Our programme of Passiontide Music, to be performed at St Gabriel’s Pimlico on 31st March, includes pieces from the late Renaissance interspersed with works by 20th century and contemporary composers.
Our Music Director, Peter Broadbent, shares some of the background to this programme…
The offices of Tenebrae (Darkness) as celebrated in the three days leading up to Easter were a combination of Matins and Lauds, starting in the early evening and finishing in the dark. The Responsories were sung before some of the Psalms chanted during the services. The Tenebrae services were removed by the liturgical reforms instituted by Pius XII in the 1950s, but they were clearly important to clergy and people alike in the 16th Century when the great Spanish composer Tomás Luis da Victoria wrote his passionate and intense settings. There are 18 motets, of which we will be performing six.
The Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence were written in the late 1930s by Francis Poulenc, much of whose choral music was inspired by his Catholicism. Three of the motets are taken from the Tenebrae responsories, including Tenebrae factae sunt, which was the first he wrote and dedicated to the influential teacher and composer Nadia Boulanger. The text of Timor et tremor combines verses from two psalms, a text also set by Lassus.
The two living composers represented in the programme are also Catholic, and a significant part of each’s output is religious music. Roxanna Panufnik came to the wider musical public’s attention with her Westminster Mass, commissioned to celebrate the 75th Birthday of Cardinal Hume in 1998 (and which the JCS performed with the City of London Sinfonia in Wroclaw, Poland in 2001). The motet Deus, Deus meus was included at the Cardinal’s request, and this imaginative and sensitive setting combines both Latin and English texts, with a Soprano soloist and eight-part choir.
Sir James MacMillan is one of the UK’s most performed and respected composers. He has an active involvement in church music, and the series of Strathclyde motets are written for a parish church choir, but he has written large scale choral and orchestral works of great intensity. The Miserere setting (Psalm 51) written in 2009 includes typically decorative melodic ideas redolent of Scottish folk music, and a central section of free chant in harmony. It is a powerful and atmospheric work of some complexity but great sincerity.
The instrumental items to be performed by flautist Kate Risdon and pianist Fergus Black are the Sonatina in G minor by Malcolm Arnold and Trois Mouvements by Jehan Ariste Alain. Arnold wrote the Sonatina in 1948, the year he left his post as Principal Trumpet of the LPO. It is a serious and troubled work of great sincerity. Alain was born in 1911 into a musical family (his sister Marie-Claire and brother Olivier were both well-known organists) who first studied organ with his father and then went on to the Paris Conservatoire, studying organ with Marcel Dupré and composition with Dukas and Roger-Ducasse. His promising career was cut short by the outbreak of War, and in 1940 he was killed whilst leading a motor-cycle patrol in the Battle of Saumur. His Trois Mouvements for flute and piano are very much in the French tradition and beautifully crafted, with a gently pastoral first movement, a playful second, and the third, which begins with an extended Toccata for the piano, is lively and virtuosic for both instruments.
Do join us for this performance and Peter Broadbent’s pre–concert talk – please click the following link for more details and ticket information on our ‘Performances’ page.
This concert continues our support for the RNIB, working with sight-impaired musicians.