Nunc dimittis I
Op.44

for SSAATTBB, organ
5 mins.
|
1986
|

Programme note

Nunc dimittis I was commissioned by the 1986 Norwich Festival of Contemporary Church Music, and first performed in Norwich Cathedral on 3rd July 1986 by the Norwich Cathedral Choir conducted by Michael Nicholas. It is scored for double choir and organ, lasts about five minutes, and is closely related to my Magnificat I, which was written four years earlier. Even the six-note mode in which it starts and ends is the same; and it uses the same music for the Amen.

There are some differences, however: the simple mode of the opening melody is gradually invaded by dissonance – which is created by shifting notes a semitone up or down. This spicing-up of the harmony grows throughout the first section of the piece, during which the organ does not play, The Latin text is set in polyrhythmic canons (as in Magnificat I), punctuated by a series of loud chords which introduce the element of dissonance. At the Gloria Patri the organ enters with the same series of chords played in a spiky staccato, while the choir sing the same series backwards, as long, sustained chords. A reprise of the opening Nunc dimittis melody (without organ) leads to the Amen, which is almost identical with that of my Magnificat I, except that toward the end the organ re-enters with a quiet version of the earlier chord-series; this time it is slightly lengthened, as both versions of the series (forwards and backwards) have been combined.

There are also differences: the simple six-note mode of the opening is gradually invaded by dissonance – almost invariably created by moving notes a semitone up or down. This spicing-up of the harmony grows throughout the first 44 bars, during which the organ is silent, and the Latin text is set in polyrhythmic counterpoint which is punctuated by loud chords which introduce the element of dissonanc. At the Gloria Patrithe organ enters with a series of spiky staccato chords, while the choir sing the same series, but backwards, in sustained four-part chords. A reprise of the opening Nunc dimittismelody(without organ) leads to the Amen, which is almost identical with that of my Magnificat I, except that toward the end the organ re-enters, with a quiet version of the earlier chord-series – this time slightly lengthened, as both versions of the series (forwards and backwards) have been combined.

Giles Swayne 2010

Recordings

Swayne: Choral Works
Stephen Cleobury (conductor)
BBC Singers
David Goode (organ)
Philippa Davies (flute)
Classics: COLL15312
Three Shakespeare songs
Magnificat I
Missa Tiburtina
Nunc dimittis I
O magnum mysterium
Veni creator II
The Tiger
Ophelia drowning
Missa brevissima

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