Music Selections for Solace, Healing, and Wellness

We invite you to listen to these special selections provided by Dr. James Yeager. Each piece has special power and we hope they will add to your worship and meditation.


50.  l’Ascension, III. and IV.

50.   l’Ascension, III. and IV.

50. l’Ascension, III. and IV. Olivier Messiaen [14:20]

Stavanger Concert Hall Organ (Norway), Olivier Latry—Organist

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) was tenured organist at La Trinité church in Paris, a post he held from 1931 until his death. A major composer of the 20th century he synthesized Gregorian Chant, birdsong, Indonesian gamelan, and other global music into a new language of music. Every Sunday he climbed the spiral stairs to the organ loft humbly to accompany services with organ improvisations that reflected the Roman Catholic liturgical themes. He prefaced his music with biblical quotations as the point of inspiration. His music is not easy listening, in fact, it is as hard as the spiritual and intellectual demands of mystical theology. He also emulated the world view of St. Francis of Assisi. These two movements (of four) meditate on the Ascension of Jesus.

Selection source: 50.  l’Ascension, III. and IV.

49. Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shephered on the Rock)

49. Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shephered on the Rock)

49. Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shephered on the Rock) Franz Schubert [11:38]

Kathleen Battle—Soprano, Clarinet—Karl Leister, Piano—James Levine

A duet between voice and clarinet is already unusual, but the melodic invention of the perhaps the greatest song writer, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) makes for unrivaled bliss. This recording is among the most graceful and touching. The video notes <Show More> tell the story. The video also nicely translates the poem while it is sung. The theme of spring and renewal again appears as a hopeful uplift.

Selection source: 49. Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shephered on the Rock)

48. Candide “Overture”

48. Candide “Overture”

48. Candide “Overture” Leonard Bernstein [4:41]

London Symphony Orchestra (1989) Leonard Bernstein—Conductor

What could be better than hearing and watching dear Lennie performing his own piece? Everything about it is manic! This piece exhibits all the excellent craft of a composer who was at home on Broadway as Orchestra Hall at Lincoln Center. The opera, Candide, based on Voltaire’s abstruse story, rarely got off the ground when staged (even after several rewrites and massive interventions). It opened on Broadway in 1956. But this superb instrumental piece is the gem that outshined the drama. For those who dislike Bernstein’s conducting antics just close your eyes. Otherwise, here we have a man who clearly lived what he loved to the fullest!

Selection source: 48. Candide “Overture”

47. Piano Trio No. 2 Op. 67 -3 Largo

47. Piano Trio No. 2 Op. 67 -3 Largo

47. Piano Trio No. 2 Op. 67 -3 Largo Dmitri Shostakovitch [5:02]

Beaux Arts Trio

At the height of the Second World War Shostakovitch [1906-1975] wrote this four movement piano trio (piano, violin and cello). We hear the third movement that is the most somber and introspective of the movements. It was premiered in Leningrad in 1944. If you have time to listen to the entire Trio you will discover a wide range of moods. Yet it is this piece that comes to us as particularly poignant because it projects a kind of sustained grief one can imagine all Russia felt in that tragic time. The music is an old form called passacaglia where a theme is repeated as variations build over it. The back story of the Trio involves the Jewish themes that Shostakovitch wove into the music that showed his understanding of their hardships in his time.

Selection source: 47. Piano Trio No. 2 Op. 67 -3 Largo

46. A Geneneral Communion

46. A Geneneral Communion

46. A Geneneral Communion Frederick Frahm [3:45]

The Merbecke Choir, Southwark Cathedral London, Huw Morgan—Conductor

Our friend Frederick Frahm beautifully and poignantly sets to music an anthem on a poem (words below) by Alice Meynell. Meynell in addition to being a significant poet in the Victorian era, was a champion of women’s rights who helped to found the Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society. Fred Frahm is a prolific composer residing in Albuquerque whose works range from the operatic to the symphonic as well as numerous choral works. We are proud to know him. This recording, appropriately from a London cathedral, is splendid.

Selection source: 46. A Geneneral Communion

45. Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, LWV 43: Ouverture (1670)

45. Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, LWV 43: Ouverture (1670)

45. Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, LWV 43: Ouverture (1670) Jean-Baptiste Lully

Le Concert des Nations, Jordi Savall—Conductor

He died from his music. Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) was born in Florence. At fourteen was brought to France to tutor Italian to an aristocrat’s niece, became her chamber boy, entered the court of Louis XIV and eventually was appointed superintendent of the king’s music, innovated new music at court including numerous operas and ballets collaborating with Molière, fell out of favor with the king, and died from gangrene after stabbing himself in the foot with his conducting staff. His life reads like a novel and his music could make a great film score (and it has)! This music is the opening to the named Molière comedy. Grand and majestic, lively and jaunty, the overture bears the very image of the king who was a great patron of the arts.

Selection source: 45. Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, LWV 43: Ouverture (1670)

44. Sonata in Trio (1695)

44. Sonata in Trio (1695)

44. Sonata in Trio (1695), Elisabeth Jacquet De La Guerre [8:54]

L’ensemble Le Tendre Amour

Elisabeth Jacquet De La Guerre (1665-1729) played the harpsichord as a child prodigy for the king, Louis XIV. Her career as a performer and composer was acclaimed in her lifetime. Today she stands tall in the company of the French Baroque composers, Lully, Couperin, and Rameau. She wrote operas, chamber music, and extensively for the harpsichord. This recording offers historically authentic instruments and style very admirably.

Selection source: 44. Sonata in Trio (1695)

43. D’un matin de printemps

43. D’un matin de printemps

43. D’un matin de printemps Lili Boulanger [5:54]

Seattle Symphony Cristian Măcelaru—Conductor

Marie-Juliette Olga “Lili” Boulanger (1893-1918) was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome with the composition prize in 1913. A composer of great promise she showed the influence of two contemporary masters, Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy. She suffered greatly from a chronic illness that began with bronchial pneumonia as a child. Her life ended at age 24. This short piece shows her orchestration gift for mixed instrumental tone coloring. It is truly “From a Spring Morning.” Her sister Nadia Boulenger (1887-1979) outlived her and was one of the greatest composition teachers of the 20th century. Nadia tutored the likes of Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Roy Harris, Quincy Jones, Astor Piazzolla and others. Both sisters are significant composers of the modern era.

Selection source: 43. D’un matin de printemps

42.  Concerto for Orchestra V Finale

42.  Concerto for Orchestra V Finale

42. Concerto for Orchestra V Finale, Bela Bartok [9:31]

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa

Bela Bartok (1881-1945) wrote Concerto for Orchestra in 1943 and the Finale is truly manic, just the kind of exuberance we need nowadays. If you aren’t familiar with this work or his music in general, it is a must to hear all five movements. But, for now, this taste perhaps is the right medicine for a world filled with restriction and isolation. It was commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky the famed conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The commission re-energized Bartok and resulted in several other works of excellence just before his death.

Selection source: 42.  Concerto for Orchestra V Finale

41. All-Night Vigil #5 “Nyne Otpushchayeshi”

41. All-Night Vigil #5 “Nyne Otpushchayeshi”

41. All-Night Vigil #5 “Nyne Otpushchayeshi” Sergei Rachmaninoff [4:05]

Karl Dent—Tenor, Robert Shaw Festival Singers, Robert Shaw—Conductor

If there is an archetypal music to envision heaven, this is it. The Russian Orthodox Divine Liturgy asks the worshiper upon entering the church to leave behind the earth and enter heaven. Time ceases and is replaced by eternity. The service does not “begin” because it has always been going on. The image wall—iconostasis—fixes all eyes upon the Mary, Jesus, the saints of heaven. Vocal music blankets the service. Rachmaninoff captures these senses of worship with music that seems to hover in the air like clouds of incense. The Song of Simeon or “Nunc dimittis” recalls the old man upon seeing the child, Jesus, in the Temple, prays that his long life may now end, his wait for the Messiah has ended. There are 15 sections to the All-Night Vigil most based upon the ancient chants of the Orthodox tradition. Do find and listen to the entire composition after this taste of heavenly music! The Robert Shaw recording is available online and it is the epitome.

Selection source: 41. All-Night Vigil #5 “Nyne Otpushchayeshi”

40. Sonate on the 94th Psalm

40. Sonate on the 94th Psalm

40. Sonate on the 94th Psalm Julius Reubke [25:17]

Kings College Cambridge Organ, Richard Gowers—Organist

Some geniuses burn brightly but briefly as this composer at age 22. Julius Reubke (1834-1858) showed dazzling keyboard gifts early on impressing even the greatest virtuoso of the day, Franz Liszt. He wrote this monumental organ sonata and performed it in 1857. This lengthy tone poem uses Psalm 94 (see below) as its inspiration. It is a wrathful and stormy psalm and the music displays it. It is a masterpiece of German Romantic style that Liszt, and later organist, Max Reger, celebrated. This is a lengthy work, but if you stick with it to the end you will not regret the musical journey. Kings College organ is a romantic style organ. The player Richard Gowers was 22 at the time of this video and his youthful energy is matched by his maturity of expression.

Selection source: 40. Sonate on the 94th Psalm

39. Italian Madrigal “Ride la Primavera”

39. Italian Madrigal “Ride la Primavera”

39. Italian Madrigal “Ride la Primavera” Heinrich Schütz [3:07]

Concerto Vocale, René Jacobs

While the 18th century has J.S.Bach as its greatest composer, the 17th century boasts Heinrich Schütz [1585-1672]. His life spanned 87 years and his music reflected the paradigm shift from Renaissance to Baroque. The young, 26 year-old wrote this madrigal in 1611 showing the influence of another great contemporary master, the Italian, Claudio Monteverdi (see #27). The delightful poem celebrates the season personified in Clori, perhaps in the image of a coy shepherdess. The music is playful painting pictures of words beginning with a musical “laugh” on “Ride” then the birdsong of the swallow, the new season “stagion” dances, the notes nearly freeze on “ghiaccio” or ice. Even if you find the Italian hard to discern, the playful voicings convey a joy we all know when winter snows give way to flowers.

Selection source: 39. Italian Madrigal “Ride la Primavera”

38. Ecco La Primavera

38. Ecco La Primavera

38. Ecco La Primavera, Francesco Landini [3:21]

Stepan Prenosil, Zdenek Seidl, Petr Kalvoda, Ludek Pechacek, Jan Bachor—Ensemble Řemdih

Spring has arrived! Seven centuries ago music and art of the Middle Ages were very much alive if not evolving. Witness this ballata or two-part song with its unbridled lust for life. Landini [1325-1397] composed music that presaged a new age, the Renaissance.

Selection source: 38. Ecco La Primavera

37. “You Go To My Head”

37. “You Go To My Head”

37. “You Go To My Head” Fred Coots (music) & Haven Gillespie (lyrics) [3:17]

Billie Holiday—vocalist, Teddy Wilson—Piano

The year was 1938, the depths of the Great Depression, and this song with words by Haven (James Lamont) Gillespie (1888-1975) and the finely crafted music of John Frederick Coots (1897-1985) caught the attention of many jazzers including Teddy Wilson (see playlist #32 ) and the legendary Billie Holiday (1915-1959). This early Holiday recording likely was cut in 1938 and it has the youthful singer at her best. Everything about this piece calls for repeated listening—the melody and harmony weaving from major to minor, the lyrics filled with clever internal rhymes, the vocalist adding her glosses, and, of course, Teddy with his keyboard magic. In this music one might imagine a shadowy film noir scene, or the painted loneliness of Edward Hopper’s famed “Nighthawks.”

Selection source: 37. “You Go To My Head”

36. Piano Quintet in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 67, III Allegro agitato

36. Piano Quintet in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 67, III Allegro agitato

36. Piano Quintet in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 67, III Allegro agitato Amy Beach [9:04]

Eliot Heaton—violin, Ran Cheng—violin, Colin Brookes—viola, SeuanAh Hong—cello, Solungga Liu—piano

Amy (Marcy Cheney) Beach (1867-1944) began as a child prodigy on the piano. Not only musically gifted, she was a genius teaching herself to read at age three among other things. She performed with the Boston Symphony as piano soloist at age 16. At 18 she married a prominent physician, Dr. Henry Beach who asked her to curtail public performances. Thus, she focused her efforts on composition pouring her restricted energies into her own music. As a composer she was self-taught as well. After Dr. Beach died in 1910, she revived her career and toured Europe achieving wide recognition as a composer and performer. She wrote a prize-winning Mass, chamber music (like this piano quintet), symphonies, and other large works. She is one of America’s great treasures. She championed the cause of American women composers.

Selection source: 36. Piano Quintet in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 67, III Allegro agitato

35. Lux aurumque

35. Lux aurumque

35. Lux aurumque Eric Whitacre

Virtual Choir of 185 voices, Eric Whitacre—Conductor/Composer

In this time of incredible solitude (not to mention forced silencing of so many choirs and orchestras) Eric Whitacre launched in 2010 the idea of a virtual choir that remains astounding musically as well as a prescient solution for musicians in 2020. If you have heard and seen this video perhaps you can attest with me the emotional power it manifests on first view. Some music, even without knowing what it “means” achieves the sublime in human experience—inspiring awe like a first view of the Hubble images of distant nebulae. Again, I urge using the best sound to listen—headphones or the like. Be astounded!

Selection source: 35. Lux aurumque

34. St. Paul’s Suite

34. St. Paul’s Suite

34. St. Paul’s Suite, Gustav Holst [14:56]

Eufonico String Orchestra, Rafel Nicze—Conductor (at the 3rd Polish Nationwide Music Schools’ Symphonic Orchestras Competition)

Nothing fills my heart with joy as hearing youthful players achieve excellence. This recording wins the prize. The young women in this school orchestra perform with maturity and impressive skill. Gustav Holst (1874-1934) wrote this music while on the faculty of St. Paul’s Girls School in 1904. Each short movement pays homage to English dances and songs. In particular the icing on the cake comes in the Finale when Holst mixes the Dargason (a kind of country dance) with the tune Greensleeves so cleverly.

Selection source: 34. St. Paul’s Suite

33. Mathis der Maler 1. Englekonzert

33. Mathis der Maler 1. Englekonzert

33. Mathis der Maler 1. Englekonzert, Paul Hindemith [8:24]

San Francisco Symphony, Herbert Blomstedt—Conductor

Hindemith: Symphonie ‘Mathis der Maler’ / Trauermusik / Symphonic Metamorphosis

℗ 1988 Decca Music Group Limited

Selection source: 33. Mathis der Maler 1. Englekonzert

32. Liza “All The Clouds’ll Roll Away”

32. Liza “All The Clouds’ll Roll Away”

32. Liza “All The Clouds’ll Roll Away” George Gershwin

Introducing (if you aren’t already familiar) Teddy Wilson (1912-1986), one of the most gifted pianists, whose music will lift your heart with his astounding keyboard technique! George Gershwin (1898-1937), another American musical genius, typified the composers of Tin Pan Alley and blended classical music with Broadway. Teddy Wilson made his own arrangements of this tune that Gershwin wrote in 1929. This melody kept lightness alive during the dark days to follow in the great Depression

Selection source: 32. Liza “All The Clouds’ll Roll Away”

31. “Ebben! Ne Andro Lontana (La Wally),  Alfredo Catalani

31. “Ebben! Ne Andro Lontana (La Wally),  Alfredo Catalani

31. “Ebben! Ne Andro Lontana (La Wally), Alfredo Catalani [4:56]

Maria Callas, Philharmonia Orchestra, Tullio Serafin—Conductor

Opera can claim some of the most deeply emotional music written. This aria from a seldom performed opera is such a piece. The great soprano, Maria Callas, gives us the gold standard in her mastery of expressive singing. Although the story of the opera is tragic, and this aria a key moment in it, the music fulfills our craving for beauty through its vocal purity and the splendid orchestration. You can follow the words as you listen (subtitles). Enjoy!

Selection source: 31. “Ebben! Ne Andro Lontana (La Wally),  Alfredo Catalani

30. Toccata and Fugue in F major (BWV 540)

30. Toccata and Fugue in F major (BWV 540)

30. Toccata and Fugue in F major (BWV 540), Johann Sebastian Bach (14:14)

Organ of St. Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany, Ullrich Böhme

Time for something truly spectacular, thrilling, and exuberant! For organists (and many others) J. S. Bach’s music is the summit and the (I love this next word and have to use it) apotheosis of the Baroque, if not of all European music! In this Easter season I can think nothing better than this organ music: it is a perfection of joy, majesty, and glory. Bach served as cantor at Thomaskirche from 1723 until his death in 1750. As cantor he was in charge of all music, directing ensembles, composing hundreds of choral works as well as organ works.

Selection source: 30. Toccata and Fugue in F major (BWV 540)

29b. In Bright Mansions Above, African-American Spiritual

29b. In Bright Mansions Above, African-American Spiritual

b. In Bright Mansions Above African-American Spiritual [3:22]

Fisk Jubiliee Singers 2003

The second piece, (b) In Bright Mansions Above, contrasts with a different style. In particular note the breathtaking ending where the upper voices float one note effortlessly while the chorus executes the most controlled decrescendo (softening) imaginable!

Selection source: 29b. In Bright Mansions Above, African-American Spiritual

29a. Wade in the Water, African-American Spiritual

29a. Wade in the Water, African-American Spiritual

a. Wade in the Water, African-American Spiritual [3:42]

Fisk Jubilee Singers 2003

Fisk University in Nashville began as school for freed slaves in 1865 just after the end of the Civil War. The Fisk Jubilee Singers formed by students set out in 1871 to raise funding for the University. They immediately became renowned even touring to Europe. They sang for Queen Victoria and other heads of state. To this day their sound and tradition are an American treasure. Here are two spirituals that so beautifully display the glorious choral tone and the nuanced singing of music that is foundational in the American experience.

Note in the first selection, (a) Wade in the Water, the skillful soloist whose vocal ornamentation shows real delicacy.

Selection source: 29a. Wade in the Water, African-American Spiritual

28. Chaconne D’Alcione

28. Chaconne D’Alcione

28. Chaconne D’Alcione Marin Marais [6:45]

Le Concert Des Nations, Jordi Savall—Director

Throughout the ages dance has been an essential part of human culture. Nowadays, except for ballroom dancing—itself an almost lost art, formal, patterned social dance only survives as square dance. Not so prior to the 20th century. In 17th century France not to dance would be to made an outcast in the court and palace. Though the early court dances have faded from view, the music remains vibrant and fills the imagination with joyous visions of elegant if not lusty life. Here we have the great Marin Marais (1656-1728) writing for a king—THE KING, aka the Sun, the I-am-the-State, King Louis XIV (1638-1715) , who himself flattered himself a most accomplished master of dance.

Selection source: 28. Chaconne D’Alcione

27. Vespers della Beata Vergine: Laudate pueri (Psalm 112)

27. Vespers della Beata Vergine: Laudate pueri (Psalm 112)

27. Vespers della Beata Vergine: Laudate pueri (Psalm 112) Claudio Monteverdi [6:47]

The Green Mountain Project, Scott Metcalfe—Music Director

Psalm 112 declares with children’s voices all the ways to bless God’s holy name. From the depths of earth to the heights of heaven the proclamation resounds. And God from high looks favorably on the earth at all who live there, from the most humble servants to the most elevated rulers. God’s mercy pours equally on all. It is a song of great joy. Monteverdi (1567-1643) invented a new kind of music in 1610 that ushered in a new style now called “Baroque.” This musical style deals with as many mood changes and as the rich a vocabulary as the psalm.

Selection source: 27. Vespers della Beata Vergine: Laudate pueri (Psalm 112)

26. Isle of the Dead, Op. 29

26. Isle of the Dead, Op. 29

26. Isle of the Dead, Op. 29 Sergei Rachmaninoff [21:10]

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy—Conductor

A painting that Rachmaninoff saw in 1907 depicting the Isle of the Dead was so stirring that he immediately conceived this huge tone poem. Hope resonates throughout in ways similar to Christian (and other) afterlife theologies. Musically interesting is the fact that Rachmaninoff uses a Gregorian Chant theme, the ancient Sequence: Dies irae of the Mass for the Dead. The Isle of the Dead is built almost entirely on the first four notes of the Dies irae—Fa-Mi-Fa-Re (even if you don’t know a note of music this theme will come to you). It is astounding that twenty-plus minutes of music can engage us without any boredom despite this omnipresent theme. The composer’s genius was to orchestrate with myriads of tone colors to ensure a gripping musical journey.

Selection source: 26. Isle of the Dead, Op. 29

25. Symphony 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Op. 36, 2- Lento e largo Tranquillissimo

25. Symphony 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Op. 36, 2- Lento e largo Tranquillissimo

25. Symphony 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Op. 36, 2- Lento e largo Tranquillissimo Henryk Mikołaj Górecki [9:02]

Zofia Kilanowicz, Soprano, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Gilbert Levine—Conductor

Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (1933-2010) was a Polish composer who lived through the horrors of the Second World War followed by the Russian domination of Poland yet he survived and flourished in his music. In 1976 he wrote Symphony of Sorrowful Songs to memorialize his knowledge of tragedy using music. Like Mahler (see #24) his music demands time to pause, reflect and understand truly deep suffering via music. This is music we must hear see in its humanity what resilience exists in us. I greatly urge you to listen to the entire 3rd Symphony.

Selection source: 25. Symphony 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Op. 36, 2- Lento e largo Tranquillissimo

24. Symphony 2 “Resurrection” Mvt. 5 (part 2), “O glaube, mein Herz, o glaube”

24. Symphony 2 “Resurrection” Mvt. 5 (part 2), “O glaube, mein Herz, o glaube”

24. Symphony 2 “Resurrection” Mvt. 5 (part 2), “O glaube, mein Herz, o glaube” Gustav Mahler [8:25]

Sheila Armstrong, Soprano, Janet Baker, Mezzo-Soprano, London Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein—Conductor

Mahler Symphonies are long by any standard. His Symphony 2, has five movements (sections) and lasts well over 90 minutes. The last movement (5) alone is over 20 minutes. One must surrender time in favor of beauty especially with Mahler. I recommend strongly taking the time to listen to his symphonies abandoning all concerns except to be immersed in his nearly endless landscape of tone. This is perfect music when traveling alone out west where the horizon seems unreachable, the music is equal to the journey. Here, however, we have a tiny 8 minute excerpt of this monumental piece, but what a slice to savor. Here Mahler affirms that Life itself mocks Death. Like the Easter message, love conquers pain and death. This music is transcendent. Enjoy a taste of Mahler, and if your appetite is whetted enough, make your pleasure to listen to all of this symphony, and then, since we all have nothing if not Time these days, make it your “musical bucket list” to listen to all NINE Mahler symphonies. All are as glorious and sublime as this excerpt. I promise!

Selection source: 24. Symphony 2 “Resurrection” Mvt. 5 (part 2), “O glaube, mein Herz, o glaube”

23b. O Thou Who Camest from Abov

23b. O Thou Who Camest from Abov

b. O Thou Who Camest from Above, Philip Stopford [3:36]

Ecclesium in Keble College Chapel, Oxford, England, Philip Stopford—Director

Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises

Selection source: 23b. O Thou Who Camest from Abov

23a. Hymn to the Creator

23a. Hymn to the Creator

a. Hymn to the Creator, Philip Stopford [2:12]

Ecclesium in Keble College Chapel, Oxford, England, Philip Stopford—Director

The British composer, Philip Stopford (b.1977), began as a chorister in Westminster Abbey. Listen to two fine examples of his craft. (Read more at Wikipedia). Interestingly, he now works in Bronxville, NY as Music Director. The words appear in the video for the Hymn to the Creator.

Selection source: 23a. Hymn to the Creator

22. Cantata 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden

22. Cantata 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden

Cantata 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden, Johann Sebastian Bach [22:26]

Ensemble Orlando Fribourg, Choir and Orchestra, Laurent Gendre—Conductor

Christ lag in Todesbanden, became one of the Reformation’s greatest musical jewels in the crown of reformed sacred music. Bach 150 years later wrote a cantata using the seven verses of Luther’s reformed hymn. The cantata in Bach’s day was a veritable sermon in song. The cantata offered theology through musical symbols, imagery and story. Cantata 4 tells the resurrection story now using full accompaniment of singers and orchestra. Verse by verse we hear a musical battle between Death and Life. Bach treats each of the verses according to the images in the poem. For instance in verse 5 the chorus music with its crossing parts and agitated rhythms may symbolize the strife in battle. Bach also keeps the signature melody in every verse stated in plain notes called the cantus firmus which literally means the fixed chant, i.e., the chant that is not changed.

Selection source: 22. Cantata 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden

19. Victimae Paschali laudes, Easter Sequence

19. Victimae Paschali laudes, Easter Sequence

Victimae Paschali laudes, Easter Sequence, Gregorian Chant [2:27] Benedictine Monks of Triors Abbey

The Easter chant or Sequence, Victimae Paschali laudes (see translation below), is itself a work of high art. It likely originated in 11th century France. The chant functioned as processional music that followed (thus the name sequence = to follow) the great Easter Alleluia as the Gospel book ceremoniously was carried to a place of prominence. The chant narrates the Easter resurrection story. It also portrays Easter as a battle between Death and Life, where Death (Sin) is conquered by Life (Christ). The chant has a signature melody easy to remember and which is repeated within the melody so that churchgoers heard the first eight notes as a signal of the Easter season. The chant declares the Latin words plainly, one syllable per note. The chant was simple, declarative, and memorable and so it became the battle hymn of Easter.

Selection source: 19. Victimae Paschali laudes, Easter Sequence

18. Chorale-Improvisation on Victimae Paschali laudes

18. Chorale-Improvisation on Victimae Paschali laudes

Charles Tournemire (1870-1939) Victimæ Paschali laudes Choral-Improvisation (1931) reconstituée par Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)

Olivier Penin aux grandes orgues de la Basilique Sainte-Clotilde, Paris VII.

Charles Tournemire (1870-1939), like many organists, served decades at one church in Paris. Tournemire was the tenured organist at Cesar Franck’s famed organ in Basilica of St. Clothilde from 1898 until his death 41 years later. Gregorian Chant was much alive through his life and he found the timeless chant melodies a rich source of inspiration. Moreover, Tournemire, as with so many organists then and now, loved to improvise at the keyboard. He recorded a number of brilliant improvisations on 78 rpm phonographs in 1930. This treasure of music was later transcribed by another great organist and composer, Marice Durufle.

Selection source: 18. Chorale-Improvisation on Victimae Paschali laudes

17. Five Mystical Songs for baritone solo chorus and orchestra

17. Five Mystical Songs for baritone solo chorus and orchestra

Brian Rayner Cook

Album

Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis Pacem / 5 Mystical Songs -

for baritone solo chorus and orchestra

Nothing could be more in the spirit of Eastertide than the Five Mystical Songs. Its extraordinary poetry alone would recommend it. Vaughan Williams’ genius for setting words to music, however, lends a new dimension to the title “Mystical.” Welsh-born and Anglican Priest George Herbert (1593-1633) wrote the poems that Ralph Vaughan Williams set to music in 1911.

Selection source: 17. Five Mystical Songs for baritone solo chorus and orchestra

16. Planxit autem David: Montes Gelboe Josquin de Prez

16. Planxit autem David: Montes Gelboe Josquin de Prez

Planxit autem David: Montes Gelboe Josquin de Prez [2:17]

Capella Amsterdam, Daniel Reuss—Director

Ye mountains of Gelboe, let neither dew nor rain fall upon you, nor be they fields of offerings:

for there the shield of the mighty is cast away, the shield of Saul,

as though he had bot been anointed with oil.

From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty.

Selection source: 16. Planxit autem David: Montes Gelboe Josquin de Prez

15. Montes Gelboe Antiphon, Gregorian Chant

15. Montes Gelboe Antiphon, Gregorian Chant

Montes Gelboe Antiphon, Gregorian Chant [2:15]

Choir of Monks of the Abbey of St. Anne de Kergonan

2 Samuel 1:20-24,

Ye mountains of Gelboe, let neither dew, nor rain come upon you,

for there was cast away the shield of the valiant, the shield of Saul as though he had not been anointed with oil.

How are the valiant fallen in battle? Jonathan is slain upon thy high places.:

Saul and Jonathan, lovely, and pleasant in their life, even in death they were not separated.

Selection source: 15. Montes Gelboe Antiphon, Gregorian Chant

14. Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 2, “Company”

14. Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 2, “Company”

Brooklyn Rider performs Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 2, “Company” at Wellesley College in early 2014.

This string quartet (1983) is both representative and unusual for Philip Glass. Representative with his characteristic minimalism wherein the insistent and unrelenting motor of the music creates something like an aural kaleidoscope—ever changing patterns that evolve in tiny increments.

Selection source: 14. Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 2, “Company”

13. Roy Harris (Symphony No. 3)

13. Roy Harris (Symphony No. 3)

Symphony 3 (In one movement), Roy Harris [17:52]

Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop—Conductor

Like Leonard Bernstein (#15) Roy Harris created a musical landscape that is 100% American—rugged, optimistic, soul-filled, bold, brash, tender, and with lots and lots of heart! If you know this piece, I don’t need to say more—it is one of the best examples of our culture, a product of stellar craft in tone, and an equal to any visual art, architecture or invention we proudly say “Made in America.”

Selection source: 13. Roy Harris (Symphony No. 3)

12. Chichester Psalms (1965)  Leonard Bernstein

12. Chichester Psalms (1965)  Leonard Bernstein

Bernstein hugely exceeded expectations writing essentially one of his most masterful works, and perhaps even a landmark of the 20th century. The psalms are Hebrew in origin. And the psalms were meant to be sung (never just spoken). Bernstein joins several psalms in each of the three movements. You will note that Psalm 23, is broken in two parts, interrupted really by a very angry and tumultuous Psalm 2 and this is very telling. The music of the Chichester Psalms is Bernstein unabashedly painting sounds with the full colors of his musical palette—Broadway, to symphonic, to church motet. Above all it is a work of hope and joy in the midst of the world’s strife.

Selection source: 12. Chichester Psalms (1965)  Leonard Bernstein

11. Messiah Chorus “Worthy Is The Lamb”

11. Messiah  Chorus “Worthy Is The Lamb”

Messiah Chorus “Worthy Is The Lamb” George Friedrich Handel [7:17]

The Choir of Kings College, Cambridge, Sir Stephen Cleobury—Director

How do you end an oratorio that lasts almost 3 hours? With a big rousing “Amen.” Although everyone associates the Easter feast with the famed Hallelujah Chorus (which actually comes in the middle of the oratorio) the ending chorus “Worthy Is the Lamb” in many ways surpasses it in sheer power and majesty. Where better to hear this work than in England at one of the most highly regarded choral institutions, the Choir of Kings College.

Selection source: 11. Messiah Chorus “Worthy Is The Lamb”

10. St. Matthew Passion Chorus #78 “Wir setzen uns mit Tränen”

10. St. Matthew Passion Chorus #78 “Wir setzen uns mit Tränen”

St. Matthew Passion Chorus #78 “Wir setzen uns mit Tränen” Johann Sebastian Bach [5:17]

Collegium Vocale Ghent, Philippe Herreweghe, Director,

Imagine a world where worshipers would on Good Friday attend a three hour church service made solely of music. Yet such a world did exist in Leipzig Germany at Thomaskirche, April 11, 1727 at the first playing of Matthew Passion. Thomaskirche has two choir lofts so Bach took advantage of them with a larger chorus and orchestra in the big loft and a smaller chorus in the lesser loft. This allowed a dialogue between groups as well as dramatic echo effects. It must have been an immersive experience for the congregation when the two ensembles joined together as in this final chorus “We Sit Down in Tears.”

Selection source: 10. St. Matthew Passion Chorus #78 “Wir setzen uns mit Tränen”

9. Deutches Requiem Movt. 2 “Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras”  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

9. Deutches Requiem Movt. 2 “Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras”   Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)

Ein deutsches Requiem op. 45

II. Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras

We return to the German Requiem of Brahms to hear the second movement, “For All Flesh Is as Grass.” This movement is about the fleeting nature of our lives, about time as the psalmist says which “like and ever flowing stream bears us all away.” The idea, also, that God is timeless, eternal and, moreover, that the word of God lasts forever. This music clearly marks time with the beating of the kettle drums. It marches forward relentlessly as the music builds several times into ever stronger climaxes. Brahms imbues the music with a strength and power that culminates finally in a grand fugue of redemption. The image is of all souls on earth passing through death into the life beyond life that is timeless.

Selection source: 9. Deutches Requiem Movt. 2 “Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras”  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

8. O Divine Redeemer - Mormon Tabernacle Choir

8. O Divine Redeemer - Mormon Tabernacle Choir

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs “O Divine Redeemer” by Charles Gounod with lyrics by Alfred Phillips.

Episode 4348. Aired January 13, 2013

Charles Gounod (1818-1893) wrote this most beloved of religious pieces six months before he died. He never heard it performed. It was received with immediate acclaim. Even the pope claimed it as his official anthem. Entitled “Repentir” the English translation is faithful to the original French poem that Gounod also wrote. The music, though rhapsodic in the style of late Romanticism, is just restrained enough to touch our hearts with a moderate sentimentality.

Selection source: 8. O Divine Redeemer - Mormon Tabernacle Choir

7. Brahms ~ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (V/VII) ~ Herbert von Karajan

7. Brahms ~ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (V/VII) ~ Herbert von Karajan

Ein Deutsches Requiem Movt. 5 “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit,” Johannes Brahms, Kathleen Battle—Soprano, Herbert Von Karajan—Conductor [8:15]

Brahms wrote the German Requiem between 1865-1868 possibly motivated by grieving over his mother’s death. Of the seven movements the fifth offers us the most solace in the face of our mortality. Brahms drew his texts from the Bible (as opposed to the traditional Requiem Mass of the Roman Rite) and gave Scriptures truly heavenly voicing. This superb recording with the maestro Van Karajan at his best brings the music a transcendence only topped by the astonishing voice of Kathleen Battle.

Selection source: 7. Brahms ~ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (V/VII) ~ Herbert von Karajan

6. St. Matthew Passion Aria #39 “Erbarme dich mein Gott”

6. St. Matthew Passion Aria #39 “Erbarme dich mein Gott”

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Matthäus-Passion BWV244

Damien Guillon alt,
Choir and Orchestra of Collegium Vocale Ghent
Direcció musical: Philippe Herreweghe

Concert - 28 de març de 2010, Kölner Philharmonie

Selection source: 6. St. Matthew Passion Aria #39 “Erbarme dich mein Gott”

5. Motet: Plus bele que flor/Quant revient/L’autrier joer/Flos filius eius

5. Motet: Plus bele que flor/Quant revient/L’autrier joer/Flos filius eius

Sung by Anonymous 4. From the Montpellier Codex, c. 1300, this four-voice motet appears on Anonymous 4’s cd “Love’s Illusion.” Recorded at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin on West 46th Street in Manhattan.

Selection source: 5. Motet: Plus bele que flor/Quant revient/L’autrier joer/Flos filius eius

4. Sit Down Servant

4. Sit Down Servant

Sit Down, Servant · Florence Quivar · Larry Woodard · The Boys Choir Of Harlem · Walter Turnbull · Joseph Joubert

Ride On, King Jesus

℗ 1990 Angel Records

Released on: 1990-01-01

Associated Performer, Mezzo- Soprano: Florence Quivar
Associated Performer, Piano: Larry Woodard
Choir: The Boys Choir Of Harlem
Conductor: Walter Turnbull
Associated Performer, Piano: Joseph Joubert
Composer Lyricist: Traditional

Selection source: 4. Sit Down Servant

3. Serenity

3. Serenity

American composer Charles Ives “ Serenity”

The Hart House Chorus performs its 2006 fall concert, A New England Retrospective. Performed on November 26, 2006 in the Great Hall at Hart House at the University of Toronto.

Selection source: 3. Serenity

2. WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL-DEAR LORD AND FATHER OF MANKIND

2. WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL-DEAR LORD AND FATHER OF MANKIND

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, John Greenleaf Whittier

SONGS OF PRAISE SPECIAL FROM WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL

August 13, 2012

Selection source: 2. WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL-DEAR LORD AND FATHER OF MANKIND

1. I Bind unto Myself Today (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)

1. I Bind unto Myself Today (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)

Traditional: I Bind Unto Myself Today · Choir Of Trinity College, University Of Melbourne · Michael Leighton Jones · Jonathan Bradley

Abide With Me: A Treasury Of Classic Hymns

℗ 2006 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Selection source: 1. I Bind unto Myself Today (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)