Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Music for Psalm 51

Bach: Tilger Hochste
ZoeRose gave me this tip: Tilger Höchste, a setting of this psalm by Bach - This is interesting - Pergolesi wrote a Stabat Matter (describing Mary at the crucifixion) - a piece expressing great sorrow - and Bach decided that this would also be very fitting for the penitent mood in Psalm 51.

Allegri: Miserere
The best-known setting of Psalm 51 is Allegri's Miserere. This piece has an amazing history - at one time, it was protected by the Vatican, and allowed only to be performed at the Sistine Chapel - it was said that transcription of this piece (writing down the music) for further distribution was punishable with excommunication. And it's said that Mozart, when still a kid, heard this piece, and wrote it all down - somewhere along the way, he met the famous music historian Charles Burney, who published it. It's said that the pope summoned Mozart and didn't excommunicate him, but told him how impressed he was at his talent.

The piece is sometimes described as the greatest "Hit" of all time - people traveled from hundreds of miles just to hear it; and the Vatican's protection of this piece.

Part I
Part II

Asperges me
This chant is a setting of the verse - "Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, O Lord, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." It's often sung in services. Here is a video I like a guy singing it in the woods, surrounded by a lot of snow - a nice reminder of the pure, white snow of Psalm 51, and that God's forgiveness renders us even whiter and purer than the snow, how utterly far He sets us from our sins.