Veni, Creator Spiritus, attributed to Rabanus Maurus in the 9th century is the best known of the Gregorian hymns. This Roman Catholic prayer for Pentecost references the first verses of the Bible, which evoke the creation of the universe. Pentecost is not only the origin of the Church, it is itself also an act of creation.
This hymn has inspired many composers throughout the centuries, Nicolas de Grigny, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Mahler, Maurice Duruflé, to name a few.
The five verses composed here constantly employ the original melody, either in fragmentation, or as long musical phrases. The original plainchant permeates the entirety of this work, even if the musical language and universe are personal creations.
1. Everlasting Sky (3 mn 30 s)
Matthew 3: 16 ?the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.?
A melody gently swirls in the top registers (Heaven), while the first verse of the Gregorian hymn is presented slowly (the Holy Spirit). A harmonic progression slowly directs the music downwards in the bass, thusly opening the sonic space.
The movement is also meant to evoke the eternal calm of the Spirit.
2. Divine Fire (2 mn 10 s)
This movement was inspired by the second verse of the hymn, which talks about the living waters (Fons vivus), and the third verse : ?you who inspire our words? (Sermone ditans guttura). The water, itself a liquid element, can be heard in the back and forth movement at the beginning of the plainchant. These eighth notes create perpetual motion (passacaglia) and become constantly more intense. The ?waves? break for the beginning motive of the hymn, first played with vivacity (like a spinner at work), next with majesty (in the pedal). It is the divine fire.
3. Dancing Time (1 mn 15 s)
The text of the fifth verse of Veni Creator Spiritus is about the evil defeated by the Spirit. The struggle can be found in the rhythmic and vivacious character of this piece. The theme originates from the third interpolation in the original plainchant (?Thus with you leading us?).
4. The Beyond (4 mn 30 s)
Accende lumn sensibus ?Kindle your light in our senses?.
This Adagio alternates between two musical ideas : a descending scale illustrating the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and the original melody of the gregorian song (the Word of God). The extreme simplicity of this piece is meant to reflect purity and clarity.
5. Veni Creator Spiritus (6 mn 30 s)
This virtuoso finale restates chronologically the entirety of the hymn text as well as the musical elements of the first four verses.
A motive in the highest register accompanies reminiscences of Veni Creator : ?above all chaos, over the waters of ruins, the Spirit of God soars?. Followed is a progressively intense musical discourse which reintroduces the musical ideas evoking water, light, combat. The movement finishes with a victorious Gloria.
NOTES FOR THE ORGANIST
These five verses may be interpreted in totality or separately, either in a concert or during religious services. The introduction of the different parts of the original plainchant or an alternation with it are by no means discouraged. All formats of execution are possible, keeping in mind the choice of strict alternation in the style of the 17th century requires only four played verses.
Difficulty of Execution :
Verses 1 and 4 are quite easy to perform (beginner) and require only one or two registration changes.
Verse 2 is of moderate difficulty (intermediate).
Verse 3 is for established players.
Verse 5 is the most difficult and requires a mature handling of the instrument.
Verses 2, 3 and 5 require several registration changes, the expression indicated being there only to guide the organist, leaving him or her free to make personal choices regarding orchestral progressions and stop combinations.
The organist may freely register these works according to the instrument available. For example, on a large 19th century organ such as that at Saint-Sulpice in Paris, the verse 5 may be played on a single keyboard with a continual crescendo from measure 64 to the end. This solution does not necessarily respect the colors and keyboard changes indicated, but rather reflects the nature of the instrument. Inversely, in the verse 1, one may play simultaneously on three keyboards and add the nuances with the swell box exclusively.
The registrations here proposed in this edition correspond to a multi-aesthetic instrument and are inspired by the organ in the Basilica of Saint-Remi of Reims (see page 6).
Keyboard requirements :
CC to g''' (56 notes) and CC to f' in the pedal (30 notes)