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Tag: Easter

“Easter Oratorio”, BWV 249 – Johann Sebastian Bach‏


                                    El Greco
                        for Martha and Chris, who still go to Easter 
                        Mass, and whom Martha calls therefore  
                        and for Staf and Annemie, who live in 
                        presently beleaguered Belgium, and 
                        who must, at this time of distress, 
                        need our prayers
having long ago lost track of the Christian
calendar, I only this week found out 
Sunday ‘d be Easter, therefore Friday
Good Friday, not that this would much 
change my daily routine, but it set me 
perusing pertinent art, I knew I could 
count on Bach for an oratorio, and sure 
enough I found it
an oratorio, as I earlier explained, is an
opera without sets or costumes, usually
associated with religious services, but 
Bach had one for every Sunday and 
every Christian feast day
after an instrumental introduction, 
reminiscent of Handel, I thought, 
Bach’s “Easter Oratorio” slips into a
lovely adagio, notable for its exquisite
oboe obligato, where the innocence 
and purity of that wind defines the 
the ceremonial pomp of the earlier 
section then returns to include 
chorus expressing triumph, the 
realization that the Lamb of God 
has returned
but soon enough, Mary, the soprano 
of a quartet of singers, each of the 
four singing according to their own – 
alto, Mary Magdalene, tenor, Simon 
Peter, bass, John the Evangelist  
voices, and accompanied by an 
utterly transcendental transverse 
flute, sings 
      “My soul, the spice that embalms 
       you shall no longer be myrrh. Only
       a crown of laurels can soothe your 
       anxious longing.”  
and knocks your socks off 
this week at market, stuffing my 
organic red pepper and a bag of 
handcrafted chips, barbecued,
designer, into my bagat their 
express counter, collecting my 
coins, my receipt, my change 
purse, my wallet, and last but not 
least, of course, my self, I sensed 
something of mine drop, looked 
dutifully aroundcould find 
nothing, wondered, and made to 
excuse me, sir, I heard behind me, 
you dropped something
a little boy, an urchin, blond hair, 
blue eyes, right out of Charles 
Dickens, I thought, eight maybe,
nine, held out a quarter, apparently 
why thank you, I replied, enchanted
and you know what, I asked, I’m 
going to give this back to you, and 
put the quarter back into his hand
the last time I did something like 
that, I saw an angel, I remembered
but that’s another story
thank you, he said back, gleaming
with the maturity of his interaction, 
though I’m not sure he wasn’t 
himself in fact also a very angel
later I thought I should’ve sent him 
for a crème brûlée, a piece of carrot 
cake, a pastry, or something, and 
berated myself for the paucity of 
my recompense
but there is a link to Easter in my 
tale, the idea of hope, revival, 
regeneration, in the possibility of
goodness reentering the world, a
task inherited by the children, and 
whom we must not lead astray
apart from its more traditional 
associations, for perhaps the less 
observant, people of other creeds 
and faiths, if Easter means anything 
still, or has ever, it is about just that, 
hope, revival, regeneration, nor must 
we ourselves betray those ideals   
happy Easter 

Olivier Messiaen – “Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum”

just in time for Easter here is something from
Olivier Messiaen, whom I consider to be, after
Shostakovich, the most important composer of
the Twentieth Century, and may one day, with
more distance, prove to be, of the two,
Messiaen, a devout Catholic, wrote specifically
to the glory of the Catholic God, an interesting
return to the music of the Baroque period, and
earlier, when the Church sponsored essentially
all the arts  
perhaps Messiaen is also a precursor – the Et
exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum“, which
I’m presenting, or, in my humble Latin,”In 
is from 1964 – of the resurgent fundamentalism
we’ve been witnessing in all churches,
synagogues, mosques, in our own times
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum“, is
not at all Romantic, not even Impressionistic,
two world wars have been fought since, man  
has stepped on the unglorious moon, God even
died in the early sixties leaving us to reinvent
our own future, a time of youth and flowers,
and great indeed expectations, as it turned out  
the even profound assumptions of the earlier
order however, in the language of music
represented fundamentally by beat and tonality, 
hadn’t worked, couldn’t work anymore, having
been manifestly discredited, women had received 
the vote, financial and sexual independence,
traditional authority had been categorically
overthrown, there was no going back
Richard Strauss had already suggested this new
broader horizon, in 1896, with his “Also Sprach 
Zarathustra, a mighty work, made famous, even
unforgettable, by the movie  “2001: A Space   
Odyssey“, when the very sun bursts upon the
intergalactic universe to its interstellar strains
but Messiaen takes you even further into the
reaches of the infinite 
I couldn’t help thinking of a more adult Miró –
the individualized elements – but more profoundly 
metaphysical, I have rarely seen, heard, something
so transfixing, powerful, even the silences between
movements, there are five, are riveting
happy Easter