fredag 29 mars 2013

O Sacred Head

We have spent about five hours over the past couple of weeks trying to learn this piece for the Good Friday liturgy and eventually got it right. But for a couple of minutes of music? It is a fine piece, but there is no shortage of opportunities to hear it, as it forms part of the St Matthew Passion. It is an adaptation of part of a Latin poem, Salve mundi salutare, a long meditation on the sufferings of Christ on the cross. The music was written by Hans Leo Hassler, around 1600, for a secular love song. The tune was adopted and simplified for a German translation of the poem by Johann Crüger in 1656.

Whether it belongs in a Catholic liturgy is a moot point. There seems, unfortunately, to be no original setting for the music. The music itself has a distinct Lutheran flavour, both by association and in spirit. A parish church choir is not going to match King's College, Cambridge (above), and to sing it is to invite the comparison. Given the difficulty of the music, there must be better ways of investing a choir's time and energy. There is an ample selection of Gregorian chant music for the occasion. The Palestrina setting of Adoramus te Christe is surprisingly easy, as is Crux fidelis by King John of Portugal (bottom).

There is no necessity to drive a choir to distraction to get them to master a piece of music which is at the limit of their ability, but so widely played as to have become almost background sound. Most people who would want to hear it have probably got it already somewhere in their CD collection.

1 kommentar:

Clare sa...

I would sing O Sacred Head in unison - it is in most hymn books although the text tends to vary.
Adoremus te (Palestrina) we sang last Sunday but only as a quartet. I wouldn't let the whole choir sing it. Crux Fidelis looks easier on paper but the timings can be tricky.
Whilst any polyphony, particularly unaccompanied, takes practice and can still sound ghastly, Gregorian chant needs less practice and everyone can join in - and sung well, it is more beautiful.

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