From Psalterium Davidicum

Allen Brings

About this work:
Those who have found both challenge and solace in Sacred Scripture have long held the belief that we have been created with an innate craving for union with God. Sin is merely whatever we do or do not do that prevents us from achieving that union. Few of us, however, can expect to approach such a union until death, which is not seen as an end but rather as a beginning. It has always seemed to me that the reason for the continued popularity of the psalms of David for over two thousand years lies in their ability to express this belief in language that is both simple and powerful. They speak of the most important matters that ought to concern us, and they do it in a way that is understandable to everyone, whether well educated or not educated at all. They speak of a loving God who has reasonable expectations of us and who may be trusted to be merciful when we err, that is, wander, provided that we are willing to atone and to raise our hearts and minds to learn, not our ways, but his. The order in which I chose to set the excerpts I selected from the psalms describes the path which the sinner, or wanderer, must take in order to be reconciled to God. The musical form of From Psalterium Davidicum reflects the sinner's progress from the "errant" chromatic lines sung by the chorus in the beginning, accompanied as they are by harsh harmonies in the orchestra, to the hopeful, joyful outcries of the concluding measures. Within, the music is more contemplative, more imploring, and therefore more diatonic and lyrical in the choral parts; the orchestral textures are also less dense here and the harmonies less pungent. One may even detect in some of these passages influences--superficial at best, though├żof Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony. My reasons for setting St. Jerome's Latin translation of the psalms are various. For one, I have heard Latin spoken or sung almost all my life and can read it (though by no means fluently). It is for me still a universal language, which I can remember singing in St. Peter's basilica in Rome together with people from all over the world. As the psalms themselves are enduring in their meaning for us, I wished to employ a language which has also endured, a language, furthermore, which was used by some of the world's greatest writers. As a composer, I have always found it an evocative language so that, whenever I read it aloud (and in the ancient world all "reading" was done aloud), I can, if I wish, already begin to hear the music which might set it. Compare the effect, for example, that would be produced by singing the literal English translation of the opening line or imagine how less urgent the final supplication would sound if it were sung to "and teach me your paths" rather than "edoce me semitas tuas!" From Psalterium Davidicum was completed in January 1994 and was composed especially for the Queens College Choral Society, which gave it its first performance at Queens College on May 13, 1995 under the direction of Lawrence Eisman. Score and parts available from Mira Music Associates. Contact: Recorded on Capstone Records CPS-8731 Review: "The CD [Music for Voices by Allen Brings] is a very good anthology of the vocal compositons of Allen Brings. The Three Holy Sonnets (1988) for chorus and orchestra, The Lament of Rachel (1994) for chamber choir and piano, four-hands, and From Psalterium Davidicum (1994) for chorus and orchestra all manifest a polyphonic texture for the voices and the instruments. These compositions are dramatic in their use of dynamics, contrasting textures, and dissonant harmonic language. "The other recordings, A Herrick Suite (1977) for chorus & piano, Three Songs of Blake & Donne for soprano & piano contain beautiful melodies that fit the content of the words eloquently. These works manifest a more consonant harmonic language. The piano accompaniments are rich in counterpoint and create a thematic unity through variation. "The quality and the performance of the recording are excellent." Helmut Christoferus Calabrese New Music Connoisseur, 2004
Version: chorus and orchestra
Year composed: 1994
Duration: 00:12:24
Ensemble type: Chorus, with or without Solo Voices:Chorus with Orchestra
Instrumentation: 2 Flute, 2 Oboe, 2 Clarinet, 2 Bassoon, 4 Horn in F, 2 Trumpet, 2 Trombone, 1 Bass Trombone, 1 Tuba, 1 Timpani, 1 Percussion (General), 12 Violin, 4 Viola, 4 Cello, 2 Double bass, 250 S, 25 A, 15 T, 15 B
Instrumentation notes: The number of strings indicated is a minimum. More is preferable. Depending on the number of trained voices a smaller ensemble would be possible. With few, if any, a chorus of 100 or more would provide an excellent effect.
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