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Jacobus de Kerle Preces Speciales Primum Responsorium Pro Concilio

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Published on Aug 30, 2012

These "Special Prayers for the Success of the General Council" were commissioned by Cardinal Otto, Lord High Steward of Waldburg, and Bishop of Augsburg, and written for the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563). This gathering affected and re-defined many religious, political, and cultural aspects of life in countries where the Roman Catholic Church predominated. In regards to music, the Council was concerned with simplifying the polyphonic style to make texts more easily understandable to the laity, and with eliminating "impure" influences such as basing a mass on a cantus firmus that was in fact a popular or secular folktune, which was mostly the practice at the time. But many of these reforms in fact initiated aesthetic and religious tensions, reflected in such unsettling works as Orlando di Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro (The Tears of St. Peter) or Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Liberated).

In these prayer settings, Kerle combined aspects of Flemish counterpoint and Italian style to produce a harmonically striking style with sudden changes of texture while still employing clear, lean modal practice. Each mode used was programmatically associated with a specific aspect of Christian practice: for example, the "primo tono" with peace and justice, the Phrygian mode with repentance, the "quinto tono" with spiritual re-birth, and the "ottavo tono" with the longing for compassion.

The ten prayers for the "Preces Speciales" were written between 1551 and 1562 by the Dominican Petrus de Soto, who was a professor of theology at Dillingen. The texts are based on various Biblical passages, quoted or paraphrased, that reflected the concerns of the Council, and were grouped together in the ten larger sections or responses: Nos. 1, 2, 3 "Pro Concilio" (For the Council), Nos. 4, 5 "Pro Populi Christiani unione" (For the union of the Christian people), No. 6 "Pro remissione peccatorum" (For the remission of error), Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10 "Contra Ecclesiae hostium furorem" (Against the fury of the Church's enemies).

Each of the ten responses contains a "corpus," "versus" I, II, and III, and a concluding "Gloria Patri - Kyrie." For example, the Fifth Responsory contains "Corpus: Simus, Domine, renati omnes consummati in unum" (Let us all who are reborn, O Lord, become perfect in a single unity), the "Versus primus: Sit multitudinis christianorum cor unum et anima uuna" (Versus I: May the multitudes of Christians be united in thought and in soul), the "Versus secundus: Sis tu, Domine, nobis unus deus et pater omnium" (Versus II: May You, O Lord, be our only God and the Father of us all), the "Versus tertius: Non sit, Domine, in corpore tuo schisma" (Versus III: Let there be no division, O Lord, in your body), and the "Gloria Patri" (Glory be to the Father...) and "Sequuntur preces: Kyrie, Christie, Kyrie" (Prayer sequence: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy).

Apparently, these settings were well-received and sung in the assemblies three times a week.

Vox Hesperia and Romano Vettori

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