O magnum mysterium (Charles H. Giffen), SSAT-ATBB adaptation of the 12-part original
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,025
    Two years ago, I completed my triple choir (SSAT-SATB-ATBB) setting of O magnum mysterium. This summer, I decided to see if it was possible to adapt and recast it as a double choir (SSAT-ATBB) work, feeling that such an arrangement might be more accessible to today's choirs. All in all, I am quite happy with the 8-part version and am posting it here. The PDF score and MP3 sound file (40kb/s) are attached here. And the same score with a higher resolution (96kb/s) sound file will soon be published at CPDL.

    Notes on the composition
    In this work, I have tried to capture the awe and reflect an aura of the calm, deep-night mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus in Bethlehem, where stable animals witnessed, with Mary and Joseph, a cosmic event that changed the course of history for ever - occurring in that “fulness of time, fixed by the unsearchable counsel of God, when the Son of God took upon him the nature of man, that he might reconcile it to its Maker.”

    The music includes mainly twelve tone thematic but also whole tone harmonic material, which lend a sense of mystery and reverence as the music unfolds. The given markings for tempo are approximate and may be adjusted to suit the performance acoustics. This double choir SSAT - ATBB setting has been adapted and arranged from the triple choir SSAT - SATB - ATBB original, but an attempt has been made to preserve the essence of the latter. The two 4-part choirs may be separated by some distance if there is adequate space in the performance venue.

    The text is the full responsory to the fourth lesson at Matins of Christmas Day and hence includes the short Ave Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum that is often omitted in musical settings.

    Note: The 12-part triple choir setting was previously posted in another thread as well as at CPDL. Here are the relevant links:

    The 8-part sheet music and sound file are attached below
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,283
    I love it!

    Favorite bits include the way the words are broken up between the voices, it lends the music a swirling, etherial feeling. Also, there are a couple places where there are 'chords' in the traditional sense (the passage at 39 in particular) which give the score a feeling 'opening up' (shall we say 'virga Jesse floruit'?) from the rather dense atonal, contrapuntal texures.

    The ending is fantastic, with the word 'alleluia' broken up into five syllable rather than four, and with the spacing of the voices (high trebles, low basses) if gives a Byzantine/Russian feel to it; there's really nothing quite as thrilling for me as big, full, pianissimo chords.

    I especially like that little phrase [B, G#, c, G, F#, A, B-flat] first heard in measure 23.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    I like it too. Nice work. There seeems to be a page of Ave Maria stuck in the middle of the pdf score ,,, gave me a puzzle for awhile.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    btw if I have time I hope to make a better recording of at least part of this, with my tuning and vocal sounds ... don't hold your breath, though ..
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,025
    I especially like that little phrase [B, G#, c, G, F#, A, B-flat] first heard in measure 23.
    Actually, those are the first seven notes of the tone row that is the genesis of this work. In the 8-part version, the seven notes you cite beginning at m. 23 are in the A1 part and the tone row is completed by the five notes beginning at m. 26 in the T1 part. The same tone row, transposed and starting on F, is heard as the first 12 notes of the work, in the layered/overlappping "O magnum mysterium" passed among the voices (in the 12-part version, each voice sings exactly one note of this tone row at the beginning).

    The tone row appears, inverted, beginning at m. 13, beginning in the T1 part, then moving to the A1 part, and finally to the S1 & M1 parts. The inversion also appears in the B2 part at m. 26 for seven notes and then moves on to the Bt2 part at m. 29 for the final five notes.

    The tone row in inverted retrograde motion appears in Ch. 2 as first 12 notes, begnning at m. 53, and then as non-inverted retrograde in Ch. 1 as the first twelve notes beginning at m. 65.

    After the "Ave Maria" section, the most complex polyphony begins at m. 91, with the original tone row in the B2 part, the inverted tone row in octaves in the M1 & T1 parts, and the retrograde tone row in the A1 part. This is answered beginning at m. 97 with the inverted tone row in the S1 part, the original tone row in octaves in the A2 and Bt 2 parts, and the inverted retrograde tone row in the T2 part.

    The "Alleluia" section begins, at m. 111, much like the beginning of the piece, but this time with the inverted tone row as the first twelve notes. This then gives way, at m. 132, to the original tone row in the A1 & A2 parts, followed by inverted tone row in the S1 & M1 parts.

    Veering away from the tone row material to the "Dominum natum ... in praesepio" (m. 39-52) and "Ave Maria ... Dominus tecum" (m. 78-90) sections: The block harmonic structure is made up of three pairs of chords, one utilizing all 6 notes of a whole tone scale followed by a major chord, whose root is not part of the whole tone scale. The three major chords in each section descend by a whole step at each occurrence, major chords on F-sharp, E, D and then D, C, B-flat (although in the the second group, the top notes of the major chords rise D, E, F). This pattern of three major key chords rising (or falling) by whole steps occurs elsewhere – rising: G-flat, A-flat, B-flat (m. 104-105); B-flat, C, D (m. 106-107); E, F-sharp, G-sharp (m. 129-130) – falling: D, C, B-flat (m. 138-140).

    There are a few more devices that occur, such as the generally rising sequence of chords at the end that are prefigured in m. 19-21, and elsewhere the superposition of two major chords each a major third apart at m. 108 (D and B-flat) and at the very end (G-flat and B-flat).

    These comments are not intended to do anything but inform the curious singer/listener as to the various bits and pieces out of which this work is composed.

  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,025
    There seeems to be a page of Ave Maria stuck in the middle of the pdf score
    The full text of the responsory to the fourth lesson at Matins of Christmas Day is:
    O magnum mysterium
    et admirabile sacramentum,
    ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
    jacentem in præsepio!

    O beata Virgo, cujus viscera
    meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.

    Ave Maria, gratia plena:
    Dominus tecum.

    O beata Virgo, cujus viscera
    meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.

    Alleluia!
    Thus the page containing Ave Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum is not there by accident.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,727
    . wrong thread
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    thanks for clarifying!