Works

Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen

1988 / 1991

Scored for

mixed choir (SATB) a cappella

Duration

15 min

Short description

Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen or Seven Magnificat-Antiphons for mixed choir a cappella were composed in 1988. As the title indicates, these are seven antiphons sung in the Roman Catholic liturgy during Evening Prayer on the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve (from 17 to 23 December): one antiphon with a magnificat (the Song of Mary) each day. In many languages these are also known as the Greater Antiphons or O-Antiphons, because each of them begins with a respectful appeal to Christ: “O Wisdom”, “O the Key of David”, “O Morning Star” etc.

Arvo Pärt has assembled these prayers into one comprehensive concert piece based on the German text of the antiphons. The work is composed in rigorous tintinnabuli style, but each part has its o…

Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen or Seven Magnificat-Antiphons for mixed choir a cappella were composed in 1988. As the title indicates, these are seven antiphons sung in the Roman Catholic liturgy during Evening Prayer on the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve (from 17 to 23 December): one antiphon with a magnificat (the Song of Mary) each day. In many languages these are also known as the Greater Antiphons or O-Antiphons, because each of them begins with a respectful appeal to Christ: “O Wisdom”, “O the Key of David”, “O Morning Star” etc.

Arvo Pärt has assembled these prayers into one comprehensive concert piece based on the German text of the antiphons. The work is composed in rigorous tintinnabuli style, but each part has its own complete form and individual character, which is why they are sometimes performed as separate miniatures at concerts. Consecutive antiphons often contrast with each other: a new key, a new dynamic, a changed texture, or direction of the movement of the voices draws the listener’s attention to the important image in the text, highlighting its essence.

In the first antiphon, the entire choir covering its full vocal range sings about the Wisdom that fills “the world from end to end”; the second antiphon with an archaic-sounding quint drone is about Moses and the laws of the Old Testament; the third antiphon, O Root of Jesse, is rushing upwards in dissonant ties; and the words of the sixth antiphon, O King of All People, assert themselves in all three layers of the texture and in three different paces. The work culminates in the pair of two opposing antiphons, the fourth and the fifth, which cover the symmetrical middle point of the cycle as well as the point of the golden ratio. In musical terms they differ from each other in texture, dynamic as well as harmony. O Key of David is a worship song for Christ the Almighty Ruler and the Conqueror of Death, sung in full-fledged fortissimo chords in A minor. O Morning Star, on the other hand, is a delicate and silent prayer to Christ as “the Splendour of Eternal Light”, where the music is accented by voices alternating between major and minor (soprano and tenor in E major, alto and bass in E minor), giving it a mysterious character. In the seventh antiphon, O Emmanuel, we can hear the musical material already familiar from the first antiphon, binding the entire cycle into a whole.

The Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen were composed by commission of the RIAS chamber choir in Berlin in celebration of their 40th anniversary, and is also dedicated to the choir. The premiere of the composition, on 11 October 1998 in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie, was conducted by Marcus Creed.

In 2008, Arvo Pärt composed an instrumental version of the piece for cello octet, giving it a name O-Antiphonen. The work was commissioned and premiered by the cello octet Conjunto Ibérico, later renamed as Cello8ctet Amsterdam, to whom it is also dedicated.

In 2015, another version for string orchestra was completed and retitled Greater Antiphons, jointly commissioned by the conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Society. It was premiered during the Mozart & Pärt Festival at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles by Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. This version of the composition is dedicated to Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

World premiere

11.10.1988

Concert: 40 Jahre RIAS-Kammerchor

RIAS Chamber Choir, Marcus Creed

Parts

  • I O Weisheit
  • II O Adonai
  • III O Sproß aus Isais Wurzel
  • IV O Schlüssel Davids
  • V O Morgenstern
  • VI O König aller Völker
  • VII O Immanuel

Completion year

1988

Revision year

1991

Dedication

to RIAS-Kammerchor

Commissioned by

RIAS, Berlin, composed for the 40th anniversary of the RIAS Berlin Chamber Choir

Scored for

mixed choir (SATB) a cappella

Duration

15 min

Publishers

Universal Edition

Language

German

Vocal text

Magnificat-antiphons or O-antiphons from the Roman Catholic Advent Liturgy

1. O Weisheit, hervorgegangen aus dem Munde des Höchsten, die Welt umspannst du von einem Ende zum andern, in Kraft und Milde ordnest du alles: O komm und offenbare uns den Weg der Weisheit und der Einsicht.

2. O Adonai, der Herr und Führer des Hauses Israel, im flammenden Dornbusch bist du den Mose erschienen, und hast ihn auf dem Berge das Gesetz gegeben: O komm und befreie uns mit deinem starken Arm.

3. O Sproß aus Isais Wurzel, gesetzt zum Zeichen für die Völker, vor dir verstummen die Herrscher der Erde, dich flehen an die Völker: o komm und errette uns, erhebe dich, säume nicht länger.

4. O Schlüssel Davids, Zepter des Hauses Israel, du öffnest, und niemand kann schließen, du schließt und keine Macht vermag zu öffnen: O komm und öffne den Kerker der Finsternis und die Fessel des Todes.

5. O Morgenstern, Glanz des unversehrten Lichte…
Magnificat-antiphons or O-antiphons from the Roman Catholic Advent Liturgy

1. O Weisheit, hervorgegangen aus dem Munde des Höchsten, die Welt umspannst du von einem Ende zum andern, in Kraft und Milde ordnest du alles: O komm und offenbare uns den Weg der Weisheit und der Einsicht.

2. O Adonai, der Herr und Führer des Hauses Israel, im flammenden Dornbusch bist du den Mose erschienen, und hast ihn auf dem Berge das Gesetz gegeben: O komm und befreie uns mit deinem starken Arm.

3. O Sproß aus Isais Wurzel, gesetzt zum Zeichen für die Völker, vor dir verstummen die Herrscher der Erde, dich flehen an die Völker: o komm und errette uns, erhebe dich, säume nicht länger.

4. O Schlüssel Davids, Zepter des Hauses Israel, du öffnest, und niemand kann schließen, du schließt und keine Macht vermag zu öffnen: O komm und öffne den Kerker der Finsternis und die Fessel des Todes.

5. O Morgenstern, Glanz des unversehrten Lichtes, der Gerechtigkeit/ strahlende Sonne: O komm und erleuchte, die da sitzen in Finsternis/ und im Schatten des Todes.

6. O König aller Völker, ihre Erwartung und Sensucht, Schlußstein, der den Bau zusammenhält: O komm und errette den Menschen, den du aus Erde gebildet.

7. O Immanuel, unser König und Lehrer, du Hoffnung und Heiland der Völker: O komm, eile und schaffe uns Hilfe, du unser Herr und unser Gott.



1. O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Almighty, you encompass the world from one end to the other
with power and moderation you ordain all things: O come and show us the way of wisdom and of understanding. O Wisdom.

2. O Adonai, Lord and leader of the house of Israel, in the flaming thorn bush were you revealed to Moses, and on the mountain did you give him your law: O come and free us with your strong arms.

3. O Root of the stem of Jesse, stand forward as a sign for the people, before you the lords of the earth are struck dumb, the people cry out to you: O come and help us, stir yourself, delay no longer.

4. O key of David, sceptre of the house of Israel, you open something, no one can close it, you close something and no might will open it: O come and open the prison of darkness and the chain of death.

5. O Morning Star, gleam of immutable light: shining sun of righteousness: O come and lighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

6. O King of all people, their expectations and desire, cornerstone, which holds together the edifice, O come and help mankind which you constructed on earth!

7. O Emmanuel, our King and teacher, you hope and saviour of the people: O come, hurry and bring us help,
you our lord and our God.

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