choral

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Bach - Mass in b minor, BWV 232

Often considered to be the greatest piece of religious music, as well as greatest piece of music…period…in history. The reason is because this is, as I like to think of it, a “Bach’s greatest hits compilation album”. Throughout his career as being an organist and church composers for churches around Northern Germany, he had written hundreds of cantatas. During his most established position as the organist at St. Thomas church in Leipzig, Bach had taken different arias, duos, and trios from different cantatas and mixed them together with new music to write a setting of the Latin Mass, an unusual move for a Protestant composer and scholars aren’t sure what Bach’s exact motive was. No matter the reason, the result is, and yes I don’t care I’m about to use a cliche, heavenly. This is the music of the otherworldly and spiritual, where mathematic precision and religious meditation/philosophy come together to create a profound mountaintop of human achievement. The entirety of the mass is spectacular, but I will take the time to highlight my favorite moments in the work under each “movement” of the mass. Also interesting to note, each movement was filed in its own folder, implying that they could be played independently instead of performing the work in its entirety. I’m sure J.S. Bach would be pleasantly surprised that we insist upon showcasing the entire mass. I’m sharing my favorite performance of the work, Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields…the power of the organ, the brightness of the instruments…it doesn’t matter if your religious or not, or even Christian or not…this is music of the human spirit at its best.

Movements [notable sections in italics underneath]

I. Kyrie et Gloria [“Missa”]

  • Kyrie eleison 1 [0:00]
  • Kyrie eleison 2 [15:40]
  • Gloria [19:45]
  • Cum Sancto Spiritu [~53:35]

II. Credo [“Symbolum Nicenum”]

  • Et resurrexit [1:14:32]

III. Sanctus [1:31:45]

IV. Osana, Agnus Dei, Benedictus, Dona Nobis Pacem

  • Osana [1:37:45]
All-Night Vigil, Op. 37, 'Vespers' - 2. Blagoslovi, Dushe Moya
Matthew Best, Corydon Singers
All-Night Vigil, Op. 37, 'Vespers' - 2. Blagoslovi, Dushe Moya

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninov (1873-1943).

The All-Night Vigil (Всенощное бдение) is an a cappella choral composition written and premiered in 1915. The piece consists of settings of texts taken from the Russian Orthodox All-night vigil ceremony. 

Composed in less than two weeks in January and February 1915, Rachmaninov’s work is a culmination of the preceding two decades of interest in Russian sacred music, as initiated by Tchaikovsky’s setting of the all-night vigil.

It has been praised as Rachmaninoff’s finest achievement and “the greatest musical achievement of the Russian Orthodox Church”; the composer requested that one of its movements (the fifth) be sung at his funeral.

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Supposed to be practicing a song this eve but just sat and listened to Hildgard instead because it’s so ridiculously gorgeous. 

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Rachmaninoff - All Night Vigil, op. 37

When you think of Rachmaninoff, a few things come to mind. You’ll probably think of his difficult piano writing, the audience pleasing technique, melodies perfect for whistling and humming, “pop” classical that can be put on in the background of cocktail parties. This superficial view of Rachmaninoff was upheld by critics during his life, and it is only afterward that he is being treated more fairly. Even so, there is this camp of people who think he was too “Romantic” for his time, that his music is all sentimentality and cheapness, I mean how else is he so popular? [ironically, the same people have no problem praising Beethoven’s genius, and he’s one of the top most popular composers EVER]. To the nay sayers who don’t want to look deeper into his concertos, the second symphony, the cello sonata, the preludes, or other “top hits” that have unique harmonic structure and rhythmic displacement, I’ll instead show the “sacred” side of the composer. Following in the Russian Orthodox tradition, Rachmaninoff wrote a setting of the All Night Vigil. He looks back to Tchaikovsky’s setting of the mass, and to original plainchant, and the result is music that is heavy in polyphony and textural variety. But I don’t want to load this description with jargon, with different musical elements, as if to try and justify its value. Listen for yourself! Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, or whether or not you have any, I’d bet you’d be moved by the music like I was when I discovered the piece in high school.

Movements:

1. Come, let us worship / Придите, поклонимся
2. Praise the Lord, O, my soul / Благослови, душе моя
3. Blessed is the Man / Блажен муж
4. Gladsome light / Свете тихий
5. Lord, now lettest Thou (Nunc dimittis) / Ныне отпущтаеши
6. Rejoice, O Virgin (Ave Maria) / Богородице Дево, радуйся
7. Glory To God in the Highest (Hexapsalmos) / Слава въ вышнихъ Богу (шестопсалміе).
8. Praise the name of the Lord / Хвалите имя Господне
9. Blessed art Thou, O Lord / Благословен еси, Господи
10. Having beheld the Resurrection / Воскресение Христово видевше
11. My soul doth magnify the Lord (Magnificant) / Величит душа моя Господа
12. The Great Doxology / Славословие великое
13. Troparion: Today salvation has come / Тропарь: Днесь спасение
14. Troparion: Thou didst rise from the tomb / Тропарь: Воскрес из гроба
15. To Thee, the victorious Leader / Взбранной Воеводе

By reblogging this post, you are signing a petition to make “Flesh-Winds” the new official term for vocalists.


Example 1: The composer’s greatest work combined the use of Woodwinds, Brass-winds, and Fleshwinds in the final movement.

Example 2: The fleshwind ensemble performed works by P. D. Q. Bach and Derick Blackacre.