Welcome to Harmonia…I’m Angela Mariani.
One of the best-loved books of the Bible is the Book of Psalms, and one of the best-loved Psalms is #23:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.”
This hour, we shall not want for musical settings of the words of King David; his many psalms, his tragic laments, and his instrument of choice—the harp. Plus, our featured release is Sansara: Cloths of Heaven.
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The King’s Singers / Saraband
Signum 2005 / B00CXJQA00
Salamone Rossi Hebreo
Tr. 6 Psalm 118 (4:49)
Psalm 118: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,” composer Salamone Rossi’s setting of the Hebrew text, from Rossi’s collection of Jewish liturgical music, The Songs of Solomon.
Psalm 63: “I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you,” so writes King David, lifting his voice in praise. David is perhaps the most famous musician of biblical times. Both an underdog and a ruler, David is credited with writing more psalms than any other author. In Psalm 53, David is in the desert of Judah, and he writes “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” We hear this longing in Claude Le Jeune’s setting for three voices, chasing each other.
Psaumes et Chansons de la Réforme
Ensemble Clement Janequin / dir. Dominique Visse
Harmonia Mundi 2000 / B00004I9RF
Claude Le Jeune
Tr. 19 O Dieu, je n'ay Dieu fors que toy, "Psalm 63" (2:23)
Psalms have been used in congregational singing for hundreds of years. During the Reformation, psalms were modified so that worshippers could sing in vernacular languages. Some composers took even more liberties with psalm texts—loosely translating them for use outside the church. Benedetto Marcello set 50 Psalms of David using texts by his Arcadia Academy colleague Girolamo Ascanio Giustiniani. We’ll hear Marcello’s setting of Psalm 28.
Benedetto Marcello: Psalms and Sonatas, Vol. 1
Ensemble Salamone Rossi / Lydia Cevidalli, dir. / soloists
Concerto 2019 / B07LD4GPMV
Tr. 1 Psalm 27, “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei (3:26)
Tr. 2 Psalm 27, “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,”Mentre ti prego e le mie mani io stendo” (1:27)
Tr. 3 Psalm 27, “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Deh non lasciar che fra la turba insane (0:33)
Tr. 4 Psalm 27, “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Suonan sul labro lor voci di pace (1:18)
Tr. 5 Psalm 27, “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Eguale a l'opre loro, a' rei disegni (0:26)
Tr. 6 “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Giusto fia, grande Iddio, che tu gli atterri (1:19)
Tr. 7 “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Poiché questa superba ed empia gente (0:21)
Tr. 8 “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Mai sempre viva e benedetto sia (1:12)
Tr. 9 “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Ei m'è scudo e difesa (2:19)
Tr. 10 “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Questa fidanza di risorger tosto (1:37)
Tr. 11 “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Il grande Iddio du popol su diletto (:32)
Tr. 12 “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei,” Dunque salvar ti degna (2:47)
We’ve been listening to 18th century composer Benedetto Marcello’s setting of Psalm 28: “A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei.”
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You can hear highlights from recent and archival concert recordings of early music on Harmonia Uncut -- our biweekly podcast, curated and hosted by Wendy Gillespie. Listen online at harmonia early music dot org and through iTunes.
You’re listening to Harmonia . . . I’m Angela Mariani.
Theme Music Bed: Ensemble Alcatraz, Danse Royale, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 / B000005J0B, T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal
Toys for Two: From Dowland to California
Luca Pianca, lute; Margret Köll, harp
Accent 2018 / B079YZ1KBY
Excerpt of Tr. 3 La Rossignol (arr. for lute and harp) (1:47)
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In paintings, King David is most often shown playing harp—though he occasionally plays lyre or even portative organ. On one of the columns in Chartres Cathedral, there is a sculpture of David playing the harp. While it probably doesn’t bear much resemblance to the one David himself would have played, it is more typical of the sort of harps singers might have used to accompany themselves in the 12th century, when the sculpture was made. Present-day creators of medieval instruments have used this very sculpture as a model for many of their harps. Benjamin Bagby used one such “new medieval” instrument to accompany himself – and the other singers of Sequentia – in a performance of Dolorum solatium, David’s lament for the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, by the 12th-century philosopher and poet, Peter Abaelard.
Visions from the Book
Sequentia; Benjamin Bagby, harp
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 1996 / B000001TZ3
Tr. 3 Dolorum solatium (12:56)
“To my strings I now give peace – if only I could do the same to my laments and tears! In plucking with wounded hands, in lamenting with hoarse notes, my spirit fails.” Benjamin Bagby played harp and sang—along with the other singers of Sequentia – performing King David’s lament for the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, Dolorum solatium, by the 12th-century philosopher and poet, Peter Abaelard.
German Baroque composer Heinrich Schütz set many psalms of David to music. Psalm 6 is a prayer for mercy in times of distress—we’ll hear his setting for eight voices and basso continuo, Ach Herr, straf mich nicht.
Psalmen Davids samt etlichen Moteten und Concerten
Cantus Köln / Concerto Palatino / dir. Konrad Junghanel
Harmonia Mundi 2012 / B00C48WOZK
CD 1 Tr. 2 Psalmen Davids samt etlichen Moteten und Concerten, Op. 2, SWV 22-47, Ach Herr, straf mich nicht, SWV 24, "Psalm 6" (4:39)
Oh Lord, do not punish me in Your anger. The 6th Psalm. Set by Heinrich Schütz. Cantus Köln and Concerto Palatino were led by Konrad Junghanel.
From David’s instrument and his psalms, we’ll turn our attention, now, back to his tears. David’s third son, Absalom, rebelled against his father and tried to overthrow him. Absalom’s death during the battle of Ephriam’s Wood left David wracked with grief, and many composers have created music inspired by the brief passage from the book of Samuel that describe his lament. One such composition, from the Renaissance, is found on our featured release this week: Sansara: Cloths of Heaven. It’s the debut recording of a chamber choir made up of young professional singers from across the United Kingdom, who work together without a single director or conductor. We’ll hear their performance of the motet, Lugebat David Absalon, by franco-flemish composer Nicolas Gombert.
Sansara: Cloths of Heaven
Convivium 2017 / B06WLGN5KR
Tr. 3 Lugebat David Absalon (8:39)
Lugebat David Absalon, “David mourned for Absalom.” A motet for eight voices by Nicolas Gombert. We heard the chamber ensemble Sansara, from our featured release, Sansara: Cloths of Heaven.
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Harmonia is a production of WFIU. Support comes from Early Music America which strengthens and celebrates early music by supporting the people and organizations that perform, study, and find joy in it....on the web at EarlyMusicAmerica-DOT-org.
Additional resources come from the William and Gayle Cook Music Library at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
We welcome your thoughts about any part of this program, or about early music in general. Contact us at harmonia early music dot org. And, you can follow our Facebook page and our updates on Twitter by searching for Harmonia Early Music.
The writer for this edition of Harmonia was Sarah Huebsch Schilling.
Thanks to our studio engineer Michael Paskash, and our production team: Aaron Cain, Wendy Gillespie, LuAnn Johnson and John Bailey. I’m Angela Mariani, inviting you to join us again for the next edition of Harmonia.
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