Sunday, August 03, 2008

Appreciation for musical traditions about Jesus and the BVM

As readers of this blog -- all three of you -- know, I'm a Protestant kind of scholar preferring to investigate the text, finding therein "all things necessary to salvation." But I appreciate the riches of musical tradition. Does anyone know "Christ in His Garden?" Its the fifth of the Children's Songs, op.54 by Tchaikovsky. I have a version for orchestra sung by Peter Pears and performed by the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Britten. Here are the opening words:

When Jesus Christ was still a child, he had a garden small and wild...

There's also Purcell's Expostulation of the Blessed Virgin in which the BVM cries out to find her missing son in the temple.

More interesting still is Handel's musical setting of Giovanni Battista Ferrandini 1735: Il Pianto di Maria (words by an unknown poet) as sung by Anne Sofie von Otter:

"Se d'un Dio fui fatta Madre per vedere un Dio morire, mi perdona, Eterno Padre, La Tua grazia è un gran martire."
"If I was made Mother of a god in order to see a god die, then forgive me, Eternal Father, your favour is a great torment."

What about Ralph Vaughn Williams' Christmas Cantata Hodie? The narrative is drawn from scripture and other sacred texts, the BCP, poems of Thomas Hardy, Milton, George Herbert, William Drummond and Ursula Vaughn Williams.


Country Parson (Steven Woolley) said...

I confess to being a lover of almost all music except Baroque and Rap. But I also confess to being a listener rather than a namer of tunes and composers, although there are a few I know well enough to either name or nod with knowing appreciation when someone else does. There are so many things in life like that: trees, flowers, birds, fish; I can love, contemplate, meditate on and enjoy them all, but name so very few.

Jane R said...

Oooh, I must find and listen to them.

Your post also reminds me of the passage early in Thomas Merton's Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander that begins "Karl Barth had a dream about Mozart." Karl Barth, the consummate Protestant, played the music of Mozart, the Catholic, regularly on the piano. Merton has a lovely short meditation in his journal about this.

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