Friday, May 31, 2019

Mutual Enrichment: O Salutaris Hostia after Bortniansky

Here is an interesting example of mutual liturgical enrichment between the East and the West, published last year on the blog of the Schola Sainte-Cécile; somehow, I missed it when it was originally posted, but happened to stumble across it yesterday. Towards the end of the Byzantine Hour of Orthros, a chant called an exapostilarion is sung right before the Laudate Psalms (148-149-150.) Many exapostilaria speak of Christ as the Light, since they would originally have been sung around the time of sunrise; they are therefore also called “hymns of light” (φωταγωγικόν - светилен). On Easter Sunday, the text is as follows: “Having fallen asleep in the flesh as a mortal, O King and Lord, on the third day Thou didst rise again, raising up Adam from corruption, and abolishing death, o Pascha of incorruption, Salvation of the world!” Dmitry Bortniansky (1751-1825), one of the greatest Slav composers of ecclesiastical music, set this to his own polyphonic version, as he did many famous parts of the Byzantine Rite. Henri de Villiers, who directs both the Schola Sainte-Cécile and the choir of the Russian Catholic Church in Paris, adapted Bortniansky’s setting of it for this version of O salutaris hostia, from St Thomas’ Office of Corpus Christi, which is often sung at Mass and Benediction.

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