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Ordo musicae: Sexagesima

March 4, 2011

February 27, Sexagesima:

Palestrina Missa Brevis

Villa-Lobos Pater Noster


Blest are the Pure in Heart (Franconia)

Come, Labor On (Ora Labora)

On the organ:

Flor Peeters:  Aria

Buxtehude:  Praeludium in G Major

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) was a Brazilian composer, one of many from Latin America who, present and past, has given civilization beautiful music to contemplate.  His Pater Noster dates from 1950, so I suppose it can be considered a mature work, though perhaps these distinctions detract unnecessarily from the valid vibrancy of youth.  In his book What to Listen for in Music, the American composer Aaron Copland says that Villa-Lobos had a feeling for the lushly colorful, and I agree.  Villa-Lobos’s music is, at moments, downright voluptuous.  It reminds me in many ways of Poulenc and some of the other French masters of the 20th century.  The story of his development makes for quite a tale, but it is not unusual for composers’ lives to become encrusted in legend, even of the autobiographical sort.

The tune Ora Labora, which we sang for the last hymn, was written by T. Tertius Noble, one of the great English-American organists who ended up at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York.  Written in the warm and toasty key of A-flat major, the melody of this hymn is disjunct but still tuneful.  Along with the Villa-Lobos, it shows the heights of creativity that were being reached in the early-mid 20th century, a creativity which has not ceased to this day, all the artistic controversies notwithstanding.

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