This morning, we were due to gather in the Cathedral for our Passiontide Service. The theme this year was Stations of the Cross. The eleventh station – Christ nailed to the cross – is vividly depicted below by the English engraver Eric Gill. At this point in the service, the Chapel Choir would have sung Antonio Lotti’s Crucifixus.
Born in Venice, Lotti spent most of his life in the service of the church, with his most notable appointment being Maestro di Cappella at St Mark’s Basilica in the mid-18th century. However, it was his time at Dresden as court composer that produced Crucifixus, his most famous work.
The words describing Christ’s crucifixion and death, from the Nicene Creed, have led to some extraordinary outpourings from composers over the centuries. JS Bach, in his Mass in B Minor, depicts Christ’s suffering in continuous descending chromatic lines, with the voices plummeting to the depths of their vocal range and then hushed to a silence. In the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven also sends his music ever downward, faltering and eventually grinding to a complete halt.
Lotti’s approach to these profound words differs, especially at the very beginning. Written for 8 voices, each part enters bar by bar starting with the lowest basses, piling up the musical texture with suspensions (musical crunches in the harmony) and creating a piercing intensity by the time the highest voice enters.
One of my favourite recordings of this magical work was performed in Saint-Chapelle, Paris and sung by the British vocal ensemble Tenebrae, conducted by Nigel Short.
In the world’s current turbulent state, music can and will transport people in relative isolation to a better place, helping them to cope. For me, Lotti’s Crucifixus is the perfect addition to your play list for moments of solace and peace.
21st May 2020
Looking ahead to the next Treasury exhibition, Dr Griffin considers the work of Sir Thomas Browne (OW), a physician renowned for his close observation of nature.
11th May 2020
As he sets off on his own creative sabbatical, Malcolm recommends exploring one's own creativity, and spending time in nature, as a balm for life, beyond the present circumstances.
10th May 2020
In this article, Mr Ben Gould, Economics don explores how the pandemic might impact economic recovery.
4th May 2020
In this article, Dr Cullerne hopes to shed some light on terminology and concepts discussed at daily Downing Street briefings and in doing so explain in non-technical language where we appear to be in this epidemic.
4th May 2020
On Earth Day, 22 April 2020, pupils were due to watch David Attenborough's latest film in an exclusive screening, thanks to the generosity of the Stewarts who continue to support the school's teaching of natural history, in honour of their son Duncan.
20th April 2020
Taking inspiration from a W.H. Auden poem, the Thought for the Week hopes that the uneventful reality of life confined to our homes is what we most remember about this period when we look back on it in years to come.