This morning, we were due to gather in the Cathedral for our Passiontide Service. The theme this year was Stations of the Cross. The eleventh station – Christ nailed to the cross – is vividly depicted below by the English engraver Eric Gill. At this point in the service, the Chapel Choir would have sung Antonio Lotti’s Crucifixus.
Born in Venice, Lotti spent most of his life in the service of the church, with his most notable appointment being Maestro di Cappella at St Mark’s Basilica in the mid-18th century. However, it was his time at Dresden as court composer that produced Crucifixus, his most famous work.
The words describing Christ’s crucifixion and death, from the Nicene Creed, have led to some extraordinary outpourings from composers over the centuries. JS Bach, in his Mass in B Minor, depicts Christ’s suffering in continuous descending chromatic lines, with the voices plummeting to the depths of their vocal range and then hushed to a silence. In the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven also sends his music ever downward, faltering and eventually grinding to a complete halt.
Lotti’s approach to these profound words differs, especially at the very beginning. Written for 8 voices, each part enters bar by bar starting with the lowest basses, piling up the musical texture with suspensions (musical crunches in the harmony) and creating a piercing intensity by the time the highest voice enters.
One of my favourite recordings of this magical work was performed in Saint-Chapelle, Paris and sung by the British vocal ensemble Tenebrae, conducted by Nigel Short.
In the world’s current turbulent state, music can and will transport people in relative isolation to a better place, helping them to cope. For me, Lotti’s Crucifixus is the perfect addition to your play list for moments of solace and peace.
23rd November 2020
This year’s Recita was a blended affair with some of the performers reciting remotely. Nevertheless, the socially-distanced audience enjoyed a wonderful evening of stunning poetry, which ranged from the comic to the musical to the profound.
8th November 2020
A wintry Winchester was the perfect location for the boys' first introduction to bushcraft and survival skills.
20th October 2020
In the final instalment of our focus on Wordsworth, in this 250th anniversary year of his birth, we reveal a previously undiscovered treasure within the school's collection.
16th October 2020
'A Winter's Night' is a wonderful collection of Christmas classics and choral music from Winchester's Chapel Choir. Released on Signum records on 16 October 2020.
13th October 2020
The texts pupils study in Div, English and other lessons provide springboards for discussion about a range of topics. Ensuring there is content that is both diverse and international in outlook encourages depth of study and understanding.
9th October 2020
As the school considers how it celebrates the diversity of its community, Black History Month provides an opportunity to focus on how pupils are learning about different voices and cultures, and their inseparability from our "own" histories and experiences.