I Rejoiced – 16 January 2023

Jerusalem - I rejoiced
Jerusalem from The Nuremburg Chronicle, 1493


It’s not easy . . .

Monteverdi - I rejoiced
The only certain portrait of Claudio Monteverdi, from the title page of Fiori poetici, a 1644 book of commemorative poems for his funeral (Wikipedia)

It’s not easy to be a pioneer.  But that was the path Claudio Monteverdi followed.  He straddled the fifteenth and sixteenth cenuries, living from 1567 to 1643.  Monteverdi worked in both secular and religious music, and was a key figure in the development of opera, among other things. The composer introduced numerous innovations to the music of his time, playing a large role in the development of Renaissance music into baroque.

As we noted above, innovators don’t always enjoy smooth sailing.  Individuals invested in the status quo will fight fiercely to preserve said status quo (and along with it, of course, their own importance).  It’s no surprise, then, that Monteverdi received his share of criticism.  We may be surprised to learn that even a thing as commonplace (to us) as harmony caused an enormous controversy.

I Rejoiced

All those disputes, of course are centuries behind us.  We still listen to Monteverd’s music today because it’s beautiful and inspiring.  On an earlier occasion I posted “Nisi Dominus” from Monteverdi’s Vespro Della Beata Vergine (a musical setting for Vespers, or Evening Prayer).  Today I’m following up with another selection from the same composition, “Laetatus Sum”.

“Laetatus Sum” (I rejoiced) is a musical rendition of Psalm 122 (see the English translation below from the RSV).  The Psalm itself celebrates the joy and peace one can find in “The House of the Lord.”

Jerusalem Old and New

     The ancient psalmist was no doubt referring principally to the actual Jerusalem of his day, and the Temple of stone and wood built upon its heights. We, looking back through the lens of God’s Revelation in Jesus Christ, can see a deeper meaning. The Book of Revelation speaks of “the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God” (Rev 21:2). In other words, the psalmist’s Jerusalem also represents our Heavenly Destination, Deo volente.

The New Testament, as St. Augustine pointed out, is concealed in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New. And here, beautifully put to music.

“Laetatus Sum” – English Baroque Soloists

The music in this clip features:
– Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists
– Choirs: Monteverdi Choir / London Oratory Junior Choir
– Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner
– Soloists: Michael Chance (Countertenor), Bryn Terfel (Bass), Alastair Miles (Bass), Ann Monoyios (Soprano), Sandro Naglia (Tenor), Nigel Robson (Tenor), Mark Tucker (Tenor)

I Rejoiced – Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, built as a city
which is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they prosper who love you!
Peace be within your walls, and

security within your towers!”

For my brethren and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.

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