The Italian opera composer, Giuseppe Sarti (1729-1802), moved to
Russia to teach composition, but became influenced by the musical traditions of
Russian Orthodox Church. In Nïñe sílï ñebésnïya (“Now the Powers of Heaven”), Sarti combines the sweetness of
older compositional techniques (stile antico) with virtuosic vocal fireworks
that vividly paint the power of heaven.
Now the Powers of
Heaven serve invisibly with us;
lo, the King of Glory enters.
Lo, the mystical sacrifice is upborne, fulfilled.
Let us draw near in faith and love
and become communicants of life eternal.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
—from the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts
Run on (“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”) is a traditional American folk song that speaks of the
temptations and pitfalls of life, and the threat of God’s judgment. It has been
arranged to fit many popular music genres, and sung by artists like Johnny
Cash, Odetta, Elvis Presley, the Blind Boys or Alabama. It is arranged here for
choir by Gary Ruschman (b. 1973).
American spirituals often speak to goal of reaching heaven and
experiencing its healing powers. Deep River in this classic arrangement by Norman Luboff (1917-1987)
expresses the desire for deliverance from the trials of this life and the
ultimate healing of the life to come, symbolized by crossing the river Jordan.
The Battle of Jericho recounts
one of the Bible’s great stories of the power of heaven focused through the
actions of the faithful Joshua. Moses Hogan’s (1957-2003) dynamic arrangement
of this familiar song shifts into emotional overdrive to reveal the unrelenting
energy of the battle scene that day.
Maurice Duruflê (1902-1986) sang in the Rouen Cathedral Choir as a child and
later studied organ with Charles Tournemire, Cesar Franck’s successor at St-
Clotilde in Paris. In 1920 he entered the Paris Conservatory, eventually
winning first prizes in organ, harmony, piano accompaniment and composition. In
1929, he became titular organist of St- tienne-du-Mont in Paris, where he
stayed the rest of his life.
Duruflé’s Requiem Opus 9 is one
of the great musical masterpieces of the 20th century, but it is unusual in
several ways. There are three versions of the work, each with a different
nstrumental accompaniment. One version is for organ alone (heard on this
recording), another for organ and string orchestra with optional trumpets, harp
and timpani, and one or organ and full orchestra. Of these, the version with
organ accompaniment alone is the least-often recorded, but demonstrates
Durufle’s complete mastery of orchestration at the organ. The 2008 organ by
Gene Bedient at Sioux Falls First Congregational Church has many French
Romantic colors, employed to great effect in this performance.
Durufle’s recommendations for soloists
are also unusual. The use of soloists is sparse, and there are indications in
the score that the Baritone “solo” could be sung by the choir. The combination
of instrumental accompaniments and soloist possibilities has led to a wide
variety of performances of this work. Musically, Duruflé set ancient chant
melodies into modern harmonies, particularly the Gregorian chants from “Mass
for the Dead”, thus achieving a musical work that weaves together centuries of
musical traditions. The Requiem’s most powerful attribute being the enveloping
sonorities, which encompass the entire spectrum of human emotion and
experience. From thundering depictions of the Day of Judgment to beautiful
pianissimo prayers for light and salvation, the powerful experience of this
music has brought many a sense of consolation, healing, peace, and a hope that
“angels will lead us into paradise”—as the Requiem’s last musical movement
states with powerful and Heavenly reassurance.