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Three Sacred Choruses, Op 37
4 female vv unaccompanied; Nos 1 & 2: 1859, first performed in Hamburg in September the same year; No 3: 1863; published 1865
author of text
No 3: Antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Paschal Time

'Brahms: motets' (CDH55346)
Brahms: motets
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55346  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
No 1: O bone Jesu
Track 4 on CDH55346 [1'15] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
No 2: Adoramus te, Christe
Track 5 on CDH55346 [1'42] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
No 3: Regina caeli laetare
Track 6 on CDH55346 [2'29] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

Three Sacred Choruses, Op 37
The Three Sacred Choruses Op 37 were not published until 1865, although the first two date from 1859 (having received their first performance in Hamburg in September of that year), and the third from 1863. They represent perhaps the most austere example of Brahms’s contrapuntal mastery in this genre, all three settings being in strict canonic form.

The brief F major setting of ‘O bone Jesu’ consists of a pair of simultaneous canons in contrary motion between Soprano I/Alto II and Alto I/Soprano II. In addition to the Moderato espressivo heading, the closing bars are further marked espress[ivo] by Brahms, an instruction used comparatively rarely by this most restrained of late Romantic composers, and an illustration of his obvious concern that the sheer technical ingenuity of this music should not inhibit freedom of musical interpretation. ‘Adoramus te, Christe’ is a four-part canon, with answers at the fourth, fifth, and octave below. A harmonic sleight of hand just before the final cadences deftly moves the music up a step away from an implied finish in G, to the home key of A. The structural background to ‘Regina caeli laetare’ is a canon in inversion, although the contrapuntal textures are enlivened throughout by a series of antiphonal ‘Alleluias’, clearly reflecting the influence of Giovanni Gabrieli.

from notes by Julian Haylock © 1991

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