29th Jan 2005 ~ St. Michael's Church

Saturday 29th January 2005, 8.00 pm     
St Michael's Church

Music by Bach, Purcell and Vaughan-Williams. Bach's "Magnificat in D" was written for his new employers at Leipzig for a grand Christmas service in 1723. Purcell's "My Heart Is Inditing", his most opulent anthem, was written for the coronation of James II at Westminster Abbey in 1685. Vaughan-Williams's "Five Mystical Songs" are set to words by George Herbert 1593-1633 and first performed at the Worcester Festival in 1911.

J.S. Bach Magnificat
Henry Purcell  My Heart is Inditing
Soloists:
Julie Cooper (soprano)
Ghislaine Morgan (soprano)
Stephen Taylor (countertenor)
Matthew Vine (tenor)
Chris Hodges (bass)

Ralph Vaughan-Williams Five Mystical Songs
Soloist:
Nicholas Clapton (countertenor)

Summertown Players
Conductor: Duncan Saunderson

 

Concert Recording

Below are some of the highlights of the recording made of the concert. Enjoy the elegant singing of the soloists in the Purcell, the interplay between soloist Nicholas Clapton and choir in the first of the Mystical Songs, and the beautiful duet between oboe and soloist Ghislaine Morgan in the Magnificat, chased up by the dramatic outburst of the chorus Omnes Generationes.

  MP3 audio file MP3 Audio
My Heart is Inditing (extract)  Listen
Mystical Songs 1. Easter  Listen
Magnificat 3. Quia respexit humilitantem 4. Omnes generationes  Listen

Program Notes

Purcell: My Heart is Inditing

Henry Purcell (1659-1695) was born the year before the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 at the start of a strong revival of English music after the staid, even repressive, years of the Commonwealth, a revival actively encouraged by Charles II through the Chapel Royal. Purcell's prolific output as a composer provides ample evidence of this. Having been a boy chorister of the Chapel Royal, he was appointed 'composer for the king's violins' in 1677, organist of Westminster Abbey in 1679 and of the Chapel Royal in 1682, and 'keeper of the king's wind and keyboard instruments' in 1683. By the time of his early death he was already acknowledged as the foremost English composer of his time, having written a wide range of music both secular and sacred: chamber music for violin and harpsichord, incidental songs, anthems for church services, vocal and choral works for royal birthdays and ceremonial occasions, and music for the theatre, both incidental music for stage plays and six dramatic operas including Dido and Aeneas.

In church music some of the main changes now introduced were to the style and structure of the anthems. 'Full' anthems, written for full four-part choir and organ, were joined in the repertoire by 'verse' anthems, in which solo voices hold a dialogue with the choir, four-part or eight-part, and overture, interlude and accompaniment are provided by a small string orchestra with organ continuo.

My Heart is Inditing is a notable example of the vigour and liveliness of a verse anthem which retains the depth and dignity of a full anthem. It was composed for the coronation of James II in 1685 and was sung during the crowning of the Queen. Written for soloists, eight-part choir, string orchestra and organ, it is in seven movements. The text is taken from Psalms 45 and 147 and the book of Isaiah.

Vaughan Williams: Five Mystical Songs

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) has been described as the first truly national English composer since Purcell's predecessors in the 16th century. Purcell himself was influenced by Italian music, and in the 18th century the popularity of Bach, Handel (especially) and Haydn overshadowed English composers. It was not until the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries that Elgar and Vaughan Williams restored English music to prominence in the international musical world. Vaughan Williams' output was as varied as Purcell's, ranging from his enthusiastic revival of English folk songs to many orchestral and choral works, symphonies, operas, ballets and incidental music for stage and film.

The Five Mystical Songs were written in 1911 and first performed at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival that year. Vaughan Williams was a Christian agnostic, but these are settings of deeply religious poems (see over) by the metaphysical poet George Herbert (1593-1633), who entered the Anglican priesthood in 1630 after an academic career at Cambridge and, briefly, as an MP. The songs were written to be performed together as one work. The first four are personal mystical meditations, particularly the third, in which the soloist takes the lead and the chorus has a supporting role. The fifth song is a triumphant hymn sung by the chorus alone.

J S Bach: Magnificat in D

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was best known to his contemporaries as an organist, no doubt for the very good reason that nearly all the posts he held during his career were those of organist and kapellmeister. From 1723 until his death he was kantor of the Thomaskirche and the other town churches in Leipzig. His first major composition in this post was the Magnificat in E flat written for the Christmas services, when it was customary to include in the Magnificat Laudes or Songs of Praise. Some 10 years later, around 1732-1735, he revised this work by omitting the Laudes and transposing it down to D major, an easier key for trumpets and timpani. This is the version now performed most frequently.

The work has 12 movements. Five are given to the chorus with full and vigorous orchestral accompaniment, with between them gentler solo arias, a duet and a trio accompanied by one or more obligato instruments and organ continuo.

Clive Williams

Translation of Latin Texts

(The Latin text of the Magnificat used by Bach is taken from Luke I. 46-55. The sections sung by the whole choir are in bold, those by the soloists in normal type. However, you will see that some phrases run over several movements, so the translation below is adapted to suit this!)

1 Magnificat anima mea Dominum

    My soul doth magnify the Lord

2  Et exultavit spiritus meus              in Deo              salutari meo

    And my spirit hath rejoiced               in God              my Saviour

3  Quia respexit                       humilitatem ancillae suae

     For he hath regarded           the lowlines of His handmaiden

    Ecce enim    ex hoc                          beatam me dicent

     For lo,         from henceforth            I shall be called blessed by

4 Omnes generationes.

    All generations.

5  Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est                    

   For he who is mighty hath done great things for me

    Et sanctum nomen ejus.

    And holy is His name.

6  Et misericordia progenie in progenies                                           timentibus eum.

     And his mercy is on those from generation to generation                   who fear him.

7 Fecit potentiam in brachio suo                              dispersit superbos

   He hath showed strength with his arm                   he hath scattered the proud

  Mente cordis sui

  In the imagination of their hearts

8 Deposuit potentes de sede                                        et exultavit humiles

   He hath put doen the mighty from their seat    and  hath exalted the humble

9 Esurientes implevit bonis                                         et divites dimisit inanes.

   The hungry he hath filled with good things                   and the rich he hath sent

                                                                                    empty away.

10 Suscepit  Israel puerum suum                    recordatus misericordiae suae

     He hath holpen his servant Israel                  in remembrance of His mercy

11  Sicut locutus est               ad patres nostros                   

      As it was spoken              to our forefathers

Abraham et semini ejus                     in secula.

Abraham and his seed                       for ever.

12 Gloria Patri,                      gloria Filio,                et gloria Spiritui Sancto

   Glory be to the Father        glory to the Son          and glory to the Holy Spirit

Sicut erat in principio                       et nunc                        et semper

As it was in the beginning                  is now                          and ever shall be

In secula seculorum.              Amen.

From ages to ages.         Amen.

Translation by Valerie Worth

October 2004