Holst includes a short footnote which states that ‘there should be no variation from sempre pp until near the end’, thereby ensuring that the music sustains a detached purity throughout. However, despite this apparently cool exterior, the composer consistently succeeds in illuminating the text in a manner that readily demonstrates his considerable musical insights and enviable technical skill. When, at the very end, the music gradually rises towards a final, emphatic fortissimo chord, the effect is one of a blaze of colour transforming a world of monochrome half-light. Throughout the motet the music representing the ‘body’ is unbarred and marked senza mesura, indicating that it is to be sung in a rhythmically free style.
from notes by Julian Haylock © 1989
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