of the pieces of music I use to refute them. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Psalm 23 (Bay Psalm Book): American Boy Choir

2
May 11, 2015

Bay Psalm 23
The Bay Psalm book is probably unknown to my readers on this side of the Atlantic, and, I suspect, to many in America, and so a little history before listening to the music is appropriate. In 1640 the Massachusetts Bay Colony published the Bay Psalm Book (it was printed by Stephen Daye in the house of the president of Harvard College) this was a remarkable event in American history in several ways. It was the first book to be published in the colonies which would make it an important event in its own right. Even more important however is that it was the first book to be entirely written in the colonies and thus represents an important parting of the ways between America and Britain.  "Thirty pious and learned Ministers" amongst them Richard Mather, John Eliot, Thomas Weld, and John Cotton translated the psalms contained in the metrical Psalter. The translations can seem a bit rough, a bit unpolished, and so far as I know none of them are in widespread use today (although many of the tunes to which the translations were sung have survived). In its time it was widely read and used and was used by the Puritan congregations of New England. They used it in preference to the Anglican psalter precisely because it was theirs it was written by their fellow Puritans for them it was an important statement of their independence and of their growing self-confidence. It went through about forty reprintings at first and in all has been reprinted more than a hundred times. The rendition of Psalm 23 which you can hear below the American Boychoir conducted by Fernando Malvar-Ruiz was given during the  during the 2014 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Eastern Division Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I've included the text below the video. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Juan de Anchieta (1462-1523): Beatus Vir

0
April 15, 2015

Anchieta Burial place

Juan de Anchieta was born near Azpeitia in the Basque country, he was the scion of an aristocratic family related by marriage to the Loyola family. It seems likely that he studied music at Salamanca but his career didn't really begin until February 6th 1489 when he was appointed as a singer in Queen Isabella's court chapel at a salary of 20,000 maravedís per annum. Four years later this salary was raised to 30,000 maravedís per annum and in 1495 the queen appointed him as maestro de capilla to her son the  17-year-old prince Don Juan. As well as his salary the queen rewarded him by granting him several ecclesiastical preferments and on her death in 1504 Anchieta transferred to the household of her daughter Joanna and her consort Philip the Fair. During this period he travelled with Joanna's court to  Flanders and England along with such accomplished musicians as Pierre de La Rue, Alexander Agricola and Marbrianus de Orto. His salary by this time had risen to 30,000 maravedís per annum and Joanna continued her mother's policy of granting him ecclesiastical livings to supplement his salary. In 1519 the Emperor Charles V declared that Anchieta who by then was 57 and in poor health was too old for service at court but continued to pay his salary.  Anchieta was associated at this time with the Franciscan sisters in Azpeitia and acted for a time as their business manager. He died in Azpeitia in 1523 and was buried in the Iglesia de San Sebastián de Soreasu where he had been chaplain.

His music in some ways reminds me of his contemporary Peñalosa but it's far less ornate than Peñalosa's music. Peñalosa wrote for highly trained professional choirs while Anchieta's music is written for large choirs. It's very graceful and typically Iberian in its sonority but avoids the often very academic mannerisms of Peñalosa and the Flemish composers so beloved of the Spanish royal family and aristocracy. Juan de Anchieta was primarily interested in the sound of sonorous and approachable music you can hear this particularly clearly in his use of chant for his setting of verses from Psalm 111 (Beatus Vir) which you can hear below. It's a very plain but very appealing setting Anchieta keeps the chant largely intact adding only a little ornamentation and some cadential variation to propel the music forward.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Tribulatio proxima est

0
March 31, 2015

Byrd's penitential motet Tribulatio proxima est (Tribulation is near ) was published in the Cantiones Sacrae of 1591 and takes its text from Psalms 21 and 69 respectively. As you might expect of Byrd the music serves to portray the text so we have a strong outcry at the plea for justice (vindica me), twisted and anxious music at contumelias et terrores (insults and terrors), the slow build up of homophony to portray God's strength as the Psalmist's helper (adiutor) and the plea for God to hasten to the aid of the faithful Domine, ne moreris (O Lord, tarry not) which Byrd repeats no less than five times.

mfi

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