The Holy Trinity, by Francesco Cairo, 1650

     Lent is approaching fast: Ash Wednesday is just over a week away.  This is one of our last chances to get in a joyful sacred composition by our old friend Joseph Haydn before the penitential season begins.

     Today’s selection is a setting for the ancient prayer Te Deum (see my discussion of the prayer itself below the video).  This is the third different setting of the Te Deum I’ve posted on this site.  Last year I shared a very recent composition (as in, premiered in December 2019) by Pedro Camacho.  I also posted a version by Domenico Scarlatti that was first performed in the 1720s.

     Haydn’s magnificent setting was probably composed in 1799, and had its public premier in 1800.  Haydn wrote the piece at the request of the Empress Maria Theresa, for which reason it is known as (what else?) The Te Deum for the Empress Marie Therese. The Aylesbury Choral Society has published a brief but very informative explanation of this wonderful sacred composition HERE.    I’m really not sure who is performing the piece in the video below, other than they’re boy singers (sängerknaben), along with somebody named Diego. Whoever they are, they do a fine job.  Take a few minutes to enjoy their performance of a great composer’s masterful musical rendition of a beautiful ancient payer:


     The Te Deum is an ancient Christian prayer.  Its title comes from its first line in Latin: Te Deum Laudamus, “We praise you, God.”  For many centuries Christians would sing the Te Deum as a song of celebration and thanks to the Lord.  This was true not only after events of clearly religious significance, such as the Christian victory over the Muslim Turks in the Battle of Lepanto in 1572, but on the occasion of more worldly triumphs as well, in recognition that all good things are a gift from God.  For instance, the English King Henry V is reputed to have ordered his army to sing the hymn after their victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415, an event William Shakespeare includes in his play Henry V.

    While nowhere near as old as the psalms, the Te Deum is still a very ancient prayer, having been composed in the 3rd or 4th century.  Its authorship is unknown, but has been attributed to St. Ambrose and/or St. Augustine, St. Nicetas of Remesiana, or St. Hillary of Poitiers. It has been set to music many times over the centuries.

Te Deum:

Te Deum laudámus: te Dominum confitémur.
Te ætérnum Patrem omnis terra venerátur.
Tibi omnes Angeli; tibi cæli et univérsae potestátes.
Tibi Chérubim et Séraphim incessábili voce proclámant:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra majestátis glóriæ tuæ.
Te gloriósus Apostolórum chorus;
Te Prophetárum laudábilis númerus;
Te Mártyrum candidátus laudat exércitus.
Te per orbem terrárum sancta confitétur Ecclésia: Patrem imménsæ majestátis;
Venerándum tuum verum
et únicum Fílium;
Sanctum quoque Paráclitum Spíritum.
Tu Rex glóriæ, Christe.
Tu Patris sempitérnus es Fílius.
Tu ad liberándum susceptúrus hóminem,
non horruísti Vírginis úterum.
Tu, devícto mortis acúleo, aperuísti credéntibus regna cælórum.
Tu ad déxteram Dei sedes, in glória Patris.
Judex créderis esse ventúrus.
Te ergo quǽsumus, tuis fámulis súbveni,    
quos pretióso sánguine redemísti.
Ætérna fac cum sanctis tuis in glória
Salvum fac pópulum tuum, Dómine,
et bénedic hæreditáti tuæ.
Et rege eos, et extólle illos usque in ætérnum.
Per síngulos dies benedícimus te.
Et laudámus nomen tuum in sǽculum, et in sǽculum sǽculi.
Dignáre, Dómine, die isto sine peccáto nos custodíre.
Miserére nostri, Dómine, miserére nostri.
Fiat misericórdia tua, Dómine, super nos, quemádmodum sperávimus in te.
In te, Dómine, sperávi: non confúndar in ætérnum.

You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you:
Father, of majesty unbounded,your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the King of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the sting of death,
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come, and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints to glory everlasting.
Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance.— Govern and uphold them now and always.
Day by day we bless you.
— We praise your name for ever.
Keep us today, Lord, from all sin.
— Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
Lord, show us your love and mercy,
— for we have put our trust in you.In you, Lord, is our hope:
— And we shall never hope in vain.





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