Notes and Editorial Reviews
St. Matthew Passion. Ave verum corpus. Vide homo. Musica Dei donum
Jeffrey Skidmore, cond; Ex Cathedra
SOMM SOMMCD 0106 (63:03
Text and Translation)
Two previous recordings of this Passion appeared in 1958 on Vox and 1993 on Harmonia Mundi (
18:1). It is the only one of the composer’s four Passion settings that was printed in his lifetime (1575), but all four were edited by Kurt von Fischer in the new complete
works in 1961. At least that is what David Condon wrote in the notes to Paul Hillier’s recording. Here the Canadian-born Greg Skidmore (who sings the role of Jesus and is no relation to the English conductor) writes that Lassus published (does he mean composed?) the other three settings in the early 1580s. This performance was sung from Condon’s edition and is about eight minutes faster than Hillier’s. Oddly, in his notes for Hillier’s issue, Condon referred only to the 1961 edition.
Whatever the details, this setting of the Passion is an important bridge between the chant settings and the Baroque Passions that we know so well. All four Passions are sung at Mass as the gospel pericope, though much longer than any other gospel of the entire year. Where the gospel was ordinarily chanted by a deacon, the Passions were chanted by three deacons, a narrator, a Jesus, and one representing all the other individuals and groups, three different chant tones being assigned. Lassus composed polyphonic settings for this third category, with more elaborate settings for the crowd than for individuals such as Pilate. In the Baroque era, beginning with Schütz, new music was composed but only the crowd was set to four-voice polyphony. By the time of J. S. Bach, additional arias and chorales commented on the sacred narrative and orchestral accompaniment was furnished.
If the new version differs from the two earlier, it is a more subdued, less dramatic statement of the story. Even so, it is remarkable that there is so little difference in the three interpretations. I was surprised to find the Vox LP as well as the Harmonia Mundi CD available online. I find the subtlety of the new version most appealing.
There are three fillers.
Ave verum corpus
is newly recorded, but an earlier version under Skidmore first appeared with these versions of the other two motets on an ASV recording that featured the
Missa Vinum bonum
was the concluding piece in
Lagrime di San Pietro
Musica Dei donum
was the concluding piece in
. They bookended the ASV program. Skidmore seems to have recorded the other filler again, nine seconds faster than before, to employ his new edition of the piece. This is an important disc, not to be missed if you don’t have Hillier’s version already.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Vide homo quae pro te patior by Orlando de Lassus
Written: 16th Century
Ave verum corpus by Orlando de Lassus
Written: by 1582
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