Friday, December 25, 2015

A Year's Music: RVW's "Hodie"

Hodie Christus natus est: hodie salvator apparuit
(This day, Christ is born: Today the Savior appeared)

I got up early this morning to listen to this piece, one of my favorite works by Ralph Vaughan Williams. He composed the cantata "Hodie" in 1953 and 1954, his last major choral work. (He died in 1958.) The cantata is in sixteen movements. The text blends biblical texts about Jesus' birth with poetry by Thomas Hardy, George Herbert, John Milton,   Ursula Vaughan Williams, William Drummond, and other texts. This site provides most of the texts, while this site, a doctoral thesis, gives detailed analysis of the work.

Here is the work on YouTube. I particularly love Milton's poem, "It was the winter wild" (at 8:42 on this video), and Herbert's poem, "The shepherds sing" (29:26).

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