Every Advent, I go looking for O Magnum Mysterium online, and every year I find that yet another composer has written his (or her, but so far I think only his) setting to this text (or rather, that their setting is now on YouTube), and then I have the nigh-impossible task of picking just one to write about here.
This year, my new favourite is this dramatic setting by Javier Busto. Who, it turns out, is a contemporary of my parents, and hails from the Basque region. My parents do not hail from the Basque region, which is probably why they do not compose dramatic church music.
I fell in love with the half-whispered section at the beginning, that amazing crescendo at the end, and the liveliness of the performance generally – most other versions online are much more calming and sedate, probably because they are being sung in church, but I think the drama of the music demands more. Also, and this has nothing to do with the music, but how gorgeous are the choir’s outfits? I want to join that choir just so I can wear a skirt like that. And let’s just give three cheers for the delight of having a choir that comes from the Southern Hemisphere!
The lyrics translate to ‘Oh great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord lying in a manger! Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord. Alleluia!’. Lots of good stuff there, and I can quite see why everyone wants to write their own version of this piece…