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This objective reflects my view on some ethical aspects of liturgical service. The Greek word leitourgia which loosely translates as “public duty”, implicitly means a form of mysterious unification of serving priests and the congregation during the service, united in one universal scope of prayers, addressed to the Lord as well as to each and every human soul ever touched by the Divine Grace—whether they be a saint or sinner. I perceived the ethical values of liturgical prayers as being ecumenical in their essence (Matthew 28:19). They embrace a very basic feeling and aspiration in the soul of anyone, who through his instinct or faith is striving to receive the Divine quality of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, it became my serving motivation to amplify this notion through musical means. That is why the music of this Liturgy highlights different musical approaches found in Christian cultures across history from Greek or Byzantine chant, to medieval polyphony. The pervading influence of renaissance counterpoint and Byzantine chant alongside a poly-chord texture features prominently in this liturgy—however I was keen to avoid any direct quotations of music from these eras. My aim was to originate the music within the spirit of modern culture so that it would find its justification through the “collective language” of the world we are living in.
The work embraces 22 relatively short movements, and could be described as a sequence of litanies (Greek. Ektenés) in which the choir responds to the deacon’s prayer offering, antiphons and hymns, as well as some of the core movements—such as ‘Hymn to the Lord’, ‘Hymn to the Virgin’, the ‘Creed’ and the ‘Lord’s Prayer’. Some selected movements reflect the most important sacred mysteries such as ‘Anaphora’ and the ‘Holy Communion’. These movements are also divided into smaller sections (hymns).
The leitmotifs as well as the solos in different voices play an important part in the contextual development of the plot. It imparts certain operatic qualities to the music. The leitmotif of the Mother of God sounds when Her name (‘Bogoroditse’) appears in the text. We can also find the leitmotif of the Holy Trinity at the end of most litanies as well as the leitmotif of Jesus Christ, which is present in selected litanies, including the ‘Great Litany’ and in the ‘Creed’: “He was crucified…”.
One may find certain traces of references in the music though, such as the fragments of the Russian folk song At the Father’s gate, which I used in the ‘Creed’. This folk song was conceived in Leo Tolstoy’s imagination as a symbolic archetype of Russian muzhik and the symbol of the peasant population in its remarkable resistance to Napoleon’s Army during the occupation of Russia in 1812. Tchaikovsky also quoted this song in his 1812 Overture.
from notes by Alexander Levine © 2012
|Levine: The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom|
Tenebrae's latest album on Signum sees their return to the repertoire of Russian composer Alexander Levine. The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is Levine’s most significant large-scale religious work to date. Inspired by the humility and huma ...» More