O Rex Orbis: The Rhymed Office of Charlemagne
First Vespers for the Feast of Saint Charlemagne
as it might have been celebrated at Aachen on Saturday, January 27, 1582
Motet: Laudemus Dominum à 4 Johannes Mangon (ca. 1525–1578)
Invitatory Versicle and Response: Deus in adjutorium Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: Regali natus de stirpe/Psalm 109 Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: Angelici cultus/Psalm 110 Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: Sacros effectus/Psalm 111 Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: Justicie palma/Psalm 112 Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: Nec mundi terror/Psalm 113 Plainchant
Hymn setting: O rex orbis à 4 Mangon
Chapter reading: Egredimini filie Jherusalem Plainchant
Responsory: Te secutus Plainchant
Versicle and Response: Gloria et honore Plainchant
Motet: O spes afflictis à 4 Mangon
Magnificat [primi/sexti toni] à 6 Lambertus de Monte (d. before 1606)
Motet: O spes afflictis/In cithara/Dissolutus in corpore à 4 Mangon
Collect: Deus qui superhabundanti Plainchant
Benedicamus Domino Plainchant
Ave Maria, gratia plena à 4 Michael Wilhelm (fl. 1580–1610)
Pacem tuam da nobis à 4 Mangon
Vigila super nos à 4 Mangon
Antiphon: Rex confessor/Nunc dimittis Plainchant
Salve regina super Doulce mémoire à 4 Ludovicus Episcopius (ca. 1520–1595)
Antiphon: Salva nos, Domine/Psalm 133 Plainchant
In te, Domine, speravi à 6 Orlande de Lassus (ca. 1530–1594)
Shannon Canavin & Sara Ofner, soprano
Thea Lobo & Aaron Russo, alto
Jason McStoots & Eric Rice, tenor
Brian Church & Darrick Yee, bass
Friday, February 24, 2006 at 8pm
The First Lutheran Church of Boston
Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 4pm
Cochran Chapel at Phillips Academy Andover
Notes on the Program
The Frankish emperor Charlemagne (748 – 814) made a profound contribution to the European cultural heritage, and it is for this reason that his name is better known than that of most other medieval rulers. He ruled a territory of a size unparalleled in Western Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire, and he was responsible for Christianizing large portions of the continent. His interest in education led to the preservation and dissemination of Greek and Roman literature as well as reforms in pedagogy and jurisprudence. His insistence on the primacy of the Christian liturgy of Rome led to a wide written transmission of liturgical texts and music, and arguably to the development of Western musical notation. Charlemagne’s goal was the restoration of the Roman Empire on a Christian basis, and he saw himself as a follower of the Christian emperors Constantine (ca. 280 – 337) and Justinian (ca. 482 – 565). The force of his personality was apparently a key to his success, for his empire effectively dissolved after his death. Biographies compiled by contemporaries who outlived him relate a sense of nostalgia for his reign. This nostalgia, which continued and increased with subsequent writers throughout the history of the Holy Roman Empire, is at the crux of the identity of the church now known as Aachen Cathedral, which Charlemagne founded in ca. 800 as part of his palace complex.
Charlemagne was canonized in 1165 through the efforts of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1122 – 1190). Achieving sainthood for the Frankish ruler was part of Barbarossa’s vigorous political campaign to assert his power within the independent sovereign Church. As ruler of the empire that Charlemagne began, Barbarossa emulated his Frankish predecessor and cited the latter’s deeds as legal precedents. Affirming the events of Charlemagne’s life as holy also affirmed the sacred nature of German kingship, and thus of Barbarossa himself. Pope Paschal III canonized Charlemagne during a time of papal schism and was later discredited as an antipope; because of this, his act has never been ratified, and Charlemagne’s name is not in the standard Roman Breviary. The liturgy of the feast of Charlemagne is not celebrated outside Aachen today, though it was widely disseminated in the Middle Ages and can be found in manuscript sources in Gerona, Paris, Prague, and Zurich, among many others.
Our concert presents liturgical music from the Divine Office for annual celebrations of Charlemagne’s feast day on January 28, the anniversary of his death in 814. (Our recent tour to Germany and Belgium coincided with the feast day, which is still celebrated in Aachen.) The Divine Office (from the Latin officium, “duty”) is a ritual that is distinct from the mass: whereas the mass commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples as described in the New Testament, the Office grew out of the collective praying and psalm-singing of Jewish ritual. It was codified into services known as the Canonical Hours, which are celebrated at roughly three-hour intervals throughout the day in monasteries and (in earlier times) in most large churches. Most office services have similar contents. Certain psalms are chanted at each service, so that by the end of each week the entire Psalter or set of 150 psalms has been recited. Psalms are introduced by antiphons, short melodies that establish the musical recitation formula in which each psalm is chanted. The psalm is then follwed by a doxology (“Glory be to the Father,” etc.) and a repetition of the antiphon. A short scripture reading is performed and then followed by an elaborate plainchant responsory. A hymn is also sung at many office services. It is in the rhyming texts (hence the term “rhymed office”) of these three types of pieces — antiphons, responsories, and hymns — that the celebration of Charlemagne’s life and deeds is set forth. They were composed by anonymous clerics under Barbarossa’s direction and should be viewed in light of the political situation at the time. In their densely packed, rhymed texts, Charlemagne is presented as a holy figure with a passion for protecting the faith. His military campaigns and intolerance for non-Christians are celebrated, and at the same time he is held up as a healer and nurturer whose power as an intercessor is sought.
Some of the twelfth-century chants of this service were elaborated by polyphony (music that contains any simultaneous sounding of two or more notes). These pieces were composed by Johannes Mangon (ca. 1525 – 1578), a musician from nearby Liège who became choirmaster of Aachen’s collegiate church in 1567. They survive in three manuscripts of polyphony Mangon compiled that are now part of the large collection of liturgical books housed in Aachen’s Domarchiv. Using these, particularly the thirteenth-century Antiphoner of Franko, the oldest liturgical book to preserve the rhymed office of Charlemagne, Eric Rice has reconstructed the liturgy of two services, First Vespers and Compline. Ordinals, books that prescribe the correct order of service for the office and mass, were consulted to determine the contents and order of the services, both of which are celebrated the night before the actual feast day. We have chosen Saturday, January 27, 1582, as an evening on which these services would have been celebrated with this music, and have selected psalms appropriate to that day of the week. Our arbitrary date is after the death of Johannes Mangon in the 1578 plague that ravaged Aachen, and our Vespers service thus includes music by two of his followers: Lambertus de Monte (died before 1606) and Michael Wilhelm (flourished ca. 1580 – 1610); each added examples of his work to the Mangon Choir Books.
Vespers begins with a versicle and response and continues with five antiphons and psalms. After an antiphon is sung, each psalm is chanted to a “recitation tone” or melodic formula specific to the mode or scale of the antiphon (in the interest of time, we shall sing only the first two verses of each psalm). A doxology with the text “Gloria Patri” (“Glory be to Father”) follows, and the antiphon is then repeated. By the twelfth century, rhymed offices were composed so that their elements progressed through the modes in numeric order. Here, for example, the first antiphon is in mode one, the second is in mode two, etc; in this way, all of the possible recitation formulas were used multiple times in the course of a feast’s Canonical Hours.
Following the five antiphons and psalms, the hymn, O rex orbis, is sung. The text of this work demonstrates the main themes of the rhymed office chants that Barbarossa commissioned. In the second strophe he is held up as a healer and nurturer who is allegorized as Moses providing water for the children of Israel at the rock of Horeb (Exodus 17:4-7), and in the next stanza his military campaigns and intolerance for non-Christians are celebrated. Mangon set the hymn so that plainchant and the polyphony based upon it alternate, allowing for direct comparison. The polyphonic setting of the last strophe of this hymn was not copied into the choir book, and the appropriate pages were blank; the scribe (probably Mangon himself) simply never finished the job. The strophe was clearly intended to be sung polyphonically, so we have set it to the polyphony of a previous strophe as a kind of reconstruction.
The chapter reading follows. Charlemagne allegorized himself as a new King Solomon, constructing his chapel throne and the palatine chapel itself—the same building in which this service was celebrated—according to the descriptions of Solomon’s throne and the proportions of Solomon’s Temple recorded in the Hebrew Bible. The chapter reading from the Song of Solomon, then, was intended to serve as a direct reference to Charlemagne, and perhaps even to the pilgrimage that grew up around the veneration of the saint’s bones and relics. The text of the plainchant responsory further asserts Charlemagne’s relationship to the Holy Land and its prophets, saying “he is likened to Elijah.”
The antiphon that introduces the Magnificat follows. In Mangon’s setting of this chant, the original melody is used as a cantus firmus, heard in long note values in one voice while the others sing freely-composed counterpoint. The cantus firmus begins in the alto voice and then changes to the soprano at the text “regula virtutis iuris.” The Magnificat itself, Mary’s response to the annunciation as recorded in Luke’s Gospel (1: 46-55), is chanted near the end of every Vespers. As with the antiphons that introduce each of the psalms, the antiphon that introduces the Magnificat normally determines the mode in which the Magnificat itself is chanted. The previous chant, O spes afflictis, and Mangon’s subsequent polyphonic setting of it are both in mode six, requiring a polyphonic setting of the Magnificat in that mode. De Monte composed this work in such a way that it is possible to sing it in either mode one or mode six; since the recitation formulae of these modes differ only in their last few notes, he was able to compose polyphony that terminates on the pitch D (for the version in mode one), but also contains an appropriate stopping point midway through each verse on F (for the version in mode six). This is a procedure adopted by other composers of the Renaissance, notably Nicolas Gombert, for the setting of the Magnificat. Like the hymn, O rex orbis, the Magnificat is an alternatim setting, so that the chant or recitation tone that is the basis of the piece is heard between polyphonic verses. In a strikingly economic fashion, this six-voice Magnificat was copied on two manuscript leaves between previously copied Magnificats by Mangon, and yet incipits or text cues appear for all of the Magnificat’s even-numbered verses, indicating that the same polyphony was repeated again and again (in alternation with the odd-numbered verses in plainchant). These cues indicate that after employing all the voices in the first polyphonic verse, two voices were heard in the second, three in the third, etc., until all six voices return in the final doxology. De Monte was thus able to recycle the music that could fit on two folia through five additional verses.
Following the Magnificat, the plainchant antiphon that introduced it is repeated. Mangon set this antiphon, O spes afflictis, twice, and his second setting may well have been used at the repetition of the Magnificat antiphon. It is actually a setting of antiphons from three different office services: the first part sets the antiphon to the Magnificat for first vespers, the second sets the fifth antiphon of Lauds, and the third sets the antiphon for Second Vespers. In this way, the motet is a kind of summation of the entire rhymed office. Following this motet, the collect and dismissal conclude the service. Aachen’s liturgy included many additional chants (and polyphonic settings of them) to the Virgin, and our Vespers concludes with this one by Michael Wilhelm (also called Michelus Guilelmus and “Josel”), who may well have come from Liège.
The second portion of our concert contains music that would have been sung at Compline on the Feast of Saint Charlemagne. The name “Compline” is from the Latin completus (“completed”), a reference to the end of the day; the service seems to have grown out of collective prayers said before going to bed. Many of the prayers and other texts recited during compline are supplications for God’s protection during sleep, and four psalms deemed particularly pertinent are chanted in Compline services: 4, 90, 30, and 133 (Vulgate numbering). In Aachen, three of these were introduced by antiphons, and Johannes Mangon made polyphonic settings of two such antiphons that we are performing here: Pacem tuam da nobis and Vigila super nos.
Antiphons specific to a particular feast-day are generally rare in Compline services, but in Aachen’s liturgy they were relatively common. In the rhymed office of Charlemagne, the antiphon Rex confessor is supplied to introduce the Canticle of Simeon at Compline. The Canticle is recited at every Compline service because of Simeon’s longing for the peace brought about by death (analogous to sleep), a death that could only come about once he saw the Christ-child in the Temple (Luke 2:29-32). Aside from the hymn heard in the first half of the program, O rex orbis, this antiphon is the only element of the Compline service that stems from the rhymed office of Charlemagne.
Salve regina is the text of one of four “Marian” antiphons, chants that pertain the the Virgin and do not introduce a psalm or canticle. In the Roman rite, these were sung at the conclusion of Compline and varied according to the season of the year, but during the late sixteenth century a somewhat different tradition existed in Aachen, where the Salve regina seems to have been sung throughout of the year except in Paschal time, when Regina coeli was the Marian antiphon of choice. This setting of the Salve regina was composed by Ludovicus Episcopius (or “de Bischop”), the Kapellmeister at Sankt Servatius in nearby Maastricht. Episcopius’s polyphony is a brilliant combination of the melody of the antiphon and melodic and harmonic structures from Pierre Sandrin’s Doulce mémoire, a very famous four-voice Parisian chanson. Like Sandrin’s setting, Episcopius’s work derives its effect from its flowing melody, the low ranges of its voice parts, and the distinctive harmonies created by implied cross relations.
We conclude with a work by a much more famous composer than the others represented on our program, but one with a connection to Aachen nonetheless. Orlando di Lasso’s In te, Domine, speravi was one of six motets by the master that Mangon copied into his choirbooks for use at the Marienkirche. A setting of portions of Psalm 30, it seems likely that the work would have been used at Compline services in place of the standard recitation of the psalm. Lasso employs the six voices to great effect, varying the texture between higher and lower voices and contrasting “choirs” within the ensemble. The fact that such a work (along with others by Jacobus Clemens non Papa and Crecquillon) was copied along with very fine compositions by Mangon demonstrates that the polyphonic traditions of Aachen were very strong despite the fact that the city had become something of a backwater. As Johannes Noppius, a chronicler of Aachen, put it in 1620, “On feast-days there are more prominent musicians than there is room to stand. And if anyone should be surprised at the beautiful music and heartfelt ceremony of this church, he should know that it is fitting that it be done here as it is in sede Regia [at the royal seat].”
© Eric Rice 2005