Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols: Carl Rütti – In this season of the year (World Première) & Harrison Birtwistle – O my deare hert, young Jesu sweit

This year’s new carol commissioned by King’s College, Cambridge for the Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols was written by Swiss composer Carl Rütti. There’s not really a great deal one can say about it; Rütti was always going to deliver something cosy and comfortable, which for that reason alone perhaps makes him a fitting choice for what is inevitably a cosy and comfortable occasion. His piece, In this season of the year, sets a Latin text celebrating the virtues of Christ while simultaneously giving regular shout-outs to the Virgin Mary. Rütti uses a lilting melody with a simple rhythmic idea as the basis for a series of variations that gradually get more elated as the verses progress. Not exactly adventurous, but hardly offensive, its most charming moment comes right at the very end, when Rütti discreetly places the sound of a bird in the organ, a “short tribute” to a soprano in the choir Cambridge Voices who died at the same time Rütti completed the piece.

The only other contemporary offerings were homages to the two grand old dukes of new music, Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle, both of whom turned 80 this year. Max was represented by his One star, at last, commissioned for the service 30 years ago (my recording of their performance of this piece from 2009’s service can be found here), while Birtwistle’s short O my deare hert, young Jesu sweit, despite lasting under two minutes arguably made the most striking impact of all. Setting part of the same text used in his 1959 work Monody for Corpus Christi, Birtwistle sets up a two-part counterpoint that’s rich yet spare (even a touch severe), with the upper of the two lines leading the lower. The rhythmic language is full of hiccups due to a general avoidance that the two lines coincide, but this dramatically changes partway through the second verse at “The knees of my hert sall I bow”, as they come together and remain united until the end. The plain, undecorated nature of the music only makes it more beautiful and movingly authentic.

Carl Rütti – In this season of the year (World Première)

FLAC [15Mb]

Text
In this season of the year,
Life did unto man appear,
When our Lord was born most dear,
O Maidenhood of Mary!
God’s own Word our flesh did take,
O Maidenhood of Mary!

Envy her all women may,
In whose womb our Saviour lay,
That hath washed our sins away,
O Maidenhood of Mary!
God’s own Word our flesh did take,
O Maidenhood of Mary!

From that Star a Sun doth rise,
Healing our infirmities,
Very Flesh our flesh supplies,
O Maidenhood of Mary!
God’s own Word our flesh did take,
O Maidenhood of Mary!

From that Fount a Stream doth spring
For His people’s comforting,
Where they lay a-languishing,
O Maidenhood of Mary!
God’s own Word our flesh did take,
O Maidenhood of Mary!

To God the Father, God the Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
Be glory, praise, and benison,
O Maidenhood of Mary!
God’s own Word our flesh did take,
O Maidenhood of Mary!

(Words: 11th Century Latin, tr. Ronald Knox)

Harrison Birtwistle – O my deare hert, young Jesu sweit

FLAC [8Mb]

Text
O my deare hert, young Jesu sweit,
Prepare a creddil in my spreit,
And I sall rock thee to my hert
And never mair from thee depart.

But I sall praise thee evermoir
With sanges sweit unto thy gloir;
The knees of my hert sall I bow,
And sing that richt Balulalow.

(Words: James, John & Robert Wedderburn)

Posted on by 5:4 in Advent & Christmas, Premières
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