Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/99

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LAMENTATIONS.
87
 

tionen liber primus. The work was prefaced by a formal dedication to the Supreme Pontiff, who, though he still adhered to his resolution of having the Second and Third Lessons sung always in Plain Chaunt, expressed great pleasure in accepting it: and, in 1589, it was reprinted, at Venice, in 8vo., by Girolamo Scoto.

More complex in construction than the great Composer's 'Improperia,' though infinitely less so than his Masses and Motets, these matchless 'Lamentations' are written, throughout, in the devout and impressive style which produces so profound an effect in the first-named work, and always with marked attention to the mournful spirit of the words. They do not, like the Plain Chaunt rendering, embrace the entire text: but, after a certain number of verses, pause on the final chord of a prolonged cadence, and then pass on to the Strophe, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, with which each of the nine Lessons concludes. In the single Lesson for Good Friday—which, though not included in the original printed copy, is, undoubtedly, the most beautiful of all—the opening verses are sung by two Soprani, an Alto, and a Tenor; a Bass being added, in the concluding Strophe, with wonderful effect. A similar arrangement is followed in the third Lamentation for the same day: but the others are for four voices only, and most of them with a Tenor in the lowest place; while in all, without exception, the introductory sentences, 'Incipit Lamentatio,' or, 'De Lamentatione,' as well as the names of the Hebrew initial letters, are set to harmonies of infinite richness and beauty—

Feria VI in Parasceve. Lectio I.

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 4/2 \key d \minor << \relative f' { R\breve*4^"Cantus 1" r1 f ~ | f g | a1. bes2 | c\breve\fermata } \addlyrics { Heth __ _ _ _ _ }
\new Staff << \key d \minor 
\new Voice = "cantus2" { \voiceOne \relative f' { R\breve*3^"Cantus 2" f\breve | g1 a ~ | a2 bes c1( | f,\breve) | g \bar "|" } } 
\new Voice = "altus" { \voiceTwo \relative f' { f\breve_"Altus" g1 a ~ | a2 g f e | d c d f ~ | f e d c | d1 c | r f ~ | f2 e4 d e2_\fermata } } >>
\new Lyrics \lyricsto "altus" { Heth __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Heth __ _ _ _ }
%\new Lyrics \with { alignAboveContext = "staff" } { \lyricsto "cantus2" { Heth __ _ } }
\new Staff { \clef bass \key d \minor \relative b { r1^"Tenor" bes ~ bes c | d1. c2 | bes a bes1 | g f | r2 f'1 e2 | d\breve | c\fermata } \addlyrics { Heth __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Heth __ _ _ _ } }
>> }

Since the death of Palestrina, the manner of singing the Lamentations in the Pontifical Chapel has undergone no very serious change. In accordance with the injunction of Pope Sixtus V, the Second and Third Lessons for each day have always been sung[1] in Plain Chaunt: generally, by a single Soprano; but, sometimes, by two, the perfection of whose unisonous performance has constantly caused it to be mistaken for that of a single Voice. Until the year 1640, the First Lesson for each day was sung from Palestrina's printed volume. In that year, the single unpublished Lesson for Good Friday, composed in 1587, was restored to its place, and the use of the published one discontinued: while a new composition, by Gregorio Allegri, was substituted for Palestrina's Lesson for Holy Saturday. The restoration of the MS. work can only be regarded as an inestimable gain. Allegri's work will not bear comparison with that which it displaced; though it is a composition of the highest order of merit, abounding in beautiful combinations, and written with a true appreciation of the spirit of the text. It opens as follows:—

Sabbato Sancto. Lectio I.

{ \time 4/2 \key d \minor << \new Voice = "one" { \voiceOne { \relative a' { a1 a a f ~ f f f\breve e | r1 r2 c' ~ c bes a1 g2 f1 e2 f\breve\fermata | } } }
\new Voice { \voiceTwo \relative f' { f1 f e d c\breve c2 d g,\breve r1 c e f d2 d c1 c\breve } }
\new Lyrics \lyricsto "one" { De La -- men -- ta -- ti -- o -- ne Je -- re -- mi -- ae Pro -- phe -- tae. } 
\new Staff << \clef bass \key d \minor \new Voice { \voiceOne \relative c' { c1 d ~ d2 c1 bes2 ~ bes a4 g a1 ~ | a2 c1 b2 c1 r2 c ~ | c bes a1 | g f bes2. a4 g1 a\breve } }
\new Voice { \voiceTwo f1 d a, bes, f, f ~ | f2 e d1 | c c | e f | c d | bes, c | f,\breve | } >>
>> } etc.

It will be seen that Allegri has here not only adopted the tonality in which nearly all Palestrina's Lamentations are written—the Thirteenth Mode, transposed—but has also insensibly fallen very much into the Great Master's method of treatment. Unhappily, the same praise cannot be awarded to another work, which he produced in 1651, a few months only before his death, and which, though it bears but too plain traces of his failing discernment, was accepted by the College, as a mark of respect to the dying Composer, and retained in use until the Pontificate of Benedict XIII. This Pontiff inaugurated a radical change, by decreeing that the First Lessons should no longer be sung in this shortened form, but, with the entire text set to music. To meet his desire, three Lamentations, by modern writers, were submitted for approval, but unanimously rejected by the College, who commissioned Giovanni Biordi to add to the compositions of Palestrina and Allegri whatever was necessary to complete the text. Biordi was, perhaps, as well fitted as any man then living to undertake this difficult task: but it is to be regretted that he did not more carefully abstain from the use of certain forbidden intervals, and unlicensed chords. At the word, lacrymis, in the Lesson for Good Friday, he has made the first Soprano move a chromatic semitone, thereby producing, with the other parts, the chord of the Augmented Sixth. No doubt, his object in doing this was to intensify the expression of the word: but, neither the semitone, nor the chord, would have been tolerated by

  1. Of course, without any accompaniment.