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Stainer's Crucifixion


Peter Clark
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I had always understood that they were written for the cantata, but now you mention it I'm not sure why. As you say, they are very fine tunes.

 

It is a shame that The Crucifixion has been so influential in shaping our opinion of Stainer.

 

It does seem stange that he wssd capableof writing such fine tunes yet often such weak material as in the topic under discussion. (Remember the famnoure "here in a basement"?! :o ) Love Divine is another fine tune that springs to mind.

 

I think that The Crucifixion is also probably 90% responsible for the misinterpretation of Jn3:16 since it is probably the most famous setting of that text. (Are there ary others?). I have even heard clergy preach on the "so much" suggestion which is simply not in the original text which means merely "therefore" so a correct translation would be more like "God loved the world therefore he sent his son....." ie as a result of this and not that he loved the world "so much" and so what a good bloke he is which is how, alas, it often comes across.

 

Peter

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It does seem stange that he wssd capableof writing such fine tunes yet often such weak material as in the topic under discussion. (Remember the famnoure "here in a basement"?! :o ) Love Divine is another fine tune that springs to mind.

 

I think that The Crucifixion is also probably 90% responsible for the misinterpretation of Jn3:16 since it is probably the most famous setting of that text. (Are there ary others?). I have even heard clergy preach on the "so much" suggestion which is simply not in the original text which means merely "therefore" so a correct translation would be more like "God loved the world therefore he sent his son....." ie as a result of this and not that he loved the world "so much" and so what a good bloke he is which is how, alas, it often comes across.

 

Peter

 

 

===========================

 

 

"Have you heard of Stainer's Crucifixion?"

 

"No, but it sounds like a jolly good idea."

 

Sir Thomas Beecham.

 

;)

 

MM

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===========================

"Have you heard of Stainer's Crucifixion?"

 

"No, but it sounds like a jolly good idea."

 

Sir Thomas Beecham.

 

:o

 

MM

 

Yes, I believe we had that joke less than a week ago on another thread.

 

I'd like to stick up for the Stainer - of its type, it has much excellent material. There are some extraordinary moments in it as well as a lot of less good stuff. In an era where there was a clear need for something of quality which could be performed by local forces, it would have been quite a revelation. I would rather hear a well-done Crucifixion than a naff St Matthew Passion.

 

One of the local choirs I do for does an annual Good Friday Crucifixion, and takes itself (a 50-strong very very good choral society) off to parish churches in the diocese and brings something to the Holy Week activities in these places, with soloists taken from the Cathedral lay clerks. It's always full to bursting. People are profoundly moved by having something sung well in their own church. In 2006 we did it in Salisbury Cathedral with orchestra, and the place was absolutely packed, transepts and all, to the point of standing room only at the back. That is no mean achievement.

 

It might be over-the-top and risible in places, but it does have some profoundly moving moments and people want to hear it done well. Take that last sentence and apply it to other music - much of Karl Jenkins, Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, some Rutter anthems and larger works, to take three fairly random examples - and you might be surprised how well it fits.

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Well, I rather think that any music performed well is bound to be a more rewarding experience than music performed badly.

 

The problem with The Crucifixion is the presumably self-imposed relative simplicity of style necessary to enable the work to be accessible to parish church choirs. As an eight-year-old in just such a choir, singing "Fling wide the gates" was the most exciting thing on my musical horizon and as near as we ever got to singing polyphony! But, frankly, when you listen to it objectively, it is structurally very weak.

 

This sort of weakness, which was shared by many of his contemporaries can, I am sure, be laid firmly at the door of Mendelssohn. Not that it is Mendelssohn's fault in any way. Rather it is the age-old problem of the pale imitations by lesser men.

 

I am no Stainer expert, but on the showing of that old Argo LP I mentioned on the other thread, he was capable of writing music with much more "spine". I wouldn't want to make exaggerated claims for it (and I have no doubt that Bernard Rose chose which pieces to record very carefully), but he certainly knew how to write a good tune and could harmonise it in a way that sustains the interest. And it isn't overly sentimental either - or maybe I've just become weak in the head with age.

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Yes, I believe we had that joke less than a week ago on another thread.

 

I'd like to stick up for the Stainer - of its type, it has much excellent material. There are some extraordinary moments in it as well as a lot of less good stuff. In an era where there was a clear need for something of quality which could be performed by local forces, it would have been quite a revelation. I would rather hear a well-done Crucifixion than a naff St Matthew Passion.

 

One of the local choirs I do for does an annual Good Friday Crucifixion, and takes itself (a 50-strong very very good choral society) off to parish churches in the diocese and brings something to the Holy Week activities in these places, with soloists taken from the Cathedral lay clerks. It's always full to bursting. People are profoundly moved by having something sung well in their own church. In 2006 we did it in Salisbury Cathedral with orchestra, and the place was absolutely packed, transepts and all, to the point of standing room only at the back. That is no mean achievement.

 

It might be over-the-top and risible in places, but it does have some profoundly moving moments and people want to hear it done well. Take that last sentence and apply it to other music - much of Karl Jenkins, Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, some Rutter anthems and larger works, to take three fairly random examples - and you might be surprised how well it fits.

 

Well said - I agree entirely. A good, well-prepared performance done with honesty and conviction can be spiritually uplifting. The Cathedral Choir here in Ripon did it (with orchestra) on Palm Sunday with similar attendance and appreciation.

 

However, I must admit to being somewhat lukewarm about Rutter's slightly leaden and predictable orchestration - all those slightly 'oily' woodwind solos soon pall. Given an imaginative player and a resourceful instrument I think I prefer the original organ accompaniment. And the hymns need organ reinforcement anyway.

 

But chacun a son goût, I suppose.

 

JS

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But, frankly, when you listen to it objectively, it is structurally very weak.

 

 

It may be structurally weak, but I’ve always found it an inspiring piece. Some times it’s better to just immerse yourself in the music rather than analyse it. Use the music as a vehicle to take you closer to God, inspire, encourage etc.

 

:o

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Well said - I agree entirely. A good, well-prepared performance done with honesty and conviction can be spiritually uplifting. The Cathedral Choir here in Ripon did it (with orchestra) on Palm Sunday with similar attendance and appreciation.

 

However, I must admit to being somewhat lukewarm about Rutter's slightly leaden and predictable orchestration - all those slightly 'oily' woodwind solos soon pall. Given an imaginative player and a resourceful instrument I think I prefer the original organ accompaniment. And the hymns need organ reinforcement anyway.

 

But chacun a son goût, I suppose.

 

JS

 

 

Before I'm pursued on a libel charge, I meant of course Barry Rose rather than John Rutter. I obviously don't know my R's from my *****.

 

JS

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If you judge The Crucifixion as purely a concert piece it will always be found lacking. If you treat it as a liturgical and congregational work, with sympathetic soloists and choir, it can be both moving and rewarding. As with most Stainer, you have to accept a few over saccharin moments, but dare I suggest that there are highly successful composers and arrangers currently active who are not above the same criticism.

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You may like it, you may hate it, but no-one can deny that it has spurned a lot of small boys into the world of church music, whether they care to admit it, or not! :lol:

I had only heard its name, the oft-repeated joke, the "God SO loved the world" bit, and a former organ-student from St Paul's cathedral's Barry Rose-inspired fulsome recommendation, until I was about 30, and nothing prepared me for its comprehensive awfulness. It may well be that I would have been inspired by it as a chorister but I doubt it. On the other hand I found "I Saw The Lord" very satisfying when I was 12.

 

Michael

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I think that The Crucifixion is also probably 90% responsible for the misinterpretation of Jn3:16 since it is probably the most famous setting of that text. (Are there ary others?). I have even heard clergy preach on the "so much" suggestion which is simply not in the original text which means merely "therefore" so a correct translation would be more like "God loved the world therefore he sent his son....." ie as a result of this and not that he loved the world "so much" and so what a good bloke he is which is how, alas, it often comes across.

Hang on a mo... Is this really so? It seems to me that the clergy are right.

 

Firstly, no blame can be laid at Stainer's door. What he set was exactly what appears in the St James bible, minus the first word ("For God so loved the world...")

 

However, most church-goers are probably more familiar with the variant "So God loved the world" that appears in the "comfortable words" in the communion service of the Book of Common Prayer. These "comfortable words" originated in that prototype vernacular service The Order of the Communion of 1548 and thus predate even the first Prayer Book of 1549 (from which, incidentally, they were omitted; they were reinstated in 1552).

 

In fact, the 1548/BCP version is the more literal translation of the vulgate from which both it and the authorised version ultimately dervive: Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum... Now my Latin is decidedly creaky, but while sic usually means simply "thus" or "so" my dictionary tells me that it can also imply "in such a manner" or "to such a degree" and since enim surely functions as an intensifier, is this not the intention here? - "So indeed did God love the world..."? So it seems to me that both versions are actually saying the same thing, though the authorised version puts it better.

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Hang on a mo... Is this really so? It seems to me that the clergy are right.

 

Firstly, no blame can be laid at Stainer's door. What he set was exactly what appears in the St James bible, minus the first word ("For God so loved the world...")

 

However, most church-goers are probably more familiar with the variant "So God loved the world" that appears in the "comfortable words" in the communion service of the Book of Common Prayer. These "comfortable words" originated in that prototype vernacular service The Order of the Communion of 1548 and thus predate even the first Prayer Book of 1549 (from which, incidentally, they were omitted; they were reinstated in 1552).

 

In fact, the 1548/BCP version is the more literal translation of the vulgate from which both it and the authorised version ultimately dervive: Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum... Now my Latin is decidedly creaky, but while sic usually means simply "thus" or "so" my dictionary tells me that it can also imply "in such a manner" or "to such a degree" and since enim surely functions as an intensifier, is this not the intention here? - "So indeed did God love the world..."? So it seems to me that both versions are actually saying the same thing, though the authorised version puts it better.

 

But the Greek in which this text was originally written reads houtos gar which is "so therefore" indicating the son coming into the world as a result of God's love and is not a commentary on the extent of that love which is what most people seem to want it to be. The Vulgate does make these little slip-ups at times (cf nolle me tangere at Jn 20:17and compare the original!). So I am happy with your "in such a manner" but not with your "to such a degree".

 

Peter

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Fair enough. If one is preaching one should base one's arguments on the most authentic reading available, so from that perspective, yes, you are right. But the early translators would not have been aware of this nicety. I was concentrating on what might have been the understanding of those who made the earliest vernacular versions - my argument being that we can't really hold The Crucifixion 90% responsible for the misinterpretation of the text when that misinterpretation is inherent in the vernacular texts current at the time.

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Fair enough. If one is preaching one should base one's arguments on the most authentic reading available, so from that perspective, yes, you are right. But the early translators would not have been aware of this nicety. I was concentrating on what might have been the understanding of those who made the earliest vernacular versions - my argument being that we can't really hold The Crucifixion 90% responsible for the misinterpretation of the text when that misinterpretation is inherent in the vernacular texts current at the time.

 

Thanks Vox! My suggestion that The Crucifixion was 90% responsible for misinterpreting that text was probably facetious and almost certainly as probably unjustified. An enjoyable exchange though.

 

Regards

 

Peter

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You may like it, you may hate it, but no-one can deny that it has spurned a lot of small boys into the world of church music, whether they care to admit it, or not! :rolleyes:

 

yes - and hesitant church music lovers too. We used to perform the Stainer for years on Good Friday in the context of a midday service - alternating with Liszt's Via Crucis - and were lucky enough to have soloists of the status of Teddy Tahu Rhodes who was just beginning his now international opera circuit (besides being, as Martin described to the choir, the most good-looking Christus in the business. I always found it hard to play while swooning...)

 

Anyway, one one occasion I was making my way to the console beforehand and met two different people each trying to hide large tape recorders under their jackets. A rather nice compliment for a small church choir. The Stainer was approachable enough for people who otherwise would describe themselves as non-musical; and we KNOW it turned more people on, than off. And those stirring hymns .....

chirps

Jenny

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