odd or even polyphony?
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,374
    I just stumbled on a curious rubric here,
    16 Magnificats, 8 for First Vespers (odd verses) and 8 for Second Vespers (even verses),


    Are there actually rules for choosing odd or even verse settings? I had always assumed one might wish to end with full organ and sing odd, or finish with polyphony if the 'filling in' was plainchant.
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  • This is interesting indeed!

    It must be related to the relative ranks of the celebrations. I had thought that it was customary everywhere for the organ or choral settings to substitute for odd-numbered verses or stanzas.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    I'm not sure it's a rubric as much as a composer's suggestion for variety. At least it appeared that way to me.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,374
    The norm I'm familiar with is for the Gospel side to begin: this is the traditional spot for the organ, which can set the pitch (one could imagine the cantor's intonation being played instead if the choir is singing odd) in case an antiphon hasn't already settled the matter.

    Lasso and others compose roughly equal numbers of even and odd verses for the Magnificat, as can be seen in these lists for Morales and Palestrina.. One of the registrational challenges of Cabezon's organ Mags is guessing which verse is being set: do I have a scary noise for deposuit or does a reduced trio voicing imply et humiles on 4' flute with tremulant?

    This is not so true of hymns, for which I think only Palestrina has set odd choral vv.
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  • Good observations, Richard -
    I've done several of Cabezon's Magnificats in recital with alternatim chant. I'm preparing Schiedt's Septimi Toni Magnificat, which seems to specify even verses for the organ. What is even more confusing than odd-or-even quandaries is what to do when fewer that the required six versets are provided. Does one repeat versets, or sing more than one verse between versets? I generally opt for the latter. I've asked this of renowned university organ professors and scholars from Europe and none have been able to answer definitively.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,374
    what to do when fewer that the required six versets are provided.
    No examples come to my mind, but I've understood that one just omits Mag. verses when playing Benedictus or another canticle: would this just be a case of 'Magnificat' being used in a generic, somewhat loose sense?

    I'm skeptical about odd-even depending on degree of solemnity. One would expect more of one or the other, yet sets of 16 are extraordinarily common.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,705
    The attached essay seems to be most relevant to the discussion here. It provides an explanation as to why, in certain circumstances, the organ versets for the Magnificat (or Psalms) might have begun with the second verse, rather than the usual initial verse.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,374
    I seem to be missing the spot with the explanation. On p.760 a 1600 rule is described, whereby the pattern of alternation is to be altered if necessary so that the choir sings Gloria Patri, the cue for bowing, instead of the organ. I wonder though if this was ever applied to composing polyphony!
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,705
    p. 754 & footnote 2:

    It was normal practice for the organ to take the first verset, thereby establishing the pitch and mode ahead of the singers’ entry in verse two.*

    * This was less functionally important for canticles (such as the Magnificat) psalms which would normally be framed by an antiphon, which would establish the mode for the chants that followed. In practice, on solemn days antiphons might be played on the organ (see below).

    [I take this to mean that when the antiphon was played on the organ, thereby establishing the pitch and mode, the singers could commence the canticle (eg. the Magnificat) with verse one.]

    p. 758 (on Domincan practice)::

      However, the Chapter takes up a less certain position with three further regulations, each of which establishes a new discipline in choir. ... Second, when an antiphon is be played on the organ, the text is to be recited by the cantor, again in a clear, deliberate voice, on behalf of the whole choir, so that all hear it calmly together. ...

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  • Many, many thanks for this Chuck! Enlightening, indeed. There is also a lengthy entry on alternatim style in some editions of Grove.

    As for the antiphon - how could it have escaped me!. I thought that I had thought of everything when doing these on recital... period and place specific pronunciation, slow singing, and all. Now I'll surely have to add an antiphon... maybe that for Ascension, which is one of my very favourite feasts. But I'll not have it read out before hand. That's just too tacky.
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  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,374
    The description of "normal practice" doesn't quite explain the need for odd verse Magnificats. I notice though that I've misrepresented Lassus, whose first 32 published settings are all even verses, ending with Sicut erat.. So, what is Palestrina up to with his book of 16, odd and even? The Mexican Franco Codex also has 16 Mags, and maybe a clue: the odd are 4vv throughout, but the even always add a voice plus a canon, for a 6-part Sicut erat..

    G. Cavazzoni of course is one 5-verse Mag composer: the second verset is labeled Quia respexit and followed by 7. Deposuit, 9. Suscepit & 11. Gloria Patri. I could imagine one of the subdued Suscepit's standing in for 5. Et misericordia but the Baerenreiter editor thinks the choir just kept going at that point.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,060
    In Morales, the odds are often a good bit easier and call for fewer vocal parts, FWIW.
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