Works

Litany

Prayers of St John Chrysostom for each hour of the day and night

1994 / 1996

Scored for

soloists (A/CtTTB), mixed choir (SATB) and orchestra

Duration

25–30 min

Short description

The starting point for Litany was a commission received from the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, US. For this reason, Pärt selected an English text as the basis for his composition.

Arvo Pärt: “The English language lacks plasticity which is brought to music with long words. Working with a text in English, I had to make new discoveries and use melodic constructions that I normally don’t use in my music, to extract material from words and sentences. The text for Litany helped me a lot because it is already a finished musical form in itself.”

The author of this famous text is John Chrysostom (“the golden-mouthed”), an outstanding 4th century theologian, poet and philosopher. As the subtitle says, the text contains short prayers for every hour of the da…

The starting point for Litany was a commission received from the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, US. For this reason, Pärt selected an English text as the basis for his composition.

Arvo Pärt: “The English language lacks plasticity which is brought to music with long words. Working with a text in English, I had to make new discoveries and use melodic constructions that I normally don’t use in my music, to extract material from words and sentences. The text for Litany helped me a lot because it is already a finished musical form in itself.”

The author of this famous text is John Chrysostom (“the golden-mouthed”), an outstanding 4th century theologian, poet and philosopher. As the subtitle says, the text contains short prayers for every hour of the day. The 24 prayers are divided into twelve prayers for the day and twelve prayers for the night, where each hour is marked in the music with precise symbolism (the number of kettledrum beats, tubular bell strikes, notes in a cluster in the choir part, pitches in different tone rows, etc.). The twelve-hour cycles follow a similar dynamic plan, emerging from silence and growing to reach a culmination toward the end, to then fade again. All prayers start by turning to God: “O Lord…” and every sentence can be seen as a finished thought. This was the first piece since his Symphony No. 3 in 1971 that Pärt composed for a large orchestra.

Litany was premiered at the 25th Oregon Bach Festival in June 1994, performed by the festival orchestra and the Hilliard Ensemble, conducted by Helmuth Rilling, whom the work is also dedicated to.

David James (countertenor), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), John Potter (tenor), Gordon Jones (bass), Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Tõnu Kaljuste (conductor). CD Litany. ECM New Series 1592

© ECM Records

World premiere

26.06.1994
Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene, Oregon, United States

Composer's recital: Litany

The Hilliard Ensemble (David James (countertenor), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), John Potter (tenor), Gordon Jones (bass)), Oregon Festival Chorus , Oregon Festival Orchestra , Helmuth Rilling (conductor)

Completion year

1994

Revision year

1996

Dedication

to Helmuth Rilling and the Oregon Bach Festival

Commissioned by

Oregon 25th Bach Festival

Scored for

soloists (A/CtTTB), mixed choir (SATB) and orchestra

Duration

25–30 min

Publishers

Universal Edition

Language

English

Vocal text

Prayers of St John Chrysostom for each hour of the day and night

O Lord, of Thy heavenly bounties, deprive me not.
O Lord, deliver me from the eternal torments.
O Lord, forgive me if I have sinned in my mind or my thought, whether in word or in deed.
O Lord, free me from all ignorance and forgetfulness, from despondency and stony insensibility.
O Lord, deliver me from every temptation.
O Lord, enlighten my heart which evil desires have darkened.
O Lord, as a man have I sinned, have Thou mercy on me, as the God full of compassion, seeing the feebleness of my soul.
O Lord, send down Thy grace to help me, that I may glorify Thy name.
O Lord Jesus Christ, write me down in the book of life and grant unto me a good end.
O Lord my God, even if I had not done anything good before Thee, do Thou help me, in Thy grace, to make a good beginning.
O Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Thy grace.
O Lord of…
Prayers of St John Chrysostom for each hour of the day and night

O Lord, of Thy heavenly bounties, deprive me not.
O Lord, deliver me from the eternal torments.
O Lord, forgive me if I have sinned in my mind or my thought, whether in word or in deed.
O Lord, free me from all ignorance and forgetfulness, from despondency and stony insensibility.
O Lord, deliver me from every temptation.
O Lord, enlighten my heart which evil desires have darkened.
O Lord, as a man have I sinned, have Thou mercy on me, as the God full of compassion, seeing the feebleness of my soul.
O Lord, send down Thy grace to help me, that I may glorify Thy name.
O Lord Jesus Christ, write me down in the book of life and grant unto me a good end.
O Lord my God, even if I had not done anything good before Thee, do Thou help me, in Thy grace, to make a good beginning.
O Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Thy grace.
O Lord of heaven and earth, remember me, Thy sinful servant, full of shame and impurity, in Thy kingdom. Amen.

O Lord, receive me in penitence.
O Lord, forsake me not.
O Lord, lead me not into misfortune.
O Lord, quicken in me a good thought.
O Lord, give me tears and remembrance of death, and contrition.
O Lord, make me solicitous of confessing my sins.
O Lord, give me humility, chastity, and obedience.
O Lord, give me patience, magnanimity, and meekness.
O Lord, implant in my the root of all good--Thy fear in my heart.
O Lord, vouchsafe that I may love thee from all my soul and mind and in everything do Thy will.
O Lord, shelter me from certain men, from demons and passions, and from any other unbecoming thing.
O Lord, Thou knowest that Thou dost as Thou wilt, let then Thy will be done in me, a sinner, for blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen.
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