Saturday, November 21, 2009

Exploring Music: Rachmaninoff Vespers

Last week on Exploring Music the topic was Sergei Rachmaninoff.  There's something about Russian choral music of this time that is lush and thick.  It might be that while my favorite hymns are in 4-part harmony, Russian liturgical music of this time often had 8 or more parts.

For his setting of "Joyous Light of Glory" in Vespers, Rachmaninoff starts off simply enough, with the tenor part alone, then adding in layers and layers and layers.  In the embed below, you can see how he splits the different voices in different places, sometimes the Soprano isn't singing at all, and the 2nd soprano is split into 3.  You can follow the music in the video.  For an English translation, see page 244 in Lutheran Service Book (Phos Hilarion - Hymn of Light).

Another surprise in this Vespers is the use of the Gloria in the Great Doxology (also called "Greater Doxology").  While Christians of the Western Rite probably think of the Gloria for our mass and the Doxology as something sung to Old Hundredth, it appears that Christians of the Eastern Rite sing a longer version of the Gloria during daily prayer services as well.  You can catch the entire text here.  There is a curious placement of the phrase, "And the Holy Spirit" in this version.

O Lord, Heavenly King,
God the Father Almighty,
O Lord the Only-begotten Son,
Jesus Christ,
and the Holy Spirit,
O Lord God,
Lamb of God,
Son of the Father,

The Western Gloria places the phrase later in the text, near the end.

For Thou only art holy;
Thou only art the Lord,
Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost [Spirit],
art most high in glory of God the Father. Amen.

Here is the complete text from the Eastern Rite, set to music by Rachmaninoff.

If this is the Greater Doxology, what is the Lesser Doxology? This one is closer in length to the "Common" Doxology sung to Old Hundredth. It is also known as the Minor Doxology.  Here it is in Latin and English, plus the Common Doxology.

Lesser Doxology
Gloria Patri,
et Filio,
et Spiritui Sancto
Sicut erat in principio,
et nunc, et semper,
et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit [Old English: Ghost]
as it was in the beginning,
and now and always and in the ages of ages.* Amen.

*world without end
*from age to age
*forever [and ever]

Common Doxology
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host:
Praise, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Now, I do not come from the Eastern Tradition, so if those of you who do have any corrections OR your Latin is better than mine, feel free to drop any updates into the comment section.

WORD ALERT: The term "doxology" literally means "praise word".  In Christian circles it usually involves a praising the Triune God, The one-God-in-three-persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Differing opinions are welcome! Please keep comments on an academic level. Lively discussions and alternate opinions are productive, arguments and accusations are not.

Please leave a name or pseudonym at the end of your comment so the conversation can continue. Alternately, you can log in using Yahoo, AOL/AIM, Google, Netlog, or Open ID on any comment page.

Comment Moderation is on to ensure that blog author reads each comment. The goal is to read and reply to each comment.

Note: you may have to hit "Preview" first and then "Post."