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Cantigas Para Semana Santa.
Completed in October 1992 in Spain, this work is complex in its origins – a life-long love of plainsong, and an abiding fascination for the story of the Passion. To that must be added the “trigger” experience of the Holy Week processions in Cadiz and Jerez seen earlier that year.
The work sets chosen Latin texts taken from the liturgy of Holy Week presenting them first in their “ancient” plainsong setting, and then contrasting them with a polyphonic “modern version”. While the plainsong and the polyphony are, at first sight, in complete contrast to one another, the intention is to bring out the latent congruence of these two musical styles, so that over the whole work they interweave and complement one another, opening up new mutual perspectives. In the process, all the key elements in the story in the Passion are recalled.
I – “HOSANNA FILIO DAVID” (Plainsong) – recounts the praises of the mob as Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
II – “PUERI HEBRAEORUM” (Polyphonic) – offers a different musical perspective of the same event, but extends it to include the betrayal of Judas, the arrest of Jesus, and the desertion of Jesus’ followers. Alongside these narrative aspects the choir offers the commentary “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.”
III – “SENIORES POPULI CONSILIUM FECERUNT” (Plainsong) – reflects upon the plotting of Judas and the High Priests to take Jesus and kill Him.
IV – “CHRISTUS FACTUS EST” (Polyphonic) – meditates further on these events (“Christ was made obedient for us, even to the death of the cross”). It is an extended lament, more complex in form and scoring (double choir of altos, tenors, and basses, with an important role for the two solo tenor voices). Later, however, the entry of the sopranos alleviates the dark colours of the music and heralds the next stage of the story, in which the women visit the tomb, find it empty, and encounter the angel who tells them of Jesus’ resurrection.
Finally, however, the opening dark mood is recalled briefly, a kind of “memento mori”.
V – “VIDI AQUAM” (Plainsong) – a hymn of serene joy on the mystery of Easter.
VI – “HAEC DIES QUAM FECIT DOMINUS” (Polyphonic) – a kind of fanfare for voices on the same subject, but one in which the rejoicing is much more direct, and extrovert in character.
The work was commissioned by Capella Nova with the aid of the Scottish Arts Council.