Posts Tagged ‘ Psalms ’

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

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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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Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1612): Ad Dominum

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March 28, 2015

Hassler was very influential in his day both Bach (O Haput voll Blut und Wunde) and Schütz (Psalmen Davids) quoted his music. The son of a stonecutter and part time musician in Nuremburg he was sent to Venice to study music and composition. In Venice he came under the influence of the Gabrieli's  studying under Andrea Gabrieli he stayed in Venice for eighteen months and returned to Germany taking up a position in Augsburg  as chamber organist to Octavian Fugger II. Word of this talented musician and composer spread  the Landgrave of Hesse tried to "poach" him from the Fuggers while the emperor granted him a potentially very lucrative patent to copyright his works. When Fugger died in 1600 the town council tried to keep him in Augsburg by making him the town's musical director but Hassler returned to his home town a year later to take up a similar posting, in 1607 he travelled to Ulm where he married severing all ties to Nuremburg. In 1608 Christian II of Saxony commissioned a composition from him and then appointed Hassler to his staff, he continued as a member of the Saxon court rising quickly to Kapellmeister until his death in 1612.

Musically Hassler was both conservative and ecumenical, ecumenical in that although he himself was a protestant he was quite happy to compose for both the Catholic and Lutheran churches and conservative in that he never wrote a piece that used that hallmark of baroque music the basso continuo  confining his religious compositions to the polyphonic idiom that had been at its height fifty years earlier not only that but you'll often hear the cantus firmus as a motif in every part of his composition. Having said that he was musically conservative I had better qualify that statement somewhat by saying that it was his religious music that was so conservative, he wrote a considerable quantity of secular music such as madrigals, instrumental works, and dance songs, in all of which genres he allowed himself to be somewhat more free-handed. His motet Ad Dominum cum tribularer (In my distress I cried unto the Lord) which takes its texts from the opening verses of Psalm 120  is another exception to the conservatism rule. It's very chromatic with none of the traditional diatonic harmonies, and as you listen you can hear what he was trying to do – to make his music match the text to portray both tribulation (cum tribularer) and its cause a deceitful tongue (lingua dolosa).

mfi

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Da mihi auxilium

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March 13, 2015

This six-part (SAATTB) motet with divided tenors and baritones was published in Canciones Sacræ (1575). Its text is taken from Psalm 107 and is a plea to God for respite and aid in times of tribulation. It's quite similar in style to Domine secundum actum meum they're both Aeolian, there's the same voices, and those voices are in the same clefs, both make very sophisticated use of double imitation, and they conclude in similar ways. Both motets were clearly written as an exercise in achieving an ideal form and given the similarities between Byrd's motets and Ferrabosco's I think it's fairly clear that the exemplar for this ideal form was Ferrabosco's Domine non secundum peccata nostra. Enjoy :-)

mfi

 

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Franz Tunder (1614-1667): An Wasserflüssen Babylon

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March 12, 2015

Tunder's setting of  An Wasserflüssen Babylon (By the waters of Babylon) is one of only seventeen vocal works of his that survived.  It's a straightforward setting that uses the chorale melody in the vocal part and surrounds it with a delicate web of instrumental counterpoint that expresses the sense of loss and exile. It's a lovely piece of music, mournful without becoming maudlin, with some very fine chromatic writing at  "wir weinten" (we wept). Tunder's music was written to appeal to an audience whose taste in entertainment ran to religious music, it clearly succeeded brilliantly as the success of the Musikabend tradition which he founded and Buxtehude continued shows. Given the quality of his surviving works I think it's easy to see why his contemporaries held him and his music in such esteem.  Enjoy :-).

mfi.

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Andreas Hammerschmidt (1612-1675): Sonata super: Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren

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February 19, 2015

Hammerschmidt was an organist and composer who survived the hardships caused by the Thirty Years War to become a wealthy and successful man admired and respected by his contemporaries – Schütz and Rist both wrote poems lauding him and his music. He was a prolific composer mostly of sacred vocal and choral music publishing more than 400 such works in 14 collections. Most of his works are concertatos and he himself classified his works as either motets, concertos or arias. There's a strong Italianate tinge to much of  his music which as he never travelled to Italy I suspect he got from Schütz. That being said it would be a mistake to write him off as "school of" his music may have been influenced by the Italians and by Schütz but he was a vigorous and original composer with a distinctive musical voice of his own. The present work his Sonata super: Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren is very Italianate it could be inspired by Schütz but I think it more likely that it takes its inspiration directly from Monteverdi's Sonata sopra Sancta Maria ora pro nobis. Whichever is the case it's a beautiful setting of the first two verses Johann Gramann's hymn paraphrasing Psalm 102  (103) in its own right. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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