Since we are now in Lent, and we’ve been operatic for a few weeks now, I thought I would share some of my favourite Lenten music. This turns out to be harder than expected, because apparently I really like obscure Lenten music.
But this anthem, by Brahms, while not much recorded in English, does seem to be quite popular in its original German.
We sing this anthem most years, and I love it for the lush harmonies, especially the thrilling rising harmony lines in the final verse – that alto line is just glorious. In fact, I know the alto line so well that it’s really strange to hear this sung with the soprano line dominant and the alto line not much in evidence. (And such a waste, because it is a *spectacular* alto line)
It is a bit counter-intuitive, though. I find this music rather glorious, and yet it’s all about how worldly things are really just dust and ashes. We tend to sing it as an introit, and thus quite briskly, but apparently nobody else does, which is a pity, though perhaps more in keeping with the words. This recording, by Cantorum Franciscana, seems to be the more standard speed.
Really, it’s all about that third verse.
English lyrics (as best I can recall them) below:
Ah, thou poor world, thou cheatest me -Thus I confess, unshamedly
Yet in thee seek my pleasure.
Thy worth is but an idle show –
Thy glories fade as well I know
Thy joys have briefest measure
Thy wealth, thy riches manifold
In sin, in death no comfort hold
Thy gold is naught but tinsel gold:Be thou, O Lord, my treasure.