O Nobilissima Viriditas

for vocal ensemble/chamber choir

Brian Inglis

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for vocal ensemble/chamber choir

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Composer Brian Inglis
Year of Composition 1995
Duration 5'30"
ISMN 9790570683932

Categories (all composers) , , ,
Catalogue ID ce-bi1onv1


The Latin text3 used in this composition has, according to Sabina Flanagan, the character of a Great Responsory, designed to follow the reading of the lesson at Matins. A liturgical performance would entail the repetition of lines 6-7 as a partial response to the versicle (ll 8-9).

Although some of the structure of the text has been retained in the musical structure, the setting is not linear as in some of my other Hildegard settings. The words have been repeated and rearranged; the whole has been ‘deconstructed’ to perform a kind of meditative exegesis—an interpretation and contemplation of the words in an attempt to respond to them in the spirit of medieval meditari, defined by medieval historian Jacques Leclercq as follows:

In secular usage, meditari means in a general way, to think, or reflect, as does cogitare or considere: but more than these it implies an affinity with the practical or even moral order. It implies thinking of a thing with the intent to do it: in other words, to prepare oneself for it, to prefigure it in the mind, to desire it, in a way, to do it in advance, briefly to practice it. The word is also applied to physical exercise and sports, to those of military life, of the school world, in rhetoric, poetry, musical, and finally, to moral practices. To practise a thing by thinking of it, is to fix it in the memory, to learn it.

My aim in treating the text in this way was to use the words as sonic resources rather than bearers of semantic meaning. While retaining a semblance of semantic sense, syllabic and sound content are given priority. The word ‘serenitate’ (serenity) has been placed at the end of the first stanza to form the basis of its own musical section. The vocative syllable ‘O’ and the words ‘excellentia’ (excellence) and ‘amblexibus’ (embrace [of]) create a parallelism in the textual structure as a foundation for musical parallelism (a feature of Hildegard’s own musical settings). Whereas the setting of ‘O nobilissima viriditas’ in the first A section (see below) is followed by a contrapuntal treatment of the second line, in the second half of the piece the setting of ‘O excellentia amplexibus’ gives way to a simpler, more choralelike section accounting for the middle two lines of the stanza. The last line ‘divinorum mysteriorum’ ([of] divine mysteries) is used to recall once more the A section as a climactic transition to the final chorale: a setting of the final versicle, left intact as a single verbal phrase.

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