O magnum mysterium (Charles H. Giffen)

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Original SSAT.SATB.ATBB motet
  • CPDL #23823:       
Editor: Charles H. Giffen (submitted 2011-07-01).   Score information: Letter, 19 pages, 253 kB   Copyright: CC BY SA 4.0
Edition notes: Revised 2019-01-13. Please inform the composer of any performances or recordings of this work. MusicXML source file is in compressed .mxl format.
8 voice SSAT.ATBB adaptation
  • (Posted 2015-08-03)   CPDL #36379:       
Editor: Charles H. Giffen (submitted 2015-08-03).   Score information: Letter, 19 pages, 212 kB   Copyright: CC BY SA 4.0
Edition notes: Revised 2019-01-13. This 8-voice SSAT.ATBB setting has been adapted and arranged from the original 12-voice work, preserving much of the essence of the latter. Please inform the composer of any performances or recordings of this work. MusicXML source file is in compressed .mxl format.

General Information

Title: O magnum mysterium
Composer: Charles H. Giffen
Source of text: Responsory to the fourth lesson at Matins of Christmas Day

Number of voices: 12, 8vv   Voicings: SSAT.SATB.ATBB or SSAT.ATBB
Genre: SacredMotet

Language: Latin
Instruments: A cappella

Published: 2011 , 2015

Description: The music includes mainly twelve tone thematic but also whole tone harmonic material, both of which lend a sense of mystery and reverence as the music unfolds. The twelve tone material is derived from the following tone row, enunciated first in the alto part, then delayed by three measures and inverted, in the bass part, subsequently transposed in the soprano part and tenor part (inverted):

  et admirable sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum

{
<<
</p>
<pre><<
</pre>
<p>{ \clef treble \time 2/2 \tempo 2 = 52 s1 s s s s s f2. d4 ges4 des ~ \times 2/3 { des c es } fes1}
</p>
<pre>  \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"string ensemble 2"
</pre>
<p>\\
{ b,2. gis4 c g ~ \times 2/3 { g fis a } bes1 r4 d,2 f4 e cis dis2 ~ dis1 ~ <f dis>1 ~ <f dis>1 ~ f}
</p>
<pre>>>
</pre>
<p>\new Staff
</p>
<pre><<
</pre>
<p>{ \clef bass \time 2/2 b,1 ~ b ~ b ~ b ~ b ~ b ~ b ~ b ~ b }
</p>
<pre>  \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"string ensemble 2"
</pre>
<p>\\
{ s1 s s b,2. d4 ais dis ~ \times 2/3 { dis e cis } bis1 r4 gis'2 eis4 fis a g2 ~ g1 }
</p>
<pre>>>
</pre>
<p>>>
}

{
<<
</p>
<pre><<
</pre>
<p>{ \clef treble \time 2/2 \tempo 2 = 52 r4 aes2 ces4 bes g a2 ~ a1 ~ a1 ~ a1 a ~ a \tempo 2 = 60 r2 a2 ~ a4 a a2 <cis ais>1 <cis ais> }
</p>
<pre>  \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"string ensemble 2"
</pre>
<p>\\
{ <f, b,>1 ~ <f b,> ~ <f b,> ~ <f b,> ~ <f b,> ~ <f b,> ~ <f b,> r2 <cis b>2 ~ <cis b>4 <cis b> <cis b>2 <fis cis>1 <fis cis> }
</p>
<pre>>>
</pre>
<p>\new Staff
</p>
<pre><<
</pre>
<p>{ \clef bass \time 2/2 f,2. aes4 e4 a ~ \times 2/3 { a bes g} fis1 r4 d'2 b4 c es des2 ~ des1 ~ des1 r2 <f, dis>2 ~ <f dis>4 <f dis> <f dis>2 <fis ais>1 <fis ais> }
</p>
<pre>  \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"string ensemble 2"
</pre>
<p>\\
{ g1 ~ g1 s s s s s r2 g, ~ g4 g g2 <fis cis'>1 <fis cis'> }
</p>
<pre>>>
</pre>
<p>>>
}

The given markings for tempo are approximate and may be adjusted to suit the performance acoustics. The three 4-part groups may be separated by some distance if there is adequate space in the performance venue.

The text is the full responsory to the fourth lesson at Matins of Christmas Day and hence includes the short Ave Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum that is often omitted in musical settings.

External websites:

Original text and translations

Original text and translations may be found at O magnum mysterium.

Latin.png Latin text

O magnum mysterium
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
jacentem in præsepio!
O beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.
Ave Maria, gratia plena:
Dominus tecum.
O beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.
Alleluia!