Jul 31, 2010

Spotless Rose

The picture above is from the Holy Rosary church in Bangkok. Traditionally the Virgin Mary has been referred to as a Spotless Rose because of her purity, and because, unlike Eve, she produced no woe for mankind.

The CD Spotless Rose is a Grammy winning* compilation of music honoring the Virgin. All of the composers are 20th century composers

*Classical, Best Small Ensemble Performance.

Splendid Jewel, Stephen Paulus. A setting of a 14th century laudia.

A Hymn to the Virgin, Benjamin Britten. Britten is one of the big names in 20th century classical music. This hymn was composed in 1930 when he was 17. The music accompanies a macaronic text of English and Latin and uses antiphonal choirs. This was one of the pieces that Britten had played at his funeral.

Three Latin Motets, Cecilia McDowall. These are gorgeous settings of the Ave Regina, Ave Maria, and Regina Caeli.

A Spotless Rose, Herbert Howells. This is a setting of 14th century text, in Modern English, done when Howells was in his twenties. This polyphonic piece was supposed to have been composed while Howells was watching train cars being switched around in the Midland Railway yard.

Two Marian Pieces, Javier Brusto. Settings of Ave Maria, and Ave, maris stella. The notes mention the “rather eerie soprano solo” in Ave, maris stella, and it does have a haunting quality that contrasts with the simplicity of the Ave, Maria.

Three Liturgical Motets, Healey Willan. These are taken from 8th century liturgical texts and the Song of Solomon.

Electa, Jean Belmont Ford. This is a setting of De profundis, Asperges me, Domine; Ave, dulcissima Maria; and Magnificat anima mea. The accompaniment consists of a bass drum and a single timpano¹. The percussion instruments impart a mournful feeling to the first part, De profundis, and a more joyful, exultant feeling to the opening of the Magnificat.

¹ Timpani is an Italian plural. The singular is timpano. The OED recognizes timpani, but not timpano.

If you enjoy musical settings of sacred texts, this is a worthy addition to your CD library.