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Four Motets

author of text

Like many other composers, Aaron Copland went to Paris for lessons with Nadia Boulanger. Remaining fruitfully in this ‘boulangerie’ for three years, Copland wrote his Four Motets as a student exercise for his teacher in 1921, but heard them for the first time in Fontainebleau only in 1924. When they were finally published several decades later, Copland commented that he had ‘agreed to their publication with mixed emotions. While they have a certain curiosity value—perhaps people want to know what I was doing as a student—the style is not yet really mine’. He identified Musorgsky as an influence, but composers of French choral music such as Fauré—about whom Copland wrote a critical study at that time—are surely in the background too.

Each of the motets, settings of adapted Old Testament texts, maintains a discrete personality—from the gently rocking serenity of Help us, O Lord to the rousing jubilation of Sing ye praises to our king. An overall technical assurance is enhanced by moments of arresting ingenuity—such as the imitative entries at the mid-point of Thou, O Jehovah, abideth forever—and the delicate, two-part ostinato that establishes itself in Have mercy on us, O my Lord.

from notes by Meurig Bowen © 2015


American Polyphony
Studio Master: CDA67929Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Bernstein: Chichester Psalms; Copland: In the beginning; Barber: Agnus Dei


No 1: Help us, O Lord
Track 12 on CDA67929 [2'57]
Track 6 on CDA66219 [2'42]
No 2: Thou, O Jehovah, abideth forever
Track 13 on CDA67929 [2'23]
No 3: Have mercy on us, O my Lord
Track 14 on CDA67929 [4'09]
Track 7 on CDA66219 [3'44]
No 4: Sing ye praises to our king
Track 15 on CDA67929 [1'59]
Track 8 on CDA66219 [2'10]

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