• Repertoire

    Arvo Pärt
    Sieben Magnificat Antiphonen (1988)

    For the past week, I’ve been parcelling out the pieces of a work that should be experienced whole, although in performance and on recordings, some of the movements of Arvo Pärt’s Sieben Magnificat Antiphonen are sometimes extracted and presented without the full context. If you missed one or more of the earlier posts, here are links to the pages corresponding to all seven movements: O WeisheitO AdonaiO sproß aus Isais WurzelO Schlüssel DavidsO MorgensternO König aller VölkerO Immanuel Before Christmas arrives, I thought I should make easily available on these pages a performance of the entire work. From the Arvo Pärt Centre’s website, here is the “official” summary of the…

  • Service music

    “O Antiphons,” VII
    Arvo Pärt
    O Immanuel

    The final O Antiphon in this week before Christmas is O Emmanuel. In invoking the name which affirms “God with us,” the text summarizes the character of the salvation that comes with that divine presence: O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:the hope of the nations and their Saviour:veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.Come and save us, O Lord our God. Arvo Pärt’s setting of this final antiphon is the longest of the seven movements, as it repeats the text three times. The first statement of the texts is a long ascending sequence of chords that builds a sense of…

  • Repertoire

    “O Antiphons,” VI
    Arvo Pärt
    O König aller Völker

    The O antiphon for December 22nd reminds us that the coming of Christ into the world is an inescapably political event. It speaks of the coming King of nations as the source of unity, encouraging us to remember that an authentic quest for unity cannot marginalize or relativize the place of Christ as the unifier, as the one in whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17). Deep dissatisfaction with discord should not be understood in merely psychological or sociological terms. It is a recognition (however faint) of the disordering effects of sin and a longing (however inchoate) for redemption, which will have political consequences. O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,O…

  • Repertoire

    “O Antiphons,” V
    Arvo Pärt
    O Morgenstern

    The fifth of Arvo Pärt’s settings for the O Antiphons is O Morgenstern, “O Morning Light.” Newer translations of the Latin of this antiphon render it “O Radiant Dawn.” (Members of our parish will recall the choir’s singing of the setting of this antiphon by James MacMillan, which uses this translation.) O Oriens,O Morning Star,splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Unlike MacMillan’s setting, which suggests a sudden flash of light, Pärt’s treatment of this invocation of the Light of the world shimmers, it…

  • Repertoire

    “O Antiphons,” IV
    Arvo Pärt
    O Schlüssel Davids

    The fourth of the O Antiphons is O clavis David — O Key of David. The image of the Messiah as a key is suggested by a passage in Isaiah 22. Poet Malcolm Guite, who has written a series of sonnets inspired by these seven texts, has commented that “of all the mystic titles of Christ, this is the one that connects most closely with our ‘secular’ psychology. We speak of the need on the one hand for ‘closure’ and on the other for ‘unlocking’, for ‘opening’, for ‘liberation’.” O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;qui aperis, et nemo claudit;you…

  • Repertoire

    “O Antiphons,” III
    Arvo Pärt
    O sproß aus Isais Wurzel

    While the second of Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat antiphons employed low voices to proclaim the power and authority of Yahweh, the third — O Sproß aus Isais Wurzel — uses dissonant upper voices to express the crisis precipitated among the nations by the prophesied Messiah. Here is the Latin of the original antiphon: O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;super quem continebunt reges os suum,before you kings will shut their mouths,quem Gentes deprecabuntur:to you the nations will make their prayer:veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.Come and deliver us, and delay no longer. The Messiah is addressed in this text…

  • Repertoire

    “O Antiphons,” II
    Arvo Pärt
    O Adonai

    The “O antiphon” for December 18th is O Adonai. “Adonai” is a Hebrew word based on the word adon, which means “Lord.” “Adon” in turn comes from a root that means to make firm, to determine, to command, or to rule. “Adonai” is plural, so literally, the word means “lords,” which some have suggested may hint at a Trinitarian allusion. But in Hebrew, a plural can be used as an intensifier — “superlord,” the Lord with a uniquely concentrated repository of lordliness. “Adonai” is used about 450 times in the Old Testament to refer to Yahweh, but sometimes the word refers to human masters. O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,O Adonai,…

  • Repertoire

    “O Antiphons,” I
    Arvo Pärt
    O Weisheit

    It has long been common for Vespers or Evening Prayer services to include the singing, chanting, or reciting of the Magnificat, the Virgin Mary’s grateful song of joyful praise. And in many liturgies, the Magnificat is framed by the singing, chanting, or reciting of an antiphon, a short text that amplifies or complements the Psalm or canticle that it introduces and concludes. During the final week in Advent, beginning on December 17th and continuing for seven nights, the “O Antiphons” have been part of many liturgies. Each of these texts begins with the word “O,” and addresses the Messiah with a biblical name, and invokes him to come. The O…