HENEVER Sergei Rachmaninov (d. 1943) would hear Josef Hofmann (d. 1957) play a piece, he would immediately throw up his hands and never perform that piece again. What was the point? As Abram Chasins explained in the 1980s, even the greatest pianists sounded like “innocent, naïve pupils” compared to Hofmann’s overwhelming, pristine interpretations. I’m reminded of this whenever I read the mind-boggling book by Robert Murrell Stevenson (d. 2012), which I’ve praised so frequently on this blog. Truly, Dr. Stevenson was on ‘another level’ as far as musicology was concerned. I recently uploaded a fascinating footnote from Stevenson’s book, which I’ll speak of below.
Live Recording • Here’s a live recording of our volunteer choir, singing on 3 October 2022:
Free Download! • You can download that wonderful Eucharistic Hymn, with counterpoint by Flor Peeters (d. 1986) at the following link. You can also purchase hard copies on AMAZON PRIME.
* PDF Download • EUCHARSTIC HYMN (Flor Peeters)
—2-Voice Eucharistic Hymn (45 pages) • Includes a Descant!.
Choristers’ Questions • When members of my choir ask questions, I attempt to provide answers. One member asked whether it was common in the olden days to alternate pipe organ with a cappella singing, such as we did in that recording. A 1604AD document (memorial) provides clues vis-à-vis musical activities at the Cathedral Toledo:
“At first vespers (In Nativitate Domini) the organ shall accompany the singing of the stanzas beginning Veni, redemptor gentium which come at the end of the book of Ave maris stella settings and other hymns by Morales.” […] “On Wednesday in Holy Week, the first Lamentation is to be Morales’s polyphonic setting. The MISERERE shall be sung antiphonally, one choir at the High Altar, another in the tribunes of the coro del arzobispo. One choir shall consist of the boys and a tenor.” […] “On Maundy Thursday at High Mass, the INTROIT shall be sung in a contrapuntal setting, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, and Sanctus polyphonically, the Agnus Dei in plainchant.” […] “On Good Friday, the Passion shall be sung as a solo [on Palm Sunday, the turba parts were sung polyphonically by a complete choir, and on Tuesday and Wednesday by a trio]. The first LAMENTATION shall be sung polyphonically.” […] “On Holy Saturday the Gloria shall be sung in plainchant with counterpoint above. The same for the Alleluia. At Vespers, the same for Psalm 150. The MAGNIFICAT must be in Tone VIII, odd verses plainchanted, even verses sung polyphonically. At Solemn Compline in the evening, two choirs shall sit on the benches of the cope-bearers and two bands of instrumentalists shall play. The portable organ shall be lowered into the coro to accompany the singers, who shall sing solos in their order of seniority, with organ and—if desired—instrumental support. Psalm 133 shall be sung in fabordón, Tone VIII.” On Easter, the prosa “must be the one composed by Morales.”
Peculiarities of Spain • Notice how the Veni Redemptor Gentium was part of the Divine Office at Toledo. I believe the Ordinary Form added it, but the 1962 Breviary does not have it. On the other hand, it will be remembered that Spain had peculiar liturgical “uses” in those days, which was why some of the reforms of the Council of Trent did not apply to Spain.