Magazine article Gramophone

Playlists: Explore Music Via Our Themed Listening Suggestions-This Month with a Choral Focus

Magazine article Gramophone

Playlists: Explore Music Via Our Themed Listening Suggestions-This Month with a Choral Focus

Article excerpt

Music for Lent

Alexandra Coghlan chooses 10 works that explore the meaning of Lent

For a time of abstinence, Lent has a surprisingly rich musical life. Solo organ music might be discouraged in church, Alleluias silenced and Glorias omitted, but the season also has a rich seam of penitential works taking us from Ash Wednesday through to the spiritual climax of Holy Week.

No text is more synonymous with Lent than Psalm 51--the Miserere. Allegri's ubiquitous setting provides a structural model followed by James MacMillan's reimagining, alternating chanted sections with elaborate polyphony. Josquin's 24-part canon Qui habitat treats its more optimistic psalm text with extraordinary richness.

The image of the Virgin Mary contemplating the crucified Christ is a potent one, and settings of the Stabat mater are legion. Few, however, capture the tender delicacy of a mother's love quite like Domenico Scarlatti's. Another musical meditation on this same scene comes in the form of Buxtehude's Membra Jesu nostri, while Cavalli's Ave regina caelorum contemplates the Virgin with madrigalian vividness.

Lassus, Byrd and Leighton provide three contrasting Lenten motets: Byrd's Civitas sancti tui, with its textual echoes of the Lamentations, grieves with polyphonic intensity, while Lassus's Media vita contemplates death with exquisite acceptance. Leighton's larger Crucifixus reaches its climax in the sudden angular simplicity of his 'Hymn'.

Lenten music is not limited to church, as concert works by Lukaszewski and Caplet prove, each taking inspiration from the story of Christ's Passion and Resurrection.

* D Scarlatti Stabat mater

Monteverdi Choir / Gardiner

Warner Classics

* MacMillan Miserere

The Sixteen / Christophers


* Buxtehude Membra Jesu nostri

Cantus Colin / Junghanel

Harmonia Mundi

* Caplet Le miroir de Jesus

Orchestre des Pays de Savoie / Foster

Radio France

* Lassus Media vita

Gabrieli Consort / McCreesh


* Josquin Qui habitat

Huelgas Ensemble / Van Nevel


* Cavalli Ave regina caelorum

Akademia / Lasserre

Pierre Verany

* Byrd Civitas sancti tui

Contrapunctus / Rees


* Lukaszewski Lenten Music

Baltic Neopolis Orchestra / Tomaszewski


* Leighton Crucifixus

St John's College Choir / Robinson


Wood & the Wesleys

Andrew Mellor chooses 10 pieces by three celebrated sacred composers

This year marks 150 years since the birth of Charles Wood and 250 since that of Samuel Sebastian Wesley, father to Samuel, who was born in 1810. …

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