Friday, November 13, 2015

A Year's Music: Durufle's Quatre Motets

I'll use this for the series;
Similar to the way some of my Facebook friends post "daily days of gratitude" during particular times of the year, I've been writing series of blog posts as focused spiritual disciplines. Having projects like these keep me depending upon God through the days and weeks, when life's busyness and emotional struggles like bereavement might get me off track from God's goodness. In 2014, I listened to all 196 extant sacred cantatas of J. S. Bach, on or near the Sundays and special days for which they were written, and I wrote about them on this site. In 2015, my series has been the holidays of world religions. My new series, begun this month and continuing till All Saints Day 2016, is saints and special people of the church.

I plan to do an additional series, beginning today, on sacred music. I'll listen to at least one sacred work each week and write about it---again, as a kind of pleasurable spiritual discipline. Lord willing, I'll continue this series until Advent 2016, when I'll be in sight of my sixtieth birthday. "Sacred" is a broad term, usually meaning classical religious music: I'll probably write mostly about those, but I'll delve into other styles, as well.

My first post is about a short piece that I always love to hear again and and again: Maurice Duruflé's Quatre Motets sur des thèmes grégoriens, Op 10 (1960). My daughter and her choir in Ohio performed these pieces, so I also associate them with my love for her. A few years ago, I wrote about the piece here.

As this site indicates, "Duruflé shows his particular genius for invoking the spiritual element of plainsong in a polyphonic context, achieving a suppleness of rhythm alongside strong characterization of each text. Ubi caritas et amor flows freely and syllabically in a meditative fashion, while Tota pulchra es (for high voices) is lighter and more sprightly, yet soft and feminine. Tu es Petrus is a rousing and optimistic work, the churches’ foundation on the rock of Peter being indicated by the building of the motet on its canonic opening to a strong and sturdy final cadence. Tantum ergo returns us to the meditative, wistful style… [and] the concluding ‘Amen’ settles as a sigh on this group of motets, crystallizing as they do the essence of Duruflé’s considered, yet inspired musical language." Emily's choir often sang that first piece (words from this site):

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

English Translation
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Love of Christ has gathered us into one.

Let us rejoice in Him and be glad.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love one.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time, therefore, are gathered into one:
Lest we be divided in mind, let us beware.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease.
And in the midst of us be Christ our God.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time we see that with the saints also,
Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good, Unto the
World without end.

Here is another choir, The Cecilia Consort, performing the motets in a nicely unhurried way:

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