From the Archives

Masterworks of Bach, Brahms, Bruckner, Schütz

The Providence Singers
     Andrew Clark, Artistic Director

Newport Baroque Orchestra
Paul Cienniwa, Founding Artistic Director

8 p.m. Friday, October 26, 2007
Immaculate Conception Church, Cranston

8 p.m. Saturday, October 27, 2007
Blessed Sacrament Church, Providence

3 p.m. Sunday, October 28, 2007
St. Mary’s Church, Bristol

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)  
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)  
Edwin London (1929–)  
Anton Bruckner (1824–1896)  
Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672)  

  Lobet den Herrn
  O Heiland reiß die Himmel auf
  Bach Again: Come Sweet Death (Bach)
  Ave Maria and Os Justi
  Musikalische Exequien


Johann Sebastian Bach

The six German motets of J.S. Bach are traditionally understood to have been written for occasional services – weddings, funerals and so forth – since the Lutheran liturgy of the early 18th century offered little opportunity for the form. They may have been performed outside the church prior to these services, using whatever musical forces could be mustered.

There is some debate among musicologists whether Lobet den Herrn is, in fact, a work of the great German master. It is the only motet written for four vocal lines (a continuo part was added later), and the earliest printed copy of the work dates from 1821, nearly three-quarters of a century after Bach’s death.


Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden;
preiset ihn, alle Völker!
Denn seine Gnade und Wahrheit
waltet über uns in Ewigkeit.

Praise the Lord, all nations;
praise him, all people.
For his mercy and truth
reign over us forever.


Johannes Brahms

Not a particularly devout or religious man, Brahms had a gift both for selecting substantive, significant texts and for marrying those texts to music. O Heiland reiß die Himmel auf (“O Savior, rend the heavens”) is the quintessential text for Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas in the Christian liturgical year. Advent is about longing for deliverance, preparing for change, pleading for renewal – and always with a great sense of urgency and anticipation.

Brahms chose poetry that rips the doors off heaven, bursts locks, reverses despondency, flows over Earth like dew, makes hills and valleys verdant, and nurtures even the tiniest flower. His music – five variations on a German chorale melody – establishes many colors to reflect the text: pleading chromatic passages, duple against triple meter, dissonance, increasing rhythmic and tonal complexity, and a fast-moving, urgent Amen, speeding toward resolution.


O Heiland reiß die Himmel auf;
Herab, herauf von Himmel lauf.
Reiß ab von Himmel Tor und Tür,
Reiß ab was Schloß und Riegel für.

O Savior, rend the heavens;
Hurry down from heaven above;
Tear down the gates and doors of heaven;
Release all that is under lock and key.

O Gott ein Tau von Himmel gieß,
Im Tau herab o Heiland fließ,
Ihr Wolken brecht und regnet aus
Den König über Jakobs Haus.

O God, send down a dew from heaven;
Flow down to us, Redeemer, in the dew;
Break your clouds and let it rain
Over the king of Jacob’s house.

O Erd schlag aus, schlag aus o Erd,
Daß Berg und Tal grün alles werd,
O Erd herfür dies Blümlein bring,
O Heiland aus der Erden spring.

Spring forth, o Earth, and flourish;
that mountain and valley stay always green;
bring forth the tiny flowers,
O Redeemer, from the earth.

Hie leiden wir die größte Not
Vor Augen steht der bittre Tod,
Ach komm, führ uns mit starker Hand
Von Elend zu dem Vaterland.

Now we face our greatest need;
a bitter death lies before us.
Come and lead us with your strong hand;
from our suffering to our Father’s land.

Da wollen wir all danken dir,
Unserm Erlöser für und für,
Da wollen wir all loben dich
Je allzeit immer und ewiglich. Amen.

So we all would give you thanks,
our Saviour, through and through;
we all wouldo praise you;
now and eternally. Amen.


Edwin London

A graduate of Oberlin College (B.M., 1952), London began his career as a horn player, performing the standard repertoire with professional orchestras and sitting in with jazz bands. He was a student of Luigi Dallapiccola, Gunther Schuller and – like Dave Brubeck – of Darius Milhaud. His compositions have brought him major awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, ASCAP and other organizations.

Nearly half of his published works incorporate texts, set in operas, songs and other choral works. In Bach Again, he deconstructs a familiar Bach chorale, removing meter and rhythm and allowing the piece to stand solely on its sonorities. Performers sing through the piece as Bach set it, then sing the same pattern of notes, but at their own individual tempi and rhythms. The piece continues to sound remarkably like Bach. The technique, London says, can be applied to any Bach chorale of a performer’s choosing.

Text (performed in English)

Come, sweet death! Come soothing rest.
Come and lead me homeward.
I am weary of life and longing.
Come, I am waiting for thee,
Come now and set me free.
My eyes at last are gently closing now,
Come, blessed rest.

Komm, süßer Tod, komm selige Ruh!
Komm führe mich in Friede,
Weil ich der Welt bin müde,
Ach komm! Ich wart auf dich,
Komm bald und führe mich,
Drück mir die Augen zu.
Komm, selige Ruh!


Anton Bruckner

Humble, deferential and religious, Bruckner was never entirely happy with the intrigues of Vienna. He was supremely inventive and productive as a composer (his early symphonies were considered “wild” and “nonsensical”) and was admired as an organist and educator, but his reputation and fame as a composer came to him late in his life. Gustav Mahler, who attended the Vienna Conservatory while Bruckner taught there, referred to Bruckner as “my fore-runner.”

A devout Catholic and church musician, Bruckner wrote at least seven masses, a number of psalm settings, a Te Deum and several motets. Of the motets, the Ave Maria and Os Justi remain in the standard choral repertoire and are frequently performed.


Ave Maria
Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Os Justi
Os justi meditabitur sapientiam,
et lingua ejus loquetur judicium.
Lex Dei ejus in corde ipsius;
et non supplantabuntur gressus ejus. Alleluia!

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.
The law of his God is in his heart;
and his feet do not falter. Alleluia!


Heinrich Schütz

Death, plague, dysentery, hysterical religious justice, brutal wars – all were part of life in the 16th and early 17th century in Germany. Schütz himself lost both his parents, his wife and two small daughters within the space of a few years. Small wonder that death, particularly death of the righteous (Komm, süßer Tod), should be such a prominent theological and philosophical theme.

Schütz’s patron for the Musikalische Exequien was Heinrich Reuss Posthumus, Lord of Gera, Schleiz and Lobenstein-with-Plauer – not a great German prince, but a learned, pious and cultivated man with a great passion for religious music. The texts of the Exequien are some of Posthumus’ favorite passages – verses of Scripture which he had engraved on and inside his pewter coffin. Many of them reflect the melancholy of the time, stressing the sorrow and difficulty of life and viewing death as joyful liberation for the righteous (drum fahr ich hin mit Freuden – Therefore, I die with joy).

Posthumus worked closely with Schütz and planned his own funeral with great care. (It is even possible that he participated in early performances of his own funeral music.) Designed as “a concert in the form of a German funeral mass,” Part I of the Exequien is recognizable as an extended Kyrie, the three-fold plea for God’s mercy, followed by verses of praise which stand for a Gloria. Part II, a choral setting of an earlier tenor solo (No. 19), was to precede the funeral sermon.

For Part III, the high point of the work, Schütz (and Posthumus, perhaps) gives precise instructions that the Nunc Dimittis be sung by a larger chorus grouped near the organ, while the Selig sind die Toten is to be sung more or less at the same time by a smaller, remote choir. It is possible that the smaller choir would have been singing from the crypt, a chorus of angels receiving the mortal remains of a pious man. The entire Exequien thus imitates the arc of a righteous life, from birth (“Naked came I from my mother’s womb”) to eternal rest.

Schütz himself conducted all the music at the funeral ceremony on February 4, 1635.

Text: Part I

1. Antiphon (Tenor Solo)
    Nacket bin ich von Mutterleibe kommen,
2. Verse (TTB Soli)
    nacket werde ich wiederum dahinfahren.
    Der Herr hat’s gegeben,
    der Herr hat’s genommen,
    der Name des Herren sie gelobet.

1. Antiphon (Tenor Solo)
    Naked came I from my mother’s womb,
2. Verse (TTB Trio)
    naked shall I also return.
    The Lord has given;
    the Lord has taken away.
    Blessed be the name of the Lord.

3. Kyrie (Chorus)
    Herr Gott, Vater im Himmel,
    erbarm dich über uns!
4. Verse (ST Soli)
    Christus ist mein Leben,
    Sterben ist mein Gewinn.
    Siehe, das ist Gottes Lamm,
    das der Welt Sünde trägt.
5. Kyrie (Chorus)
    Jesu Christe, Gottes Sohn
    erbarm dich über uns!
6. Verse (AB Soli)
    Leben wir, so leben wir dem Herren;
    sterben wir, so sterben wir dem Herren.
    Darum: Wir leben oder sterben
    so sind wir des Herren.
7. Kyrie (Chorus)
    Herr Gott, Heiliger Geist
    erbarm dich über uns!
8. Antiphon (Tenor Solo)
    Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt,
    daß er seinen eingebornen Sohn gab
9. Verse (SSATTB Soli)
    auf daß alle, die an ihn gläuben,
    nicht verloren werden,
    sondern das ewige Leben haben.

3. Kyrie (Chorus)
    Lord God, Father in heaven,
    have mercy upon us!
4. Verse (ST Duet)
    Christ is my life,
    death is my gain.
    Behold the Lamb of God,
    that takes away the sin of the world.
5. Kyrie (Chorus)
    Jesus Christ, Son of God,
    have mercy upon us!
6. Verse (AB Duet)
    As we live, we live in the Lord;
    as we die, we die in the Lord.
    Therefore, whether we live or die,
    we are the Lord’s own.
7. Kyrie (Chorus)
    Lord God, Holy Sprit,
    have mercy upon us!
8. Antiphon (Tenor Solo)
    For God so loved the world
    that He gave His only begotten Son,
9. Verse (SSATTB Sextet)
    that whosoever believed in him
    will never be lost,
    but will have eternal life.

10. Er sprach (Chorus)
Er sprach zu seinem lieben Sohn:
“Die Zeit ist hie zu erbarmen;
fahr hin, mein’s Herzens werte Kron,
und sei das Heil der Armen,
und hilf ihn aus der Sünden Not,
erwürg für sie den bittern Tod
und laß sie mit dir leben.”

10. He spoke to His beloved Son (Chorus)
He spoke to his beloved Son:
“Now is the time for mercy.
Go, worthy crown of my heart,
and be the salvation of the poor
and help them from the distress of sin;
take upon yourself their bitter death
and let them live with you.”

11. Das Blut Jesu Christi (ST Soli)
Das Blut Jesu Christi, des Sohnes Gottes,
machet uns rein von allen Sünden

11. The blood of Jesus Christ (ST Duet)
The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son,
cleanses us from all sin.

12. Durch ihn ist uns vergeben (Chorus)
Durch ihn ist uns vergeben die Sünd,
geschenkt das Leben.
Im Himmel soll’n wir haben,
O Gott, wie große Gaben!

12. Through Him we are forgiven (Chorus)
Through Him our sin is forgiven,
our life restored.
In heaven we shall have,
O God, such great benefactions!

13. Unser Wandel ist im Himmel (SB Soli)
Unser Wandel ist im Himmel,
von dannen wir auch warten des Heilandes
Jesu Christi, des Herren,
welcher unsern nichtigen Leib verklären wird,
daß er ähnlich werde seinem verklärten Leibe.

13. Our destiny is heaven (SB Duet)
Our destiny is heaven:
from there also we await the Savior
Jesus Christ, the Lord,
who will transfigure our worthless body,
so that it becomes like His transfigured body.

14. Es ist allhier ein Jammertal (Chorus)
Es ist allhier ein Jammertal,
Angst, Not und Trübsal überall,
des Bleibens ist ein kleine Zeit,
voller Mühseligkeit,
und wer’s bedenkt, ist immer im Streit.

14. Here is a vale of tears (Chorus)
Everywhere here is a vale of tears,
worry, need and sorrow all around;
our stay here is for but a brief time
full of hardship,
and the thoughtful one is always in discord.

15. Wenn eure Sünde gleich blutrot (TT Soli)
Wenn eure Sünde gleich blutrot wäre,
soll sie doch schneeweiß werden;
wenn sie gleich ist wie rosinfarb,
soll sie doch wie Wolle werden.

15. Were your sins as red as blood (Tenor Duet)
Were your sin as red as blood,
it shall be as white as snow;
were it red like crimson,
it shall be as wool.

16. Sein Wort (Chorus)
Sein Wort, sein Tauf, sein Nachtmahl
dient wider allen Unfall,
der Heilge Geist im Glauben
lehrt uns darauf vertrauen.

16. His Word (Chorus)
His word, His baptism, His Eucharist
serve against all misfortune;
through faith, the Holy Spirit
teaches us to believe that.

17. Gehe hin, mein Volk (Alto Solo)
Gehe hin, mein Volk, in eine Kammer
und schleuß die Tür nach dir zu!
Verbirge dich einen kleinen Augenblick,
bis der Zorn vorübergehe.

17. Go, my people (Alto Solo)
Go, my people, into your chamber
and shut the door behind you!
Hide yourselves for a short moment
until the wrath has passed.

18. Der Gerechten Seelen (SSB Soli)
Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand,
und keine Qual rühret sie an;
für den Unverständigen
werden sie angesehen, als stürben sie,
und ihr Abschied wird für eine Pein gerechnet,
und ihr Hinfahren für Verderben,
aber sie sind in Frieden.

18. The Souls of the Righteous (SSB Trio)
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God
and no torment shall touch them;
in the sight of the unwise
they seem to die,
and their departure is taken for torment,
and their going away to be destruction;
but they are in peace.

19. Herr, wenn ich nur dich (Tenor Solo)
Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe,
so frage ich nichts nach Himmel und Erden.

19. Lord, if I have only You (Tenor Solo)
Lord, if I have only You,
I ask nothing else of heaven or earth.

20. Wenn mir gleich Leib und Seele (ATTB Soli)
Wenn mir gleich Leib und Seele verschmacht
so bist du, Gott, allzeit
meines Herzens Trost und mein Teil.

20. If my body and soul (ATTB Quartet)
If when my body and soul are dying,
You, God, are at all times
my heart’s comfort heart and my portion.

21. Er ist das Heil (Chorus)
Er ist das Heil und selig Licht
für die Heiden, zu erleuchten,
die dich kennen nicht,
und zu weiden. Er ist seines Volks Israel
der Preis, Ehr, Freud und Wonne.

21. He is the salvation (Chorus)
He is the salvation and blessed light
for the heathen, to enlighten
those who know You not,
and to tend them. He is His people Israel’s
prize, honor, joy and delight.

22. Unser Leben währet siebenzig Jahr (BB Soli)
Unser Leben währet siebenzig Jahr,
und wenn’s hoch kömmt,
so sind’s achtzig Jahr,
und wenn es köstlich gewesen ist,
so ist es Müh und Arbeit gewesen.

22. Our life lasts seventy years (Bass Duet)
Our life lasts for seventy years
or if it should last a little longer,
it runs eighty years at most.
Even if it was wonderful,
it was also trouble and labor.

23. Ach, wie elend (Chorus)
Ach, wie elend ist unser Zeit
allhier auf dieser Erden,
gar bald der Mensch darniederleit,
wir müssen alle sterben.
Allhier in diesem Jammertal
ist Müh und Arbeit überall,
auch wenn dir’s wohl gelinget.

23. Ah, how wretched (Chorus)
Ah, how wretched is our time
here on this earth.
soon man lies down,
as we all must die.
Here, in this vale of tears,
trouble and labor are everywhere,
even when all goes well.

24. Ich weiß daß mein Erlöser lebt (Tenor Solo)
Ich weiß daß mein Erlöser lebt,
und er wird mich hernach
aus der Erden auferwecken,
und werde darnach mit
dieser meiner Haut umgeben werden
und werde in meinem Fleisch Gott sehen.

24. I know that my Redeemer lives (Tenor Solo)
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and he shall make me then
arise from the earth:
And this my skin then
shall cover my body,
and in my flesh I shall see God.

25. Weil du vom Tod (Chorus)
Weil du vom Tod erstanden bist,
werd ich im Grab nicht bleiben,
mein höchster Trost dein Auffahrt ist,
Todsfurcht kannst du vertreiben,
denn wo du bist, da komm ich hin,
daß ich stets bei dir leb und bin,
drum fahr ich hin mit Freuden.

25. Since you arose from death (Chorus)
Since You arose from death,
I shall not remain in the grave,
Your ascension is my greatest comfort,
You can drive away the fear of death,
for where You are, I will go too,
so that I may live and be with You forever,
therefore I die with joy.

26. Herr, ich lasse dich nicht (SSATTB Soli)
Herr, ich lasse dich nicht,
du segnest mich denn.

26. Lord, I will not let You go (SSATTB Sextet)
Lord, I will not let You go,
unless You bless me.

27. Halt dich an mich (Chorus)
Er sprach zu mir: Halt dich an mich,
es soll dir itzt gelingen.
Ich geb mich selber ganz für dich,
da will ich für dich ringen.
Den Tod verschlingt das Leben mein,
mein Unschuld trägt die Sünden dein,
da bist du selig worden.

27. Hold fast to Me (Chorus)
He said to me: Hold fast to me
and everything will go well for you.
I give Myself wholly for you,
and I will struggle for you.
My life swallows up death
my innocence bears your sins,
so that you might be made holy.

Text: Part II

28. Herr, wenn ich nur dich (Chorus)
Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe,
so frage ich nichts nach Himmel und Erden.
Wenn mir gleich Leib und Seele verschmacht’,
so bist du doch, Gott,
allzeit meines Herzen Trost und mein Teil.

28. Lord, if I have only You (Chorus)
Lord, if I have only You,
I ask nothing else of heaven or earth.
Even though body and soul should fail me,
you, o God, will forever be
my heart’s consolation and my portion.

Text: Part III

The texts of the Nunc Dimittis (“Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace”) and the funeral verse Selig Sind die Toten (“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord”) are interspersed, performed by the main chorus and a smaller remote chamber chorus.

Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener
Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener
in Frieden fahren, wie du gesagt hast.
Denn meine Augen
haben deinen Heiland gesehen,
welchen du bereitet hast für allen Völkern,
ein Licht, zu erleuchten die Heiden,
und zum Preis deines Volks Israel.

Lord, now let your servant depart
Lord, now let Your servant
depart in peace, as You have said.
For my eyes
have seen Your salvation,
which You have prepared for all people,
a light to enlighten all Gentiles,
and for the glory of Your people Israel.

Selig sind die Toten
Selig sind die Toten,
die in dem Herren sterben,
sie ruhen von ihrer Arbeit,
und ihre Werke folgen ihnen nach.
Sie sind in der Hand des Herren,
und keine Qual rühret sie.

Blessed are the dead
Blessed are the dead
who die in the Lord;
they rest from their labors,
and their works follow after them.
They are in the hand of the Lord,
and no torment touches them.