Choral music for Easter, Part IV — Jean l’Héritier, Surrexit pastor bonus

Many of the most memorable musical compositions that celebrate the fact of the Resurrection are — fittingly — thrilling and extravagant. Bring out the brass, unleash the timpani, pull out all the stops on the organ!

But there are also works that contemplatively and with humble austerity reflect on the mysteries of the event which is the turning point of history. Such is the case with this setting of Surrexit pastor bonus (“The good shepherd has arisen”) by a little-known French Renaissance composer.

Jean l’Hértier was born in northern France around 1480, and died sometime after 1551. He studied with the great master of the early Renaissance, Josquin des Prez, and later worked as a singer, choral master, and composer in Rome, Mantua, and Verona.

The text is one of the responsories traditionally sung at Easter, and has been set by many composers.

Surrexit pastor bonus
     The good shepherd has arisen,
qui animam suam posuit pro ovibus suis,
     who laid down his life for his sheep,
et pro grege suo mori dignatus est, alleluia,
     and for his flock deigned to die, alleluia,
et enim pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus. Alleluia

     And for our Passover was sacrificed for us: Christ. Alleluia.

Stile Antico sings this quietly engaging motet in the embedded recording below, which is from their album Passion and Resurrection.