Te Deum (Berlioz)

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1883 vocal score of the Berlioz Te Deum

The Te Deum (Op. 22 / H.118) by Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) was completed in 1849. It, like the earlier and more famous Grande Messe des Morts, is one of the works referred to by Berlioz in his Memoirs as "the enormous compositions which some critics have called architectural or monumental music." While the orchestral forces required for the Te Deum are by no means as titanic as those of the Requiem, the work does call for an organ which can compete on equal terms with the rest of the orchestra. It lasts approximately fifty minutes and derives its text from the traditional Latin Te Deum, although Berlioz made some changes to word order for dramatic purposes.

Background and premiere[edit]

The Te Deum was originally conceived as the climax of a grand symphony celebrating Napoleon Bonaparte.[1] The finished work was dedicated to Albert, Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria.[1] Some of the material used by Berlioz in the piece was originally written for his Messe Solennelle of 1824,[2] thought to have been destroyed by the composer but rediscovered in 1991. The first performance of the work was on 30 April 1855, at the Church of Saint-Eustache, Paris; Berlioz conducted an ensemble of 900 or 950 performers.[3]

Structure[edit]

Orchestration[edit]

The choral movements of the Te Deum are scored for:

There are differences in the orchestration of the non-choral movements. The Prelude calls for a piccolo and 6 snare drums, while the March requires a piccolo saxhorn and 12 harps.

List of movements[edit]

Apart from the rarely performed or recorded orchestral Prelude and Marche pour la présentation aux drapeaux (March for the presentation of the colours),[4] there are six movements to this Te Deum, designated by Berlioz as either hymns (Hymne) or prayers (Prière), except for the last movement which he designated as both. These are listed below:

  1. Te Deum (Hymne)
  2. Tibi omnes (Hymne)
  3. Dignare (Prière)
  4. Christe, Rex gloriae (Hymne)
  5. Te ergo quaesumus (Prière)
  6. Judex crederis (Hymne et prière)

When performed, the Prelude falls between the Tibi omnes and Dignare; the Marche usually comes after the Judex crederis.

Reception[edit]

After the first performance in London, in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, The Times commented:

Written to accompany an imaginary triumph of the first Napoleon, it was ultimately dedicated to that peaceful hero the late Prince Consort, and for that reason was an apt contribution to the musical jubilee celebrations which the present year will witness. The score is laid out on a colossal, almost impossible, plan, Berlioz requiring an orchestra of 134 performers, an organ at the opposite end of the church or concert-room, two choirs of 100 singers each,and a third choir of 600 boys, placed midway between organ and orchestra and representing the congregation. Such an army of forces, it need not be added, could not have been accommodated at St. James's-hall had it been available. But, even shorn of this exceptional splendour, the work did not fail to impress the audience with the innate beauty and grandeur of its structure. Berlioz himself placed the finale, "Judex crederis esse venturus" above anything else he had written in the same style, and it would be difficult to disagree with his judgment unless the second movement, "Tibi omnes," should be thought even finer, on account of the marvellous boldness and harmony of its design. But, where everything is so beautiful, it is almost invidious to point to detached merits.[1]

Anton Bruckner, who wrote his own Te Deum in the early 1880s, criticised Berlioz's setting for being too secular.[5]

Recordings[edit]

Conductor Orchestra Choir Tenor Organ Label Year
Sir Thomas Beecham Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Dulwich College Boys Choir, London Philharmonic Choir Alexander Young Denis Vaughan CBS 1951
Colin Davis London Symphony Orchestra London Symphony Chorus Franco Tagliavini Nicholas Kynaston Philips 1969
Claudio Abbado European Community Youth Orchestra London Symphony Chorus, London Philharmonic Choir, Woburn Singers Francisco Araiza Martin Haselböck DG 1983
Eliahu Inbal Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt Vocal Ensemble Keith Lewis Matthias Eisenberg Brilliant 2003
Sir Colin Davis Dresden Staatskapelle Dresden Singakademie Stuart Neil Hans-Dieter Schöne Profil 2006
John Nelson Orchestre de Paris Orchestre de Paris Chorus, Children's Choir of the European Union Roberto Alagna Marie-Claire Alain Virgin 2007

The recordings conducted by Eliahu Inbal and John Nelson include the two sections usually omitted: the Prelude and the Marche pour la présentation aux drapeaux'

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Berlioz's 'Te Deum'", The Times, 19 May 1887, p. 10
  2. ^ The Hector Berlioz Website - Berlioz and his music - self-borrowings
  3. ^ Keller, James M. "Berlioz: Te Deum, opus 22", San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, accessed 28 April 2013
  4. ^ Berlioz Te Deum
  5. ^ Hawkshaw, p. 41

References[edit]

  • Hawkshaw, Paul; John Williamson (ed) (2004). The Cambridge companion to Bruckner. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521804043. 

External links[edit]