Tag Archives: Lasst uns erfreuen

St. Francis of Assisi (observed) – 6 Oct 13

francis2

Opening Voluntary: Prelude on Lasst uns erfreuen – George A. Lynn (1915-1989)

Choral IntroitMihi autem absit – Simple English Propers

Today’s opening voluntary is based on the tune (Lasst uns erfreuen) of our offertory hymn today, “All creatures of our God and King” (#400, The Hymnal, 1982), an English translation and adaptation of the original text attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  St. Francis’ Cantico di fratre sole, laude della creatur, (Canticle of Brother Sun and of All Creatures), often titled “Canticle of the Sun,”  was originally written in the Umbrian dialect of Italian rather than Latin and is believed to be the first genuine religious poem in the Italian language. Whether or not this is precisely true,  it is most certainly a very early example of Italian vernacular religious song known as the Laude Spirituale, that flourished in the early thirteenth century. It is believed to have been written in about 1225-1226 during the last year of life of St. Francis, a period of intense pain and suffering for him. By tradition, the first time that it was sung in its entirety was by Francis along with his religious brothers, Angelo and Leo, two of his original companions,  while St. Francis was on his deathbed. Pious legend also asserts that the final verse to “Sister Death” was composed only moments before.  Although the hymn version by William H. Draper (1855-1933) has become a classic in its own right, it does omit some very characteristic features of the original, most notably the personifications of the natural world as “Brother/Sister” as in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brothers Wind and Air, etc.  Draper also makes a particular use of the ambiguity of the Italian word “per” which can mean both “for” and “from” by choosing the latter sense and turning the hymn into a pæan not “for” sun, moon, wind, air, water, death but a song of praise sung “by” these elements of nature.

 The tune, Lasst uns erfreuen, dates to the year 1623 when it was published in a hymnal by Catholic musicians in the city of Cologne.  It was, however, based in part on an even earlier Strassburg melody, first published nearly a century earlier in 1525. Several slight melodic and rhythmic variations are known to exist, and the version we sing today, arguably the most popular one, dates to the English Hymnal  of 1906 and was the work of its musical editor, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). The short prelude that we hear today as our opening voluntary is a work of George Alfred Lynn (1915-1989).  Lynn taught at Westminster Choir College and the University of Colorado in Boulder. He was also organist of several churches in Denver and Colorado Springs. Musically, the work is in the form of a trio in which the upper two voices present the melody, slightly varied, in the form of a canon  supported by a simpler pedal line that serves to complement the harmonic progressions created by the interweaving of the canonic melodies.

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St. Francis of Assisi – 7 Oct 12

Josef Rheinberger

Opening Voluntary: Trio No. 6 – Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901)

At the Communion: Trio No. 1 – Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901)

 Closing Voluntary: Excerpt from Prelude on Lasst uns erfreuen – David Johnson (1922-1987)

Both the opening voluntary and the music at the communion are compositions of German organist and composer, Josef Rheinberger.  Rheinberger was born in Vaduz, the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein, in 1839 and was the son of the treasurer to the prince. A child prodigy, he became organist of his parish church in Vaduz at the age of only 7 and performed the first of his own compositions the following year. In 1851, at the age of 14, he entered the Munich conservatory where he was afterwards professor of composition and piano. Although the original conservatory was later dissolved, at the new Munich conservatory, he became professor of organ and composition, a post he retained until his death in 1901. Rheinberger composed in multiple genres to include symphonies, operas, chamber music and multiple choral works, but is chiefly remembered today for his organ compositions.  The anonymous writer of his Wikipedia entry rightly terms his organ works “elaborate and challenging,” and his major organ compositions remain to this day some of the most technically difficult pieces ever written for the organ.

The trios performed at St. Mary’s today are, in contrast to his very complex works, simple in form and not of profound difficulty, but nevertheless individual gems of organ composition.  Both are from his Opus 49, Zehn Trios für die Orgel, and as the title suggests, comprise two of the ten trios in this collection. The Number 6 trio, played as the opening voluntary, is designated for a single manual and pedal and to be registered for “Volles werk,” or “Full Organ” as we would translate into English.  Although the composition is in three parts, the effect is more akin to that of a fugue and harkens back to compositions for organ of the Baroque era.  The Number 1 trio, played today at the communion, is designated for 2 manuals and pedal and to played with a “Sanfte register” or “gentle registration.”  The trio in this piece is realized as a delicate melody in the soprano line that moves back and forth seamlessly from major to minor mode and is accompanied by a moving eighth note pattern in the lower register. Both are grounded over a simple, slower bass line completing to the chordal structure suggested by the patterns of the upper voices.


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