Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Superb Recordings of the Hymns of Passiontide

In October of last year, the choir of Westminster Cathedral released an album titled Vexilla Regis: A sequence of music from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday. Among the 21 tracks are these two genuinely outstanding recordings of the hymns for Passiontide Vexilla Regis and Pange lingua; the whole album has also recently been made available on a YouTube playlist. Both of these were were written by St Venantius Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers in France, in the later sixth century, to celebrate the arrival there of a relic of the True Cross which was given by the Byzantine Emperor Justin II to Venantius’ dear friend St Radegund, Queen of the Franks. In the Divine Office, Pange lingua is divided into two parts, the first of which (five stanzas plus a doxology) is sung at Matins, and the second (five more stanzas plus the same doxology) at Lauds, while Vexilla Regis is sung at Vespers. They are also both used at the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday, the former during the adoration of the Cross, and the later while the Blessed Sacrament is brought back from the altar of repose to the main altar.

What I particularly like about both of these recordings is how they alternate the stanzas between the boys’ and men’s choirs, which then merge at the last stanza to powerful effect, while the organ accompaniment remains very light. A very fine achievement indeed - congratulations to all who were involved!

Pange lingua
Vexilla Regis

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