Classical Journey Episode 133: He is Risen!

Today is Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection. We feature Gustav Mahler, Johann Sebastian Bach, Thomas Tallis and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Gustav Mahler

Symphony No. 2 by Gustav Mahler, known as the Resurrection Symphony, was written between 1888 and 1894, and first performed in 1895. This symphony was one of Mahler’s most popular and successful works during his lifetime. It was his first major work that established his lifelong view of the beauty of afterlife and resurrection. In this large work, the composer further developed the creativity of “sound of the distance” and creating a “world of its own”, aspects already seen in his First Symphony. The work has a duration of eighty to ninety minutes and is conventionally labelled as being in the key of C minor; the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians labels the work’s tonality as C minor–E♭ major. It was voted the fifth-greatest symphony of all time in a survey of conductors carried out by the BBC Music Magazine.

Johann Sebastian Bach

The St Matthew Passion (German: Matthäus-Passion), BWV 244, is a Passion, a sacred oratorio written by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1727 for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra, with libretto by Picander. It sets chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew (in the Luther Bible) to music, with interspersed chorales and arias. It is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of classical sacred music. The original Latin title Passio Domini nostri J.C. secundum Evangelistam Matthæum translates to “The Passion of our Lord J[esus] C[hrist] according to the Evangelist Matthew”.

The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet have been set by various composers.

Thomas Tallis set the first lesson, and second lesson, of Tenebrae on Maundy Thursday between 1560, and 1569: “when the practice of making musical settings of the Holy Week readings from the Book of Jeremiah enjoyed a brief and distinguished flowering in England (the practice had developed on the continent during the early 15th century)”.

Thomas Tallis

The lessons are drawn from Lamentations (Lam. 1, vv.1-2, and Lam. 1, vv.3-5). These famous and notably expressive settings are both a 5 for ATTBB and employ a sophisticatedly imitative texture.

Thomas Tallis was an English organist and composer whose career spanned the reigns of four monarchs and a long period of religious change. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the most talented of England’s early composers.

This is part one of his ‘lamentations of Jeremiah’, which sets to music verses 1-2 of Chapter 1 (Book of Lamentations).

0:06 Incipit lamentatio etc

1:13 Aleph. Quomodo sedet etc

3:24 Beth. Plorans ploravit etc

6:09 Ierusalem, convertere etc Incipit lamentatio Ieremiae prophetae.

Here begins the lamentation of Jeremiah the prophet.

ALEPH. How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal.

BETH. She weeps bitterly in the night, tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. Jerusalem, turn again to the Lord your God.

Russian Easter Festival Overture: Overture on Liturgical Themes (Светлый праздник, Svetliy prazdnik), Op. 36, also known as the Great Russian Easter Overture, is a concert overture written by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov between August 1887 and April 1888. It was dedicated to the memories of Modest Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin, two members of the group of composers known in English as “The Five”. It is the last of what many call his three most exceptionally brilliant orchestral works, preceded by Capriccio Espagnol and Scheherazade. The work received its premiere at a Russian symphony concert in St. Petersburg in late December 1888.


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