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The Crucifixion

composer
1887; A meditation on the sacred passion of the Holy Redeemer
author of text

 
The Crucifixion was composed in 1886-87 and first performed in St Marylebone Parish Church on Good Friday 1887. The work’s dedicatee, William Hodge was a pupil and friend of the composer and, aside from being the assistant sub-organist at St Paul’s was also the organist at St Marylebone (The church has kept up a fine tradition of performing the oratorio on every Good Friday since the premiere). Scored for tenor and bass soloists, choir and organ, Stainer conceived The Crucifixion as ‘A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer’, a work that would not be too taxing for the average village choir and which might also immediately engage an audience. Given its immense popularity, Stainer obviously succeeded in the latter. As to the forces: while the choir parts are more than manageable for a decent amateur choir, the organist has to be more than competent, and the singers, who carry most of the narrative, need to be quite exceptional amateurs and preferably professionals. The structure of The Crucifixion is inspired by J.S. Bach, the scheme of arias recitatives, choruses and chorales (hymns) reflecting that of the St John and St Matthew Passions. Unlike the passions, however, there is no orchestra to provide light and shade to accompaniments and add piquancy or punch to the drama. It is testament to Stainer’s economy of scale and his deft organ writing that we are barely aware of a solitary instrument accompanying the choir and soloists. Central to the work’s structure and impact are the five hymns which are interspersed throughout the oratorio. These are intended for congregational participation and are as key to the work’s success as even the most lyrical passages for the solo voices or organ. The congregation is invited to stand for these hymns and so directly take part in a communal celebration at this crucial point in the liturgical year. While the first performance was a success, the libretto, by the Reverend William Sparrow-Simpson would soon attract ferocious criticism and the music has also been vilified down the years. It is true that there are some cloying sentimental passages by Sparrow-Simpson and perhaps, at times, an excess of High Victorian piety from Stainer, too—the ‘Fling wide the gates’ chorus has taken many a critical bashing—but there are many more passages of real beauty and invigorating drama. The Crucifixion can still bat with the best of them every season, its many performances and broadcasts every year at Passiontide gladly attended and participated in with great British gusto.

from notes by M Ross © 2008

Recordings

Stainer: The Crucifixion
Studio Master: SIGCD176Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Anthem
Studio Master: SIGCD465Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

Movement 01. Recitative: And they came to a place named Gethsemane
Track 1 on SIGCD176 [1'25] Download only
Movement 02: The agony  Could ye not watch with Me one brief hour?
Track 2 on SIGCD176 [6'32] Download only
Movement 03: Processional to Calvary  Fling wide the gates!
Track 3 on SIGCD176 [9'30] Download only
Movement 04. Recitative: And when they were come
Track 4 on SIGCD176 [1'04] Download only
Movement 05: The mystery of the divine humuliation  Cross of Jesus, Cross of Sorrow
Track 5 on SIGCD176 [2'26] Download only
Movement 06. Recitative: He made himself of no reputation
Track 6 on SIGCD176 [1'20] Download only
Movement 07: The majesty of the divine humiliation  King ever glorious, King ever glorious!
Track 7 on SIGCD176 [4'01] Download only
Movement 08. Recitative: And as Moses lifted up the serpent
Track 8 on SIGCD176 [1'17] Download only
Movement 09. Chorus: God so loved the world
Track 9 on SIGCD176 [3'18] Download only
Track 10 on SIGCD465 [4'13] Download only
Movement 10: Litany of the Passion  Holy Jesu, by Thy Passion
Track 10 on SIGCD176 [4'01] Download only
Movement 11. Recitative: Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them'
Track 11 on SIGCD176 [0'47] Download only
Movement 12. Duet: So thou liftest thy divine petition
Track 12 on SIGCD176 [4'34] Download only
Movement 13: The mystery of intercession  Jesus, the Crucified, pleads for me
Track 13 on SIGCD176 [4'34] Download only
Movement 14. Recitative: And one of the malefactors
Track 14 on SIGCD176 [2'36] Download only
Movement 15: The adoration of the crucified  I adore Thee, I adore Thee!
Track 15 on SIGCD176 [1'31] Download only
Movement 16. Recitative: When Jesus therefore saw his mother
Track 16 on SIGCD176 [2'52] Download only
Movement 17. Recitative: Is it nothing to you?
Track 17 on SIGCD176 [1'08] Download only
Movement 18: The appeal of the crucified  From the Throne of His Cross
Track 18 on SIGCD176 [5'03] Download only
Movement 19. Recitative & Chorus: After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished
Track 19 on SIGCD176 [2'13] Download only
Movement 20: For the love of Jesus  All for Jesus—all for Jesus
Track 20 on SIGCD176 [2'07] Download only

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