Livestreamed from the Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, MA

Saturday, February 11th, 3:30 PM

Concert Program:

Ambulans Jesus, Francisco Guerrero (1527-1599)

Ego sum panis vivus, Gregorian Chant

Ego sum panis vivus, G.P. da Palestrina (1525–1594)

Ego sum pastor bonus, Costanzo Porta (c. 1529–1601)

Dixit Martha ad Jesum a 9, Orlando di Lasso (1532–1594)

Fremuit spiritu Jesus, Jacobus Clemens non Papa (c. 1510–c. 1555)

Tu solus qui facis mirabilia, Josquin des Prez (c. 1450–1521)


Missa Bell’ Amfitrit’ altera, Orlando di Lasso (1532–1594)
Agnus Dei

Christe Jesu, pastor bone, John Taverner (c. 1495–1545)

Program Notes:

This afternoon we invite you to join us in a musical celebration of the life and ministry of Jesus. He was both man and God, living with all the joy and pain, uncertainty and loss that each of us experiences — yet without sin. In the music of the Renaissance composers presented today, these texts help us to understand better both Christ’s humanity and his divinity. We hear the words that Jesus spoke inviting the disciples to follow him, and his declarations of who he is — the living bread, the good shepherd, the worker of miracles, and guardian of our world. These texts together with the liturgical celebration of the mass all lend expression to the faithful cry of John the Baptist, “This is he!” and invite us to love him more, who freely gave himself for us.

Ambulans Jesus, Francisco Guerrero
Ambulans Jesus, by the Spanish composer Francisco Guerrero, is the second in a set of eight canonic motets, which he completed at an early age. Since the canon is imitated at an interval of a second, it is possible that Guerrero was highlighting the two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, whom Jesus called to follow Him, as He began His ministry. The simple quality of this motet, edited by Donald James, perhaps reflects the kind of men Jesus was calling to join Him: ordinary fishermen without importance, simply tending their nets along the shores of the Galilean sea, soon to become “fishers of men.”

Ego sum panis vivus, Gregorian Chant
“I am the living bread who came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever,” alleluia.

This Mode 1 antiphon, a gem of the Gregorian repertory, is used liturgically to introduce the Magnificat, the joyful and prophetic song of Mary, mother of Jesus. The piece makes frequent use of word painting to communicate the joy of the life Jesus offers: the melody soaring up on the words, “I am the living bread”; dropping down with the text, “who came down from heaven”; and florid leaps to portray the text “he will live forever.”

Ego sum panis vivus, G. P. da Palestrina
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert and died. This is the living bread from heaven: whoever eats it shall not die.”

Because of his prolific output of excellent sacred music for the Catholic Church, the Italian composer Giovanni Palestrina has been referred to as a “Prince of the Church.” This motet, published in Venice in 1581, includes more text than the chant piece just heard. Written in the bright key of A major, it shows the contrast between those who ate the manna in the desert and died (mortui sunt) with those who eat the bread of heaven and will not die (non morietur). Palestrina uses his remarkable gift of sharing motifs between the four voice parts to communicate the hope of life in Jesus.

Ego sum pastor bonus, Costanzo Porta
Highly praised and sought after as both a composer and a teacher, Costanzo Porta was born in Cremona, Italy. He was employed in several Italian cities during his lifetime and is a representative of what became known as the Venetian school. His compositions, which were mostly sacred, reflect his life as a Franciscan monk. Like Palestrina, he was a master at polyphonic writing, and possibly the most technically accomplished composer of his day. He often used strict canons, and we see a good example of this in his Ego sum pastor bonus, for six voices. In this three-part canon in honor of the Holy Trinity, the theme is first heard in the tenor voice, next sung by the alto voice, up a fourth, then an octave higher in the soprano part. The remaining three voices closely paraphrase the canon.

Dixit Martha ad Jesum, Orlando di Lasso
Flemish composer Orlando di Lasso was born in 1530, in what is modern-day Belgium, and died in Germany in 1594. His prolific compositions, both sacred and secular, dominated European music of the Renaissance. His religious works have a particular emotional intensity, with great care taken to express the texts. Di Lasso’s motet for double choir, Dixit Martha ad Jesum, relates the scene in the Gospel of John preceding Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead. The piece is written as a dialog between two choirs—one for Martha’s words, and the other for Jesus’ reply. Excitement builds as Martha makes her declaration that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Fremuit spiritu Jesus, Jacobus Clemens non Papa
This sacred motet for six voices depicts the highly personal story in the Gospel of John (John 11:33–35,43) when Jesus finds that his beloved friend Lazarus had died. His question “where have you laid him?” is tender and vulnerable, always lifting upward. This motet paints a picture of Jesus grieving, weeping over his friend and then finally calling him back to life with power and great joy. Throughout the two main sections of this motet, the second soprano sings the cantus firmus, repeating over and over, “Lazarus, come out!” It builds continually to a thrilling climax at the end as all the voices proclaim (the translation actually says “shouted”) those same commanding, believing words, and Lazarus comes back to life.

Tu solus qui faces mirabilia, Josquin des Prez
Born in 1450, Josquin des Prez was known as the first composer of the Renaissance to sustain fame post mortem. He is credited as one of the first to introduce an early form of word painting into his music. Josquin does just this in Tu solus qui facis mirabilia. The theme Tu solus, translated You alone, is painted by homophonic movement. The simple harmonies support the simple and direct nature of this text. Josquin finishes with joyful dance-like movement in three, to give confidence to our prayers, “Hear what we ask and grant our request, O Good King.”

Missa super Bell’ Amfitrit’ altera, Orlando di Lasso
Orlando di Lasso is regarded as the greatest of the Flemish renaissance composers. As a child, the beauty of his voice and his unusual skill drew the attention of a visiting army general and viceroy of Sicily, and his parents allowed him to be taken to Milan and Sicily to live and sing. Shortly after, while he was still a very young man, he was offered the position of choirmaster at the St. John Lateran church in Rome. While there, he composed his first five masses and a book of motets. The Missa super Bell’ Amfitrit’ altera is a parody mass, based on a madrigal of the day. The mass is composed in the Venetian style of double choir (SATB/SAB), and Lassus provides antiphonal passages that create an instrumental solidity. In three sections, the Christe eleison, Crucifixus, and Benedictus, he reduces the choir to four parts, providing a more personal meditation. Throughout, the weaving polyphony occasionally comes together in strong homophonic moments, providing texture changes that strengthen the text.

Christe Jesu, pastor bone, John Taverner
John Taverner was born ca. 1490, but little is known of his life until 1524 when it was recorded that he traveled to the Church of St. Botolph, Boston, England, as a guest singer. It was soon after, in 1526, that he was appointed by Cardinal Wolsey to be Organist and Master of the Choristers at Cardinal College (now Christ Church), Oxford; where, in his brief three and-one-half year tenure, his compositional output was of significant volume and quality to establish him as one of the greatest of England’s early sixteenth-century composers. With Sheppard, he represents the final flowering of English pre-Reformation church music.

One of the statutes of the college specified the daily singing of certain votive antiphons after Compline, and it is here that we find Christe Jesu, pastor bone. Originally composed as an antiphon in honor of St. William of York, as well as a prayer for Cardinal Wolsey, it then became a Jesus antiphon with a prayer for King Henry, and finally, a prayer for Queen Elizabeth I.

Taverner was forward-looking, using important new stylistic trends of the sixteenth century in his composition. Although florid detail was important to him, the setting of this devotional anthem is more relaxed in character, appropriate to the text beseeching help and favor in troubled times.

Thank you for joining us!

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