Medieval Finland, Part 2

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Program: #14-03   Air Date: Jan 13, 2014

We had so many comments about our Finnish Christmas shows, we bring back both ensembles—Vox Silentii and Oliphant—and continue exploring their remarkable music.

NOTE: All of the music on this program is from recent recordings by Finnish Ensembles.

I. Vidente Miraculum: Mediaeval Bridgettine Chants from Naantali Convent (Vox Silentii Ensemble).

Proprius CD PRSACD 2021.

For more information:

Birgitta Birgersdotter (1303 — 1373) of Sweden was a visionary and the founder of a monastic order. She was canonized in 1391 and declared Patron Saint of Europe in 1999. Birgitta’s spiritual visions, or Revelaciones, were widely known, and about 700 of them were recorded. In one of these visions, Birgitta was instructed by Christ to found a monastic house mainly for women in honour of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The first Brigittine house was inaugurated in Vadstena, Sweden, in 1384. The second Swedish Brigittine house was chartered in Vallis Gracie(Valley of Mercy), or Naantali, in 1438 — Finland being part of the Kingdom of Sweden at the time. Brigittine houses included both a monastery and a convent. Birgitta is reported to have had a rich and varied life. She was of noble birth, a mother of eight children and a socially active figure who turned to her religious calling after being widowed in her forties. Birgitta’s visions had no regard for social status. The message was clear: penitence is essential for everyone. The Brigittine order had two aspects: meditative or contemplative prayer, on the one hand, and active work on the other. The balance between prayer and work was evident in Birgitta’s own life, which was both meditative and ascetic, and highly practical and extrovert. She herself said that there was no conflict between a person’s internal and external life.

The songs on our two CDs ( Cantus sororum and Videte miraculum), are taken from the daily prayers of the Birgittine sisters. The songs are known as Cantus Sororum, i.e. the ‘songs of the sisters’. Birgitta wanted the sisters in her order to praise God by using a liturgy created especially for them. The liturgy proceeded in weekly cycles i.e. the same songs and texts were repeated on the same weekdays from one week to the next. The sorority lived week by week and through Mary’s eyes, studied the life of Christ and the life of Mary, the history of Christ’s sufferings and the salvation history from the time the World was created.

Birgitta outlined Cantus sororum between 1360 and 1370 together with her confessor, Petrus Olaf of Skänninge (d. 1378). Birgitta reported the words of the angel in Swedish, and Petrus translated them into Latin and wrote most of the texts of the offices based on the visions. Petrus also composed some of the music. Cantus sororum sings the praises of the Virgin Mary from various points of view. Each day of the week has its own theme. Sunday is for celebrating the Holy Trinity and the merit of the Virgin Mary. On Monday, angelic choirs rejoice in the Mother of God. On Tuesday, the focus is on patriarchs and prophets who foretold the birth of Mary. On Wednesday, the people rejoice in the immaculate conception and birth of Mary. On Thursday, the theme is the Virgin who gives birth to the Son, Saviour of the world. Friday is for grieving with the Mother of God for her Son’s suffering and death. Saturday commemorates Mary’s ascension.

1. Summe Trinitati (Sunday matins, responsory)
2. Te sanctum Dominum (Monday matins, responsory)
3. Benedicta terra (Monday matins, responsory)
4. Eva mater (Tuesday matins, responsory)
5. Veni creator Spiritus (Tuesday prime, hymn)
6. Benedictus sis tu (Tuesday lauds, antiphon)
7. Corrige Virgo (Wednesday matins, antiphon)
8. Videte miraculum (Thursday matins, responsory)
9. Perenniter sit benedicta (Friday matins, responsory)
10. Rogatus Deus rumpere (Friday lauds, hymn)
11. O Virgo (Friday lauds, antiphon)
12. Beata es, Virgo Maria(Saturday matins, responsory)
13. Gaudendum nobis est (Saturday compline, antiphon)

II. Oliphant: HERZ, PRICH! – HEART, BREAK!: Medieval German Music (Oliphant Ensemble)

Alba CD ABCD 292.

For more information:

From Wikipedia: The Oliphant ensemble for medieval music has a repertoire consisting of music from the 12th century to the polyphonic ars nova. Formed in 1995, it has brought to light and recorded a wealth of previously unknown trouvère music. Its colourful performances, drawing on improvisation, have won the admiration of audiences and critics alike, and its CDs Songs from the Crusades and Gace Brulé were nominated for the title of classical Record of the Year by the leading Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Joie Fine, released in 2006, is of chansons pieuses – pious trouvère songs of the 13th century. In 2008 and 2009 Oliphant immersed itself in German medieval music, resulting in a HERZ, PRICH! – HEART, BREAK! concert and disc.

Oliphant has appeared abroad in Sweden, France and elsewhere and at numerous Finnish music festivals. In addition to giving concerts of its own and performing on other occasions, it was one of the architects of the production of the medieval liturgical drama Ludis Danielis and has premiered new Finnish music. Its repertoire consists of trouvère songs of various kinds (chansons de croisades, chansons pieuses, chansons de femme), German medieval music and items from such collections as Carmina burana and Cantigas de Santa Maria. Representing polyphonic music are works by Guillaume de Machaut, Francesco Landini and Oswald Wolkenstein, and ars antiqua.

The members of Oliphant play a variety of historical instruments, each in their own distinctive way. The basic sound is produced by the human voice, fiddle, recorder, hammered dulcimer and medieval lute, but the ensemble can also turn its hand to many of the instruments familiar in the Middle Ages: citole, bombard, bagpipes, slide trumpet, symphony, double flute, bells, Jew’s harp and many kinds of drums and other percussion instruments.

Sachs, Hans (1494-1576):
1 Wacht auff ir werden Christen (Good Christians awake) 3:11    
von Wolkenstein, Oswald (1376/78-1445):
2 Ain graserin durch külen tau (A mower-maid in the cool morning dew) 2:54    
von der Vogelweide, Walther (c. 1170-1230), arr. / sov. Sven Berger:
3 Under der linden an der heide (Beneath the linden on the heath) 4:43    
von Rügen, Wizlaw (1265/1268-1325):
4 De Unghelarde heft ghemaket ene senende wise (I the unlearned have made a longing song) 3:18    
von Wolkenstein, Oswald (1376/78-1445):
5 Du ausserweltes schöns mein herz (You my heart’s beautiful chosen one) 2:21    
von Reuental, Neidhart (c. 1180-1237/1246):
6 Blôzen wir den anger ligen sâhen (Only the bare meadow had we seen) 3:32    
Der Mönch von Salzburg, arr. / sov. Leif Karlson:
7 Wenn ich betracht die gueten nacht (When I think of that good night) 3:43    
von Wolkenstein, Oswald (1376/78-1445):
8 Wer ist, die da durchleuchtet (Who is it shining there?) 5:54    
9 Herz, prich, rich, sich (Heart, break, revenge, see) 2:18    
von der Vogelweide, Walther (c. 1170-1230):
10 Mir hât hêr Gêrhart Atze ein pfert (Master Gerhard Atze shot my horse) 3:27    
von Meißen, Heinrich (Frauenlob) (1250-1318):
11 Wer half Adam us not in füre (Who helped Adam?) 6:03    
von Wolkenstein, Oswald (1376/78-1445):
12 Mit günstlichem herzen wunsch ich dir (With a willing heart I wish you) 1:22    
Anonymous, Schedels Liederbuch (c. 1460):
13 O wie gern und doch enpern muss ich alzeit (Oh, how willingly, but yet without) 1:52    
von Wolkenstein, Oswald (1376/78-1445):
14 Grasselick lif! (Oh cruel life!) 2:24    
15 Ain tunckle farb von occident (The dark shade of the occident) 5:28    
16 Frölich geschrai so well wir machen (Let us shout for joy)