Mixed Chorus Unaccompanied
Text: Liturgical (Latin)
Duration: ca. 3.5 minutes
Publisher: C. F. Peters Corporation, Edition Peters 67488
O Magnum Mysterium, a three-and-a-half-minute motet for Christmas, is a highly challenging work best suited for advanced college choirs. This 1990 composition features dissonant, often dense chords in a quasi-homophonic setting. Meter changes are nearly constant, consisting mostly of 4/4, 5/4, 6/4 and 3/2, yet the rhythms are not difficult at the work’s moderato tempo. Similarly, the individual choral parts, despite their chromaticism, contain relatively few large or awkward intervals. Tessitura is conservative, with the exception of the basses, who are required to sustain an E, F, and F-sharp, while the sopranos must sing down to b-flat at the beginning of the piece. An English translation is provided in the preface. A piece of great expressive power, O Magnum Mysterium will offer substantial rewards to those select groups capable of rising to its demands.
On the Rhodes [College Singers] disc, which was recorded at St. John’s Episcopal Church last year, carols are wedged between three settings of O Magnum Mysterium, a beloved text about the wonder inspired in the animals that beheld the Lord in the manger. The first is the most widely performed setting, by Spanish Renaissance composer Tomás Luis de Victoria…The 20th-century French composer Francis Poulenc’s Christmas motet is the second O Magnum Mysterium… The final setting, by Rhodes alumnus Hayes Biggs, now of New York, features monophonic [?—HB] writing and subtle, probing dissonance.