Thursday, February 02, 2012

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine.

Today's Feast of the Meeting (or Presentation) of the Lord in the Temple is one of the greatest days of the Christian year. The joyful encounter between the Christ Child and the elderly Simeon and Anna that we commemorate today offers much to reflect upon, as I noted in this post from last year. The canticle of praise proclaimed by Simeon upon meeting the Christ Child, widely known as the Nunc dimittis, has gained its own special place in the cultural patrimony of Christendom through its use in the divine office in both East and West and through a wide variety of musical settings composed over the centuries, some of which I would like to share in this post.

First, we have a setting of the Nunc dimittis in traditional Kievan plainchant, performed here in English translation by the Men's Choir of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary under the direction of Hierodeacon Philip Majkrzak.

Remaining within the Russian tradition but moving forward to the early twentieth century, here is the setting of the Nunc dimittis produced by Sergei Rachmaninov for his All-Night Vigil (1915), sung here by the Moscow State Chamber Choir conducted by Vladimir Minin.

Moving to the Anglican choral tradition, here is a setting of the Nunc dimittis by George Dyson (1883-1964), performed here by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge under the direction of Stephen Cleobury.

Still British, still twentieth century, and still Cambridge: Gustav Holst's setting of the Nunc dimittis dates from 1915 (the same year as Rachmaninov's) and may be heard above in a performance by a group of undergraduate singers from various Cambridge colleges conducted by Dominic O'Connor Robinson.

Finally, a selection from the twenty-first century: Arvo Pärt's Nunc dimittis (2001), performed by the Indiana University Contemporary Vocal Ensemble directed by Carmen Helena Téllez. Posting this piece, I should add a note of gratitude to Michelle Francl-Donnay of Quantum Theology, for the simple reason that she introduced me to the music of Arvo Pärt. It's hard to say which of the above settings of the Nunc dimittis I like best, but I hope that interested readers/listeners of this post can find something here that they appreciate. AMDG.


At 2/04/2012 10:30 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

The Holst was new to me, thank you!


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