Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet

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This article is about musical settings of the Lamentations. For the Biblical book itself, see Book of Lamentations. For the liturgy for which the music was composed, see Tenebrae.

The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet have been set by various composers.

Renaissance[edit]

England[edit]

Thomas Tallis set the first lesson, and second lesson, of Tenebrae on Maundy Thursday between 1560, and 1569:

"when the practice of making musical settings of the Holy Week readings from the Book of Jeremiah enjoyed a brief and distinguished flowering in England (the practice had developed on the continent during the early 15th century)". (Paul Doe and David Allinson. "Tallis, Thomas." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 18 Jul. 2014. <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/27423>.)

The lessons are drawn from Lamentations (Lam. 1, vv.1-2, and Lam. 1, vv.3-5). These famous and notably expressive settings are both a 5 for ATTBB and employ a sophisticatedly imitative texture.

Tallis like many other composers included the following text:

  • the announcements Incipit Lamentatio Ieremiae Prophetae ("Here begins the Lamentation of Jeremiah the Prophet"), and De Lamentatione Ieremiae Prophetae ("From the Lamentation of Jeremiah the Prophet");
  • the Hebrew letters ALEPH, BETH, GIMEL, DALETH, and HE, that headed each verse in the Vulgate; and,
  • the concluding refrain Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum ("Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God").

Tallis's inclusion of the refrain emphasises the sombre and melancholy effect of the music.

The Latin Vulgate Bible of Tallis's day considered the Hebrew letters integral to the text, although most English translations of the Bible omit them. The Vulgate indicates 'He' for verse 5 facti sunt hostes, and Heth for verse 8 peccatum peccavit Hierusalem; the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae lessons do not go as far as verse 8; but the use of 'Heth' for verse 5 by Tallis may indicate only its inclusion in contemporary liturgy.

Tallis's settings happen to use successive verses, but the pieces are in fact independent even though performers generally sing both settings together. Composers have been free to use whatever verses they wish, since the liturgical role of the text is somewhat loose; this accounts for the wide variety of texts that appear in these pieces.

William Byrd's early setting of 1563 is rarely performed despite his later popularity and importance. A voice part is missing from the majority of the work as found in the only copy of the lost original manuscript and so performance editions require substantial reconstruction.

Robert White (1538-1574), a Catholic composer from East Anglia, set the Lamentations twice: a 5, and a 6.


European Renaissance[edit]

Continental polyphonic settings of the Renaissance include those by Marbrianus de Orto, Victoria, Palestrina, Ferrabosco the Elder and Lassus (1584).

Baroque[edit]

Leçons de ténèbres are a French chamber solo style most famously represented by the lessons and responsories of Marc-Antoine Charpentier and the Leçons de ténèbres of Couperin. The high baroque Central European style also includes choral and orchestral settings of lamentations by composers such as Jan Dismas Zelenka.

Modern[edit]

Contemporary settings include those by Igor Stravinsky (his Threni), Edward Bairstow, Alberto Ginastera, Ernst Krenek, Leonard Bernstein (his Jeremiah Symphony, which contains Hebrew text in the final movement), Ivan Moody, Peter-Anthony Togni and Salvatore Ferrantelli (b.1940) (his SATB a cappella choral concert motet, "O Vos Omnes"), and Jason Carl Rosenberg (b.1979) (his Ph.D. dissertation composition, L.O.S.T., for 16-part mixed unaccompanied choir).

See also[edit]

References[edit]