Obrecht Missa De Sancto Donatiano

2016-17 Season


Our season opens with  a recreation of the premiere of the Missa De Sancto Donatiano by Jacob Obrecht (1457-1505), first performed on 14 October, 1487. The concert will include information on the context and composition of the Mass by renowned Obrecht scholar M. Jennifer Bloxam (Williams College). It will include images  of artwork, people, and places associated with this historic masterwork. We are pairing the music of Obrecht with three pieces by renowned Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, who died on July 27, 2016 at the age of 87.


  1. Introit: Statuit ei  - Plainsong
  2. Kyrie  - Obrecht
  3. Gloria (Missa brevis) - Rautavaara
  4. Alleluia: Juravit Dominus - Plainsong
  5. Credo - Obrecht
  6. Credo (1972)  Rautavaara
  7. Offertory: Veritas mea - Plainsong
  8. Sanctus / Benedictus - Obrecht
  9. Agnus Dei -  Obrecht
  10. Communion: Beatus servus - Plainsong
  11. Troparion and Hymn (Vigilia) -  Rautavaara

Program Notes

For details of the Missa De Sancto Donatiano please see the related website here.

Rautavaara Program Notes


Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928 – 2016) was Finland’s most notable composer since Jean Sibelius. Born in Helsinki, Rautavaara studied musicology at the University of Helsinki and composition at the Sibelius Academy. On a recommendation by Sibelius, Rautavaara received a scholarship that permitted him to travel to the US in 1955. During this year, he studied at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood and at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. Alongside his work as a composer, he held an appointment at the Sibelius Academy as a professor of composition from 1976 to 1990. He died at the age of 87 on July 27th of this year.

Rautavaara composed ten stage works, eight symphonies, scores of instrumental and orchestral works, and about fifty choral works. Out of his impressive musical output, he gained great acclaim from his orchestral work, Cantus Arcticus (1972) and his seventh symphony, “Angel of Light” (1994). In his choral output, Rautavaara composed both secular and sacred works. His secular works utilized poets from the early 20th century and encapsulated characteristics from popular music of the time.  For our concert, alongside the Obrecht mass, we perform three sacred works of Rautavaara. From his Missa a cappella (a setting of the Ordinary mass texts), we perform the Gloria and Credo.  The third work, Troparion and Hymn, is a part of one of his larger choral works, Vigilia (1971), a setting of the All-Night Vigil. Rautavaara’s sacred music reflects and utilizes foundational practices in music history. While Obrecht and Rautavaara are far from being contemporaries, our program highlights the commonalities between these composers.



Rautavaara’s setting of the “Gloria” is a unique and interesting setting of this text. The work opens with exclamatory and expansive music for the text (sung in Latin) “Glory to God in the Highest.” Rautavaara writes a drone (sustained notes, typically in low range) for the tenors and basses in the opening section while other voice parts move freely. “Droning” served as a structural function in the music of the 14th and 15th centuries and through its use, Rautavaara connects this opening section to the music of that time.

Contrasting from the loud and exclamatory opening, the second section meekly opens with the text “We give thanks to Thee…” The second section begins homophonically (all voices singing the same text together) and in a lower, intimate voicing, but soon expands to color the text. At the text “O Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son” the choir sings a high and bright C major chord, accentuating the importance of this text. At the text, “receive our prayer,” Rautavaara warms the vocal texture with a soaring alto and soprano melody, supported by the tenors and basses in a lower range. Rather than composing loud and exclamatory music throughout, Rautavaara composes music that reflects on the intimate aspects of the Gloria text. In the thousands of various settings of this text, Rautavaara’s setting stands alone.



Credo is structured in three distinct sections. Clearly divided by tempo and dynamic shifts, these three sections are connected by a melody, first sung by the soprano. The tenors and basses sing in unison “I believe in One God…” underneath the soprano melody and paralleled alto music. The two groups arrive together at the text “of all things visible and invisible” and diminishes to nothing after “invisible.” As the opening section moves forward, the vocal writing becomes homophonic and expansive. The texture continues to build as the choir sings “… and for our salvation, descended from heaven,” arriving at a bright major chord on the word “heaven.” The middle section of Credo centers around Christ’s death and resurrection. It opens slowly and softly with tenors alone singing an ascending melody that reoccurs throughout this section. The ascending melody, heard as the Soprano melody in the opening section, musically depicts Christ’s resurrection and his ascent into heaven. The closing section reaffirms the faith of the individual, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, Lord…” and Rautavaara sets this affirmation with a quicker tempo, full homophony, another gesture he used in the opening section. The melodic material, heard in the previous two sections, returns in all voices throughout this closing section.


Troparion & Hymn

Troparion and Hymn are two consecutive parts of his Vigilia, a setting of the All-Night Vigil dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Originally composed in Finnish, our performance will be sung in English and dedicated to St. Donatian. The Troparion (a short hymn in Byzantine Sacred music) is inspired by chant where the rhythm and melody is driven by the text. The Troparion has two main musical ideas, the chant melody and the bass part. When the bass voice moves, the tenor voice moves in parallel (singing at the interval of a 5th higher). Similarly, the chant melody, sung by the altos and sopranos, is always accompanied by a lower voice (singing a 3rd lower). The Hymn of Praise is organized in a similar method. The 1st Sopranos, 2nd Altos, and Baritones all sing the hymn tune and the other voices sing tonal harmony with the bass voices. The Hymn of Praise fits its name as it is full and homophonic throughout.



Mikko Heinlö: "Rautavaara, Einojuhani" (Grove Music Online, 2002).

Dennis Shrock: Choral Repertoire (Oxford University Press, 2009

Washington Post Obituary.


Rautavaara program notes © Sean Watland, 2016.


Text and Translations

1.  Introit: Statuit ei  - Plainsong

Statui ei Dominus testamentum pacis, et principem fecit eum; ut sit illi sacerdotii dignitas in aeternum.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,

Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

The Lord made to him a covenant of peace, and made him a prince; that the dignity of priesthood should be to him for ever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

2.  Kyrie  - Obrecht

Kyrie eleison. 
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

3.  Gloria (Missa brevis) - Rautavaara

Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Laudamus te. Benedicimus te.
Adoramus te. Glorificamus te.
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine Fili unigenite, Iesu Christe.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solus Sanctus. Tu solus Dominus.
Tu solus Altissimus, Iesu Christe.
Cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patris.

Glory be to God on high,
and on earth peace, good will towards men.
We praise thee, we bless thee,
we worship thee, we glorify thee,
we give thanks to thee for thy great glory,
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ;
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord;
thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost,
art most high in the glory of God the Father.

4.  Alleluia: Juravit Dominus - Plainsong

Alleluia. Juravit Dominus et non penitebit eum: Tu es sacerdos in aeternum, secundum ordinem Melchisedech. Alleluia.

Alleluia. The Lord sware and will not repent: you are a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedech. Alleluia.

5.  Credo - Obrecht

Credo in unum Deum.
Patrem omnipotentem, 
factorem caeli et terrae,
visibilium omnium et invisibilium. 
Et in unum Dominum 
Jesum Christum, 
Filium Dei unigenitum, 
Et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. 
Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, 
Deum verum de Deo vero. 
Genitum, non factum, 
consubstantialem Patri: 
per quem omnia facta sunt. 
Qui propter nos homines 
et propter nostram salutem 
descendit de caelis. 

Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto 
ex Maria Virgine: 
Et homo factus est. 

Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato: 
passus, et sepultus est. 

Et resurrexit tertia die,
secundum scripturas. 
Et ascendit in caelum: 
sedet ad dexteram Patris. 
Et iterum venturus est 
cum gloria judicare vivos et mortuos: 
Cujus regni non erit finis. 

Et in Spiritum sanctum Dominum,
et vivificantem: 
Qui ex Patre, Filioque procedit. 
Qui cum Patre, et Filio simul adoratur, 
et conglorificatur: 
Qui locutus est per Prophetas. 

Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam. 
Confiteor unum baptisma 
in remissionem peccatorum. 
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum 
Et vitam venturi saeculi. 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord,
Jesus Christ,
Only begotten Son of God,
Begotten of his Father before all worlds.
God of God, light of light,
Very God of very God.
Begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father:
by whom all things were made.
Who for us men
and for our salvation
came down from heaven.

And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost
of the Virgin Mary:
And was made man.

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate:
suffered, and was buried.

And the third day He rose again
according to the scriptures.
And ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father
And He shall come again
with glory to judge the living and the dead:
His kingdom shall have no end.

And (I believe in) the Holy Ghost, Lord
and giver of life:
Who proceedeth from the Father and Son.
Who with the Father and Son
together is worshipped and glorified:
Who spake by the Prophets.

And in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
I acknowledge one baptism
for the remission of sins.
And I look for the resurrection of the dead
And the life of the world to come.

6.  Credo (1972)  Rautavaara

As above.

7.  Offertory: Veritas mea - Plainsong

Veritas mea et misericordia mea cum ipso: 
et in nomine meo exaltabitur cornu ejus.

My truth and my mercy shall be with him: 
and in my name shall his horn be exalted.

8.  Sanctus / Benedictus - Obrecht

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Osanna in excelsis.

Benedictus qui venit
in nomine Domini.
Osanna in excelsis.

Holy, holy, holy
Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

9. Agnus Dei -  Obrecht

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

10. Communion: Beatus servus - Plainsong

11. Troparion and Hymn (Vigilia) -  Rautavaara

Vanhurskaan muistoa ylistyksin vietetään,
mutta sinulle Edelläkävijä, on kyllin
Herran todistus,
sillä sinä olet totisesti näyttäytynyt olevasi
jaloin profeetoista,
koska olet tullut mahdolliseksi kastamaan
virrassa hänet,
josta olet saarnannutkin.
Sen tähden taisteluasi totuuden puolesta
aina kuolemaan asti,
sinä ilolla julistit myös tuonelassa oleville
lihassa ilmestyneestä Jumalasta,
joka ottaa pois maailman synnin
ja antaa meille suuren armon.
Ylistämme, ylistämme sinua,
Vapahtajan kastaja Johannes.
Ja me kaikki kunnioitamme
jaloa marttyyrikuolemaasi.
The memory of the righteous is in praise,
and thee, Forerunner,
the testimony of the Lord sufficeth,
for in truth thou hast been revealed
as nobler than all the prophets,
for having been considered worthy to baptize
in the running waters
Him who was preached.
Therefore thou didst strive for the truth
happily even unto death,
thou didst proclaim to those in Hades
God appearing in the body,
the lifter up of the sin of the world,
who granted us great mercy.
We praise thee, we praise thee,
O Saint John, Baptizer of the Saviour.
And we all pay homage
to thy noble martyrdom.