Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/676

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664

��PASSION MUSIC.

��pristine purity, that we may fairly accept as genuine the version which, at the instance of Pope Sixtus V, Guidetti published at Rome in the year 1586, under the title of ' Cantus eccle- siasticus Passionis Domini nostri Jesu Christi gecundum Matthaeum, Marcum, Lucarn, et Jo- annem ' S. Matthew's version being appointed for the Mass of Palm Sunday, S. Mark's for that of the Tuesday in Holy Week, S. Luke's for that of the Wednesday, and S. John's for Good Friday.

Certainly, since the beginning of the i3th cen- tury, and probably from a much earlier period, it has been the custom to sing the Music of the Passion in the following manner. The Text is divided between three Ecclesiastics called the ' Deacons of the Passion,' one of whom chaunts the words spoken by our Lord, another, the Nar- rative of the Evangelist, and the third, the Ex- clamations uttered by the Apostles, the Crowd, and others whose conversation is recorded in the Gospel. In most Missals, and other Office-Books, the part of the First Deacon is indicated by a Cross ; that of the Second by the letter C. (for Chronittd), and that of the Third by S. (for Syna- goga). Sometimes, however, the First part is marked by the Greek letter X. (for Christus), the Second byE. (for Evangelista), and the Third by T. (for Turbo). Less frequent forms are, a Cross for Christus, C. for Cantor, and S. for Succentor ; or S. for Salvator, E. for Evangelista, and Ch. for Chorus. Finally, we occasionally find the part of our Lord marked B. for assus ; that of the Evangelist M. for Medina ; and that of the Crowd A. for Altus; the First Deacon being always a Bass Singer, the Second a Tenor, and the Third an Alto. A different phrase of the Chaunt is allotted to each Voice ; but the same phrases are repeated over and over again through- out to different words, varying only in the Cadence, which is subject to certain changes determined by the nature of the Voice which is to follow. The Second Deacon announces the History and the name of the Evangelist, thus :

��Fu-st - o Do -mi -nl no - strl J - su Christ!

��It - cun-dum Mat - th - - um.

He then proceeds with the Narrative, thus : ^ ~T==

In 11 - lo tempore, etc.

But, if one of the utterances of our Lord should follow, he changes the Cadence, thus :

��When the Crowd follows, he sings thus :

��Or thus.

��PASSION MUSIC.

Our Lord's words are sung by the First Deacon, thus :

��Or, before the Crowd.

��etc. Or, at a Final Close.

L ^

��The Third Deacon sings thus :

��Or, before our Lord's words.

��Until the latter half of the i6th century the Passion was always sung in this manner by the three Deacons alone. The difficulty of so singing it is almost incredible ; but its effect, when really well chaunted, is most touching. Still, the mem- bers of the Pontifical Choir believed it possible to improve upon the time-honoured custom ; and, in the year 1585, Vittoria produced a very simple polyphonic setting of those portions of the te.\t which are uttered by the Crowd, the effect of which, intermingled with the Chaunt sung by the Deacons, was found to be so striking, that it has ever since remained in use. His wailing harmonies are written in such strict accordance with the spirit of the older Melody, that no sus- picion of incongruity between them is anywhere perceptible. The several clauses fit into each other as smoothly as those of a Litany, and the general effect is so beautiful that it has been celebrated for the last three centuries as one of the greatest triumphs of Polyphonic Art.

Mendelssohn, indeed, objects to it rather fiercely in one of his Letters, on the ground that it is neither dramatic nor descriptive ; that the Music does not properly express the sense of the text ; and that especially the words, ' Crucifige eum,' are sung by ' very tame Jews indeed ' (sehr zahme Jtiden). But we must remember that there was nothing whatever in common between the purely devotional Music of the Polyphonic School and that of the ' Reformirte Kirche ' to which Mendelssohn was attached So little did he sympathise with it, that, as he himself has told us, he could not even endure its constant alter- nation of Recitation and Cadence in an ordinary Psalm Tone. He longed for a more fiery reading of the story; and would have had its awful scenes portrayed with all the descriptive energy proper to an Oratorio. But such an exhibition as this would have been manifestly out of place in a Holy Week Service Moreover, the Evangelists themselves treat the subject in an epic and not a

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