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The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom

composer
premiered in 2009
author of text

 
The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom comprises two major parts: the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the Liturgy of the Faithful. The musical material rigorously follows the liturgical textual canon. However, at some stage I decided that the choir should take upon itself some of the offerings that traditionally come from the deacon or priest during the service. Here the choir performs these lines with short single-vowel pedals intertwining in different voices, e.g. in the litanies, whereas during the traditional church service the choir is normally silent when those text lines are pronounced. Some of the offerings that one would expect to be delivered by the minister are also delegated to the choir, which is yet another detail that deviates from the traditional service routine, for example in the Great Litany and the Litany of Catechumens.

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

Recordings

Levine: The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom
Studio Master: SIGCD316Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

Movement 01: Introduction and Great Litany
Track 1 on SIGCD316 [6'20] Download only
Movement 02: First Antiphon
Track 2 on SIGCD316 [4'55] Download only
Movement 03: Second Antiphon
Track 3 on SIGCD316 [2'59] Download only
Movement 04: Hymn to the Lord
Track 4 on SIGCD316 [2'16] Download only
Movement 05: Third Antiphon: Beatitudes
Track 5 on SIGCD316 [4'47] Download only
Movement 06: Entrance Hymn
Track 6 on SIGCD316 [3'25] Download only
Movement 07: Trisagion Hymn
Track 7 on SIGCD316 [3'55] Download only
Movement 08: Litany of Fervent Supplication
Track 8 on SIGCD316 [3'32] Download only
Movement 09: Litany for the Catechumens
Track 9 on SIGCD316 [3'44] Download only
Movement 10: Cherubic Hymn
Track 10 on SIGCD316 [2'59] Download only
Movement 11: That we may receive the King of all
Track 11 on SIGCD316 [0'55] Download only
Movement 12: Litany of Fervent Supplication
Track 12 on SIGCD316 [4'26] Download only
Movement 13: The Creed
Track 13 on SIGCD316 [5'31] Download only
Movement 14: Anaphora
Track 14 on SIGCD316 [3'49] Download only
Movement 15: We hymn Thee
Track 15 on SIGCD316 [1'39] Download only
Movement 16: Hymn to the Virgin
Track 16 on SIGCD316 [3'19] Download only
Movement 17: Litany before the Lord's Prayer
Track 17 on SIGCD316 [2'14] Download only
Movement 18: The Lord's Prayer and Elevation
Track 18 on SIGCD316 [4'26] Download only
Movement 19: The Communion
Track 19 on SIGCD316 [4'12] Download only
Movement 20: Hymn of Praise
Track 20 on SIGCD316 [3'41] Download only
Movement 21: Thanksgiving and Dismissal
Track 21 on SIGCD316 [1'54] Download only
Movement 22: Blessed be the name of the Lord
Track 22 on SIGCD316 [2'04] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD316 track 9

Litany for the Catechumens
Artists
ISRC
GB-LLH-13-31609
Duration
3'44
Recording date
15 February 2012
Recording venue
St Augustine's Church, Highbury, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Nicholas Parker
Recording engineer
Mike Hatch
Hyperion usage
  1. Levine: The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (SIGCD316)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: March 2013
    Download only
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