Wednesday, 23 March 2016


Author's Choice: Scroll down to
view my Easter Selections!
As Easter approaches us, one can only marvel at the overflowing bounty of exquisite music to have been written in the spirit of the Christian faith’s observance of the Passion of Christ. One certainly does not have to be of the Christian faith - nor adhere to any religion for that matter - to indulge in the intoxicating beauty found amongst Western Classical Music’s vast catalogue of sacred – and yes, even secular works – inspired by the theological credo that helped create this ancient holiday. The only matter that should concern the modern melophile is the task of selecting just which composition to choose from such a massive tome of relative and vocally lush material.

In a nod to my Christian readers and in acknowledgement of the religion’s central tenet of the Resurrection of Christ who “...died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4)  and in an homage to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, unravelingmusicalmyths presents to the reader three personal favorite pieces that are sure to enrich the 'spirit' of even the non-theologian:

I) Lento – Sostenuto tranquillo ma cantabile: "SYMPHONY OF SORROWFUL SONGS"
(Symphony no. 3, op. 36); Henryk Górecki

This gut-wrenchingly evocative entry is in the form of a Lament dating back to the 15th century: Lamentation of the Holy Cross Monastery. It is from a Marian perspective of the sufferings of Christ on the Cross in which the Holy Mother bids a mournful farewell to her dying Son as she pleads to share with Him the pain of His wounds.

The architect of this three-movement symphony is the late Polish composer Henryk Górecki. Although not a newcomer to the world of classical music by any means, it would be through a combination of extraneous factors outside of the composer's immediate control that the exquisite work would rise to prominence: the cultural and political shift that culminated from the fall of communism, which would increasingly expose to the world music written by Polish composers; and the rise of the compact disc. Górecki's third symphony had first been recorded in the then-restrictive confines of Poland in 1978, and while a subsequent performance would premiere at Royan in France, the work was met with much hostility. It would not be until the American soprano Dawn Upshaw recorded the Symphony in 1991 under conductor David Zinman that the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (and it's composer) would achieve international acclaim, becoming one of the best selling contemporary classical albums in history.

Listen below to an excerpt from Henryk Górecki's Symphony no. III, containing the soprano solo from
the 1st movement:

II) Stabat Mater: Dolorosa (SEQUENCE)
(Grave, in F Minor; Movement I);  Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

My second entry was a difficult choice between Italian baroque composers Vivaldi and Pergolesi’s settings of the Stabat Mater (in particular the "Dolorosa"). Both will make the hairs on the back of the listeners neck stand on end - both are equally revered for their remarkably controlled beauty. All things considered, I chose for my second selection for this post the majestic hymn as rendered by Giovanni Battista Perogolesi. The Stabat Mater, also a nod to the Holy Mother Mary, probably dates from the early 13th century. It is not that of a lament - but rather of a hymn. It’s text is likewise not from the perspective of Mary, but instead in observance of her.

Hard pressed is any aficionado of sacred music to find among his or her musically enlightened sect  anyone who does not immediately recognize the mournful Latin testimonial:
“Stabat Mater Dolorosa,
Juxta Crucem Lacrimosa,
Dum Pendebat fililius”

("At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.”)

Pergolesi’s setting to music of this ancient Latin hymn proved so impacting to the senses, Johann Sebastian Bach (who was just one of many composers), would later set the young talent Pergolesi's music to his own work “Tilge Höchster, meine Sünden” (Blot out Highest, my Transgressions), recycling (and adding his own slight touches throughout) the music for his vocal and orchestral interpretation of a German text based the 51st Psalm, catalogued under the BWV number 1083.

The 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was also an ardent admirer of the work: declaring Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, in particular the Dolorosa to be “the most perfect and touching duet to come from the pen of any composer.”

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi was only 26 when he penned his monumental achievement. He would die within weeks of it’s completion on the 16th of March 1736 from Tuberculosis.

Listen below to Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. *The Dolorosa runs from start until 4 minutes, 32 seconds in.

III) Requiem Mass in D Minor: Recordare (MASS)
(K. 626);  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

My final entry for this posting will be the Recordare from Mozart’s famous Requiem Mass in D Minor. An exquisite plea of the dying to his Savior Jesus Christ for salvation and a tender entreaty from the nearing-departed to his Lord to remember His promises of deliverance and His suffering on the Cross, as the ailing sinner seeks absolution from his transgressions and begs his Creator to honor man's offerings of repentance with forgiveness and a place at His Holy “Right Hand.”

Unravelingmusicalmyths has discussed Mozart’s Requiem at length, and while the composer's magnum opus is rich with quandary and a somewhat scandalous history in terms of it’s publication, authorship, and indeed, even those surrounding Mozart in his final days spent composing the piece whist slipping in and out of states of delirium and lucidity, the sheer cosmically breathtaking beauty of the Mass supercedes even the hand of Süssmayr, who, if one if being brutally honest, could not possibly make sullen the legacy of the composition or that of it’s composer: it would be impossible, after all, to tamper with such perfection.

Enjoy the often neglected (by pop culture's fanatic usage of the Requiem Mass) Recordare, from
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor:

Unravelingmusicalmyths accepts, and deeply appreciates the historical context of all faiths, and lack thereof. Whatever be your personal beliefs, please enjoy the music above (you are sure to fall in love with them!) and have yourself a safe holiday - and as always, stay posted for more Mayhem, Music and Myths!

Bonus, somewhat miscellaneous commentary:
Did you know?

The famed philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was himself an accomplished composer of the late baroque-early classical style, composing some seven operas, one of which would inspire the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven to pay homage to the Francophone Genevan by rearranging the duet Non, Colette n'est point trompeuse from Rousseau’s one-act opera Le devin du Village into a standalone song which he added to his Aus den Liedern verschiedener Völker (Songs of Various Nationalities) in the early 19th century!


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